Bullard Informs Residents with CivicPlus® Mass Notification System
Keys to Project: :
Geo-targeted Notification, Messaging Templates
The city of Bullard, Texas is an idyllic, residential community that approximately 4,000 people call home. With its borders stretching into both Cherokee and Smith counties, it offers the highest quality schools and a convenient commute to both the cities of Tyler and Jacksonville. Its ability to provide such a high quality of life to its residents, while maintaining its charm as a residential hub has put Bullard on the path of growth, as even more families searching for a safe, established community are seeking out a home in Bullard.
According to Chelci Amburgy, Bullard Director of Public Relations and Communications, the influx of younger residents and families into the residential community has made it essential for the city to offer increased digital communication channels to more effectively reach residents with critical information.
As part of Bullard’s efforts to reach its citizens in impactful ways with the information and messaging that matters most to them, Bullard implemented the CivicPlus Mass Notification system, part of the CivicPlus Civic Experience Platform.
The number of families with children are steadily increasing and making a rise in our demographics,” said Amburgy. “We have learned that we need to be strategic in the methods we use to reach our younger residents. We know it’s critical that our residents be able to receive our communications on a mobile device to accommodate their lifestyles.
Bullard Director of Public Relations and Communications, 2018
Before implementing CivicPlus’ Mass Notification system, Bullard’s communication strategy relied upon reaching businesses and subscribed residents with medical concerns via a hot list of contacts, and the use of a citizen notification subscription service with limited flexibility. In an effort to maximize its ability to reach citizens via text, phone, and voicemail notification, Bullard began searching for a more inclusive notification solution that would give it greater flexibility and broader capabilities to create and push urgent notifications to citizens in a timelier manner.
The Switch to CivicPlus
At the time that the City of Bullard switched from its previous notification system to CivicPlus, it was already utilizing CivicPlus’ Municipal Website content management system for the hosting and maintenance of its government website.
“Knowing that we were switching to a solution offered by the same company that provides our website and digital communication solutions, and the fact that CivicPlus provides solutions exclusively for local government were important factors for the consideration of our council,” said Amburgy. “For me, it was a plus to know that I could add another service to the same platform utilizing the same company and that I already knew whom to contact if I had a question—truly a one-stop shop.”
When choosing to replace Bullard’s existing notification system, CivicPlus offered the flexibility and ease of use the city needed.
“It was important to have the flexibility to add specific citizens by name to a message, and to create pre-defined groups,” said Amburgy. “The interface is easier to use, including the map feature for creating geo-targeted messages, and I can create and send messages faster than I could with our previous system.”
End User Convenience and Peace of Mind
According to Amburgy, the CivicPlus Mass Notification system offered key features that were just as convenient for the Bullard’s end users—its residents.
“It’s important to our residents to know about potential hazards not just in the immediate vicinity to where they are located, but to where their children are located,” said Amburgy. “With [CivicPlus], a parent can choose to receive alerts for designated locations, so if they are dropping their child off at a babysitter, they can add that specific location to their [CivicPlus Mass Notification system’s] alert notifications, and they will always be informed of hazards or emergencies that could impact them or their family.”
An additional element of the flexible CivicPlus system that has been beneficial to Bullard is the manner in which the notifications appear to the subscriber.
“We can customize the sender for each message, and our residents like the way that the messages will specify that it is from the City of Bullard Water Department, or that it’s an emergency alert from the City of Bullard. They don’t say ‘[CivicPlus],’ instead, we can control the messaging in a way that increases the chance that our residents will read the message and take notice.”
Integration with IPAWS
The city of Bullard has also chosen to integrate its CivicPlus Mass Notification system with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS).
“It was important that [CivicPlus] enabled us to obtain an IPAWS certification for our community,” said Amburgy. “With the app, and the way that IPAWS notifications are stored within the system, they never disappear, so our citizens can go in and view previous alert messages and read the thread from a specific, past event. The forum feature is also very valuable to our residents and us. Our citizens can comment on recent events and share information with one another, and we have visibility into those discussions, which allows us to better serve their needs. Our goal is for [the CivicPlus Mass Notification software] to become widely adopted enough that it will serve as our resident communication hub, so if a resident ever has an issue or need, they can advise us about their concerns in their neighborhood forum, and we can resolve their issue promptly.”
While Bullard’s previous mass notification system was IPAWS capable, the service was never configured for the city’s account.
“The fact that [the CivicPlus software] integrated with IPAWS was very important to our staff and council because of the demographics of our residents. During implementation, our [CivicPlus] team helped a lot in the process to get IPAWS certified. Now, if there is ever an emergency that impacts our area, we can notify everyone and anyone in the geographical area—not just those who have subscribed to receive alerts.”
As part of the implementation process, Amburgy worked to import into the Mass Notification system contact information for the subscribers of the City’s existing notification system. She executes ongoing communication efforts aimed at residents about the value of the system and the convenience of subscribing to its notifications. Amburgy has used a variety of marketing tactics to encourage resident subscribers. Bullard offers a form integrated into its CivicPlus website where residents can subscribe to receive alerts. It also sent out notifications using its previous notification system and has promoted the CivicPlus software via Facebook advertising campaigns and an article on its website.
“Anytime we have an event or are out in the community, [the CivicPlus Mass Notification system] is our main communication focus,” said Amburgy. “We have a banner, postcards, and an iPad station where residents can sign up right then and there. Today we have about 250 residents signed up, and our list is growing.”
CivicPlus for Urgent Notifications
Fortunately for Bullard, it has not yet had to use the CivicPlus Mass Notification system to notify residents of an impending local emergency. However, CivicPlus did allow Amburgy to inform residents about an unexpected last-minute rescheduling of a local event.
“We host many events in Bullard, and are known for our family-friendly events,” said Amburgy. “Recently, we had to reschedule an event from a Monday to a Wednesday. We sent out the notification via [the CivicPlus system] on Sunday evening and reached about 250 residents, which is a lot for us. Our citizens were glad they were signed up for alerts when they received the reschedule notice. Many of them may not have checked Facebook on Monday to see we posted a date change, but with [CivicPlus], they still were able to receive the information they needed, the way they wanted.”
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