5 Strategies for Encouraging Citizens to Sign Up for Emergency Alerts

Written by CivicPlus

One of the challenges of developing a community that’s prepared for emergencies is getting citizens to sign up for alert notifications.  In fact, getting residents to sign up for any number of emergency services can be difficult for a multitude of reasons. Some people are reluctant to share personal information for privacy and security reasons. Others might tune out when it comes to the unpleasant thought of preparing for a disaster, or be put off by messages that include scare tactics.

But there are strategies available to maximize the buy-in from residents for mass notification opt-in. Ana-Marie Jones, executive director of the nonprofit agency, Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD), shared her favorite ways for getting buy-in from the public:

1. Avoid sensationalism
Jones said it’s important to keep in mind that you’re trying to encourage people to sign up to receive bad news, something they don’t really want to think about. It helps to be sensitive in your word-choice and delivery. “Fear isn’t a sustainable emotion,” she said. “You can scare people into doing simple things but it doesn’t last very long.”

A better strategy is to make people feel as if they are included in something important. Go for empowerment, instead. Jones said, helping people feel "connected and smart and wise is so much better than fear-based messaging.”

2. Offer small incentives
Meetings present a perfect opportunity to get people onboard. Anytime there's a community gathering, you might reward those that sign up on the spot with a small gift. Or you could do the same through e-marketing.

3. Encourage healthy practices, but don't hold them captive
Jones recommends the book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, which talks about strategies for getting people to do what’s healthy for them. But you can't force them. Whenever possible, give people the option of opting out – and avoid the tempting practice of automatically opting them in.

4. Share citizen success stories 
A great way to build excitement is by sharing stories, making them specific and clear. Jones offered a few examples: "Wow, this person got a notification and was able to do such and such. This many residents got the message and no one was left behind; everyone evacuated successfully.” In other words, give people something they can visualize, something that motivates them to participate.

5. Look for opportunities
Give citizens every opportunity to opt-in for notifications. Include it in your social efforts. Work with community businesses to spread the message. Ask agencies within your city to include it as part of their intake process. Creativity is encouraged!

Article repurposed from Emergency Management.

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