Monday, January 10, 2011

by Kimberly Kohatsu, Marketing

A series of tornadoes touched down recently in Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois. Homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, power went out, trees were downed, and unfortunately, several lives were lost.

People who have been affected by the storms have been staying with friends or family, in hotels, or in ad-hoc shelters. They likely don't have regular access to the internet to read an email or check a website, but because they probably do have their cell phones by their side, CallFire's Voice Broadcast is an effective way to relay critical information.

In Case of Emergency Use CallFireFirefighters and emergency responders would say the same. They use notification plans to keep people out of harm's way during natural disasters, inform them about evacuations, or to send an all-clear. One dispatch manager described it as "the most valuable tool we've had since 911."

Now businesses, schools, and organizations are following suit. Think about it:

Say, for instance, you are an insurance company. You know that after all these tornadoes, there will be a lot of property claims. You want to make people aware of the steps to take before filing them. So you upload a list of all your clients with homes in Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois. You give them helpful tips such as

  • Make sure you photograph damaged items where you find them before moving them
  • Make temporary repairs as needed to prevent additional damage
  • Keep receipts for these repair expenses
  • If you're forced to leave your home due to evacuation or severe damage, keep receipts for your living expenses
  • Then, you include the phone number to report a claim

With Hosted IVR, you can even add a press-1 capability to connect the person being called to a live representative.

But that's just one example. January also brings snowstorms, and this season we've already seen blizzards across the Midwest, Northeast, and even snowstorms in parts of California. Inclement weather means cancellations, office closures or delays, and hazardous conditions.

Send cancellation notices with CallFireWhen I was a kid, if there was snow on the ground, the morning ritual was to crank up the radio and obsessively watch the scrolling ticker on the local tv news hoping one or the other would announce your school was closed.

But that was then. Information travels a lot faster now, and nothing travels quite as fast as text messages. It's not just about the speed of sending—what's even more key in emergencies is how quickly texts are read. According to mobileSQUARED, 90% of texts are read within the first three minutes of being received. Imagine sending a near-instantaneous text to all your employees so that they know if they should work from home, if any roads are closed, or if your business is shuttering for the day.

In any emergency situation, speed is of the utmost. So here are a five ways to help make sure your CallFire emergency alerts can be sent at a moment's notice:

  1. Know the drill. Log into your CallFire account and familiarize yourself with the interface so you can act quickly. Make sure everyone that may need to send notifications does, too. If you need help setting up your alert system, remember that we hold webinars every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
  2. Get the necessary opt-ins. Voice broadcasts or bulk texts can only be sent to people who have agreed to receive them. Get all the permissions you might need from your employees, clients, or other contacts. Tell them how you intend to use mass notifications, and get their agreement.
  3. Organize your contacts. Keep your contacts well organized in an Excel spreadsheet or .CSV so that you can easily sort them by department, essential/non-essential status, geographic office, or any other designation that could potentially be helpful.
  4. Send a test message. This will verify the accuracy of your contact list, make everyone in your organization aware the notification system is in place, and help you iron out any kinks along the way.
  5. Run routine practice sessions. No one likes to think about emergency situations, but just like in Boy Scouts, you should always be prepared. Schedule a few run-throughs of various scenarios and continue to tweak and improve, so that if the need does arise, you're the best you can be.