When Every Second Counts, Text Alerts Beat Siren Systems for Safety

When a natural disaster is approaching your town, posing a critical threat to area businesses and homes, time is of the essence. To quickly alert citizens of impending danger, many local officials rely on outdoor notification sirens to get the word out.

But what if citizens can’t hear the warning? Don Campbell, Emergency Management Director of Guilford County, North Carolina, says this is a very real possibility, and it’s one of the reasons why he chose not to install emergency sirens in the region.

“Sirens can be loud if you’re underneath them,” says Campbell. “But they’re really not designed to warn you if you’re inside a building.” In a recent Emergency Management article, ‘Emergency Officials say texts, not sirens, are more effective for tornado alerts’, Campbell explains that because homes are increasingly designed to be more quiet and energy-efficient than ever before, people are much less likely to hear outdoor warning sirens once they’re inside.

Another reason Campbell isn’t incorporating emergency alert sirens into his crisis response plan is project cost and scale. Guilford County, at 644 square miles, would require the installation of 150-300 sirens to cover the area. “The up-front cost was well into the millions if not tens of millions of dollars,” Campbell says.

Looking for a dependable and cost-effective emergency alert solution, Campbell chose a mass notification system that warns residents through cell phones, computers, TV, and radio. Campbell’s counterparts in Tillamook County, Oregon agree — they recently decommissioned 20 emergency alert sirens due to their costly maintenance fees, and instead opted for “more reliable” cell phone alerts. In fact, Sonoma County, California officials received scathing criticism for not using cell phone alerts during the devastating 2017 fires that claimed 25 lives.

When upgrading your town’s outdated outdoor siren alert system in favor of a more dependable mass notification platform, make sure it offers these three capabilities:

Feature 1: Critical Alerting on the Fly

The ability to rapidly launch critical alerts and coordinate response efforts, whether in the office or in the field, and sound the alarm in a moment’s notice from computers, smartphones, tablets, or landlines.

Feature 2: Automated Critical Alerts

An automated emergency notification process to accelerate transmission of critical alerts and reduce the margin for human error. In a crisis, the ability to issue evacuation orders or instruct people to shelter-in-place, automatically, without any human intervention, can save valuable time and lives.

Feature 3: Unified Emergency Communications

Rapid transmission of critical alerts to multiple communication channels, simultaneously, including: digital signage, PA systems, websites, and social media — all with a single click from a user-friendly interface.

Increasingly, more emergency managers are using mass alert systems that include text message notification as a complement to their existing emergency siren systems. While emergency sirens can run on decades-old technology, depending on when they were installed, cloud-based emergency notification platforms like Regroup Mass Notification are designed with the latest technology, while offering crucial reliability and speed during times when every second counts. Because of the ease in which mass text alerts can reliably reach more residents, without blowing emergency management budgets, emergency managers and their residents can rest assured the tools are in place when the next crisis occurs.

Regroup Mass Notification is an award-winning provider of mass communication solutions committed to providing civic entities and emergency management teams with effective, reliable tools for alerting and protecting communities during times of crisis. To learn more, call 775-476-8710, take advantage of a free demo at Regroup.com/demo or email inquiries@regroup.com.

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