When an emergency happens in your community, the local government is likely the first to know, and your citizens will expect you to keep them informed with instructions, safety plans, and recovery updates. Using a mass notification solution is one of the best ways to keep citizens safe, but first you need your citizens to subscribe to receive alerts.
Whether you have an existing subscription list, or are just implementing a mass notification solution, the following best practices can help you communicate to your citizens about the importance of receiving notifications, and encourage their participation.
- Pass out informational fliers: Post fliers locally around your community and share them online. Include a brief statement about the value of notifications and instructions for how to sign-up. Fliers can be handed out at public events, school registrations, community fairs, etc.
- Demonstrate sign-ups at public events: Bring a tablet to show citizens how to opt-in to receive notifications. By taking this demonstration approach, you can likely get individuals signed-up right on the spot. Events such as local fairs, parades, school registrations, and other well-attended events are a great place to generate awareness and obtain sign-ups.
- Promote sign-ups on social media: Promote your mass notification solution through social media. Create a quick video to generate awareness and excitement, and demonstrate how to sign-up to receive notifications.
- Add informational slips in utility bill mailings: Send a sign-up form along with citizen utility bills. Residents can fill out the form and mail it back along with their bill payment.
- Encourage phone sign-ups: Provide a phone number that residents can call to sign-up for notifications. Promote the phone number through all available channels, including social media, your civic website, fliers, and at community events.
- Send a press release to the media: Send out press releases to local news outlets to publicly announce the importance of signing up for emergency alerts.
- Import contacts from a third-party database: While direct citizen sign-ups are the best way to ensure program engagement, you can also supplement sign-ups by obtaining citizen contact information from a local database, such as a contact list of telephone landline users, or utility subscribers. There may also be a third-party partner database available in your community that you can access and incorporate into your system.
One of the best ways to reach citizens that have not signed-up for notifications when an emergency strikes your community is to utilize a mass notification solution that incorporates the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). IPAWS uses a variety of trusted and effective federal communication channels to distribute your message to the public during an emergency. IPAWS reaches citizens with your emergency message using such channels as:
- The emergency alert system (EAS) which broadcasts to AM/FM radios and public televisions
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) sent to capable wireless devices
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio alerts
- Local sirens
- Digital signs
- Other local and unique systems
Best Practices for System Transitions
If you are transitioning to a new emergency mass notification system, you’ll need to notify existing subscribers and provide instructions for signing-up with the new system provider. Send out a notification to all subscribers with a link to more information on how to continue their subscription by signing-up with your new service.
If possible, coordinate an import of subscribers into your new system. Work with your current provider to export a list of all subscribers, and import names and contact information into your new system. Even if you coordinate an import, be sure to notify current subscribers that you will be utilizing a new solution and provide information for how they can contact your administration with any questions.
Thinking about switching to a more effective and cost-efficient mass notification system? Download our white paper to learn what to look for, and what questions to ask, when evaluating your solution options.