Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mass Communication Systems Improve Emergency Response

A number of specific instances can be cited from just the last couple of years which showcase the advantages of well designed mass communication systems. Virginia Tech, Katrina and the Southern California wildfires are all examples where these systems were either used or needed.

Mass communication technology has now evolved to the point they are user friendly, reliable, and affordable. You can now communicate with your constituency, whether they are students or parents, employees, or volunteers – and you can do it in near real time. All of the major market systems allow you to cover the basics.

  • Prepare pre-recorded messages for anticipated events and/or send real time information updates
  • Send via multiple channels (email, text, phone, fax, desktop) with end user defined preferences
  • Discreet who you send to (geographical region, individual business unit, etc.)

Most of the systems on the market today can tell you how many people actually received the message, some can provide feedback capability. For example, companies use these systems to communicate with employees who may be working or traveling in areas where disaster or political unrest strikes. The company is able to pulse the employee via the network and the employee is able to respond that they are ok or need assistance and whether they are in the office, at home, or on the move.

One large decision to be made when considering such a system is whether it will be in housed in-house in your data center or outsourced to an Application System Provider (ASP). There are pros and cons to each. Outsourcing makes the system much more affordable, provides routine software upgrades, and improves reliability since the system is not housed at a corporate location that may be the scene of the problem and therefore be off-line. On the con side, outsourcing requires putting sensitive staff information on servers that you don’t own, operate, or control. Additionally, bringing the system in-house adds ongoing staffing and training expense.

As with any technology system it’s all about understanding your requirements, technology options, operability, reliability, and cost. Do your homework well and think hard about including this type of system in your Business Continuity Plan. They work, they’re fast, and they improve your intelligence about your constituency and your ability to communicate critical information to them in times of need.

Here are just a few web links to providers.

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