Use Your Emergency Notification System for Wanted Suspect Alerts

Written by Ryan Strait

It’s a nightmare no emergency manager wants to face. There’s a wanted suspect in your community, believed to be dangerous. Every second counts for the safe apprehension of the suspect. Every citizen needs to be aware of the threat, while anyone in the area could have information to help in the search. The fastest, most direct, and impactful way to reach as many citizens as possible will be to use your emergency mass notification system. To help you communicate wanted suspect safety and awareness information quickly and effectively, read the following eight communication best practices.

 1. Include a photo. Your office and your local law enforcement will want to share a photo or a sketch of the suspect, if available, via every possible communication channel. A photo will give citizens a chance to immediately recognize the suspect and avoid confusion. Also, include a written description of the suspect for citizens who have chosen to receive emergency alerts via voice message.

2. Include relevant details. Include a description of the suspect’s last known whereabouts, clothes, and vehicle, if appropriate. Be specific. Rather than advising that he suspect was last seen driving a sedan, provide the color, make, model, and license plate number if known.

3. Include a map. If there is knowledge of the suspect’s presumed whereabouts, include a map in your message. No matter the size of your community, a map will help citizens more quickly understand their proximity to the suspect, and any possible danger. If your mass notification system includes geofencing capabilities, consider targeting your message based on the suspect's last known whereabouts.

4. Reach travelers and non-subscribers via IPAWS. When integrated with your emergency warning system, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) allows your message to reach travelers in the impacted area, as well as residents who have not yet subscribed to emergency notifications.

 Click here to read how Blount County, TN used IPAWS to reunite a missing man with his family.

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5. Provide a link to more information. For greatest impact, keep your notification messages brief, including only the most important facts. Then, link to a page on your local government website for more details.

6. Provide contact instructions. Someone in your community may have the key to finding the wanted suspect. Be sure to include in your message the phone number citizens should call if they have any information, or believe they have seen the suspect.

7. Preview your message before it’s sent. One typo or error in a message about a wanted suspect could misinform your entire community, and hinder the possible assistance of citizens. Make sure to proofread your alert notification before it is sent. Ideally, your municipal emergency notification system will offer preview functionality to prevent errors.

8. Prepare a templated message in advance. Hope you’ll never need it, but just in case, prepare a wanted suspect message in advance. Preformat how you want to communicate a description of the suspect and his/her whereabouts. Then, if such an alert is ever needed, all you’ll need to do is quickly insert the details, preview, and send, saving valuable time and speeding communications.

If your current emergency notification system doesn’t provide the functionality you need to effectively execute these best practices, it's time you switched to CivicReady®. Click below to sign up for a one-on-one or self-guided demo of our powerful software.

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