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Using SMS alerts for emergencies

Messaging has become an ideal marketing method. More than a tool for business, SMS has proved to be an exceptional service in emergencies.

SMS has become an excellent marketing and communication tool. SMS for businesses is a powerful resource which brands shouldn't miss out on if they want to use all the channels available to reach potential clients, get conversions and make sales. However, SMS messaging also has other applications which can prove to be very useful in the social field, and in civil protection.

14 minutes of reading
Publication: 08.05.2016
Última modificación: 10.21.2022

SMS alerts for emergencies

In this article we're going to talk about using SMS messaging to alert the public in emergencies, for warnings or advice. We'll focus on the uses of SMS messaging in this context and applications for transmitting information of interest to citizens in critical situations.

You can communicate important information straight to mobile phones by sending out alerts or emergency messages. Although SMS have a multitude of uses in the social sphere, in this case we are referring to situations that put the public at risk or in danger, for example:

  • Medical emergencies
  • Extreme weather alert (e.g. forecast of snow, thunderstorms)
  • Forest fires (areas affected, firefighter information, where to/where not to travel)
  • Accidents or possible dangers for citizens (chemical contamination...)
  • Alerts in a specific geographical area (for example, in a specific town or region)
  • Information or warnings to schools, campsites, sport facilities…

In all of these cases, using SMS is a great tool for disseminating information to the public quickly, securely and efficiently.

Figures show that SMS messages are read in 95% of the time, so organizations or administrations can be assured of instantaneous, direct contact, and that all the necessary information is immediately available to recipients.

Moreover, the system has notable benefits for the citizens themselves, who can sign up through a registration form or similar system.

The public can be warned of, or kept abreast of, critical situations, they can receive alerts about situations in the public interest, and have access to up-to-date and reliable information available highlighting the possible risks or dangers of a situation.

Examples of success in the sphere of civil protection

Using SMS in emergency situationsis not new, and official bodies, including the Spanish national police, are already taking advantage of it. The police use a system of alerts through Twitter and SMS, sending information they consider to be in the public interest in a time of crisis or emergency. This information, which appears in the form of a Tweet highlighted on social media, also reaches the mobile phones of those subscribed to the SMS alerts.

sms in emergency situations

The police isn't the only official body that uses SMS messages to warn the public. The Catalonian Government Civil Protection utilizes SMS to alert the public in the case of floods and other situations that can cause a risk for citizens. Similarly, some town councils and municipalities like San Sebastian, advise citizens through mobile messaging and send alerts about weather, fires, floods and other incidents that pose a risk to people or property.

In San Sebastian, the city also provides an SMS alerts service made up of a number of alerts that warns the public about the risks of flooding from the river Urumea. When an increase in flow is detected which could cause flooding in sensitive areas, subscribers are informed through a system of three SMS or successive emails: flood warning, overflow warning and end of danger notification.

Another example is the city of Pamplona. The capital of Navarre has recently launched a system of SMS warnings from civil protection authorities in the incident of a risk of flooding from the river Arga. Users can sign up through a simple process of subscription (all you have to do is enter the mobile phone number into the website and confirm it when you receive a verification message), and unsubscribe when you no longer want to receive alerts.

Advantages of sending SMS in emergencies

As you can see, the system of sending SMS messages for situations of risk has a number of advantages which makes it very easy to disseminate information about accidents, breakdowns, medical emergencies etc. For example, it's worth noting that SMS messaging allows for immediate contact (perfect for situations in which information has to be updated regularly) and is low cost, meaning you to reach a large number of people with just one action.

Moreover, the fact that people use their mobile phones so regularly guarantees a high rate of message reception. Looking at your mobile phone has become habit, and messages are usually read just a few seconds after being sent.

In addition, SMS for businesses and SMS for emergency response are both compatible with all telephones and operating systems (iOS, Android...).

Another advantage is the possibility of obtaining data and statistics on the sending and reception of messages.

How to send SMS in the case of emergencies

SMS messaging to use for emergency alerts isn't very different to SMS messaging for businesses, or indeed other applications of the system. The first thing is to have a database of people who have confirmed that they want to receive the messages.

You can make a form available to users where they can sign up to receive alerts, create messages on social media advertising the system, or place posters in visible areas of your business or organization to publicize the service.

Once the database is available, the SMS messaging process can be completed in two ways:

1 With a computer system: sending SMS for warnings or emergencies can be completed through a computer system specifically designed for this process, such as an integrated system in a platform, like LabsMobile.

2 Manually: this isn't sending messages one by one, but using applications like the one created by LabsMobile - a web application which allows you to create a database in less than a minute and without having to install any software. Moreover, it works in any browser and operating system. Fast and efficient, you can ensure that all of your contacts receive the information which you want to transmit directly and without interference.

In both cases it's important to remember that a good database is a key part of the success of SMS messaging. For this reason, it's best to keep it up-to-date and revise it often, deleting phone numbers which don't exist any more or have been transferred.

Why is SMS the best system in the case of emergencies?

Recent events such as terror attacks, forest fires, chemical incidents and accidents in which a number of people are involved have highlighted the need for providing systems to alert the population.

Receiving messages on time and having up-to-date information available in a case of crisis is essential, and therefore finding alternatives to conventional methods has become more important.

sms the best system in the case of emergencies

In this sense, social networks are an important step forward. However, although these platforms are very effective, they aren't always sufficient because they involve making a conscious effort to search for information at a stressful or tense time.

Alternatively, SMS reach telephones without the user needing to look for anything. People are warned with a beep or vibration and read messages, in the majority of cases, immediately after receiving it. This immediacy and the high rate of reading are two important points to consider when thinking about using SMS messaging for emergencies, accidents or hazardous situations.

Is it useful for public bodies?

Absolutely. Although town councils, regional governments and police or firefighting forces, among others, are the most common users of emergency messaging, the service can certainly also be used by businesses.

Businesses in the chemical sector, for example, can advise their workers about security measures on certain days or in high risk situations. Similarly, it can also be utilized by businesses who outsource work in nuclear power stations or with other materials that are considered dangerous.

Our team advises you

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