Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Nantucket harbor is being battered by hurricane force gales. The National Weather Service says multiple new inlets will permanently alter the Massachusetts coastline. Boston is under a two foot blanket of snow. Millions of people have been advised to stay home from work and school.


New England is bearing the brunt of the storm currently marauding across the Northeast, but thick snowdrifts and 50mph winds have made life difficult for everyone from Philadelphia to Nova Scotia. 


The economic impact of storms like Juno is astronomical. Quoted in the International Business Times, Evan Gold, senior vice president at weather advisory firm Planalytics estimated $500 million - a sum he described as ‘relatively small’ compared with the toll taken by last year’s snowfall (which some analysts estimated to be worth up to $50 billion). Between lost business, wages, taxes, and the cost of restoring the infrastructure, a one-day storm in Massachusetts is estimated to cost the state $265 million; in New York it’s more like $700 million. 


These figures don’t even take into account individual and commercial losses incurred by flight cancellations and other travel delays which, last winter, cost passengers around $5.3 billion. 


The cost of a storm like Juno can’t be measured in purely economic terms. Power outages lasting for several days place millions of people in hazardous conditions. Emergency workers are suddenly facing greater dangers, and those already vulnerable to cold temperatures and icy conditions - such as the elderly - are at risk.


Though it’s hard to accurately predict the timing and ferocity of weather events like Juno, we do know they’re happening with increasing regularity. Local government, education authorities and businesses are turning to text messaging as a reliable way to issue emergency alerts and weather warnings. Everything from traffic alerts to natural disaster predictions can easily be transmitted to large numbers of people via SMS.


Schools are using SMS messaging to forewarn parents about incoming weather. Businesses unable to operate due to severe conditions can advise their staff to remain at home while the storm plays out. Government bodies can even send emergency notifications similar to Amber Alerts, causing cell phones to chime when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues a storm warning.


The reason SMS alerts are so popular with organizations is simply because they’re popular with citizens. There are billions of mobile subscriptions worldwide. Almost everyone in the United States can receive text messages, and with an open rate of close to 100% within three minutes of receipt, SMS’ reach dwarfs other mediums in terms of mass communication.


In a country like the U.S., which has incredibly diverse climates and terrains, SMS messaging unites everyone with its accessibility and reliability. There is no better way to inform people of impending disaster and the potential effects of its fallout.