The Limitations of Mobile Notification for Emergency Alerting


Defining Mass Notification

If you’re looking for a mass notification system, there are plenty of options to choose from on the market. However, most of these solutions focus on mobile notification, delivering SMS text messages or push notifications. If this is your primary method for reaching people, you aren’t really providing an effective mass notification solution.

Chances are, your need for a mass notification system stems from identifying that your organization is not able to quickly notify everyone in the event of an emergency. A mass notification system fulfills two basic needs when it comes to emergency message delivery: speed and reach. Speed is how quickly a message gets sent, and reach is the ability for that message to reach as close to 100 percent of your desired audience as possible. Mass SMS text messaging solutions seem to fulfill both these needs, but the truth is, if this is your only method for trying to reach people during an emergency, you could encounter serious limitations that impact people’s safety. In this blog post, we’ll demonstrate how mobile notifications don’t provide the same speed and reach available with a mass notification system that leverages mobile and on-premises alerts.

The Limits of Mobile Notifications

First, it’s important to note that there is nothing inherently wrong with mobile notifications. Sending SMS text messages to a device people frequently check and have with them can be an effective way to deliver important communications during a crisis. That being said, when this is the only method organizations rely on for sending information, it may not always be successful.

The success of that message delivery is determined by whether or not someone has their phone out at the time the message is sent and whether or not they notice they have received a new message. Some environments may require people to have phones put away or on silent. Think of areas like classrooms, meetings rooms, or other places that people do not want the distraction of a phone message. Additionally, at any given point in time, there are many people in your buildings to which you owe a duty of care, but you won’t have their phone numbers. This includes visitors, contractors, patients, etc. When an administrator or security person hits send on that mass SMS text message, people in those situations may not get the message right away, and in an emergency, every second matters.

Some mass notification vendors may try and alleviate this concern by saying they can reach desk phones with notifications. Again, on the surface, this may seem like an adequate means of alerting people, but the method most vendors use to reach phones is by calling them from a cloud-based service. Most organizations do not have the trunking capacity to accept all these calls at once. Even worse, receiving a high volume of calls at the same time can be perceived as an attack on the phone service. This results in those calls being denied and never reaching their intended destinations.

Understand the difference between calling and broadcasting

Now you have people who aren’t seeing or hearing the notifications that are sent to them, which means mobile notifications aren’t delivering the speed or reach you need from a mass notification system to keep your people safe. So what should you be looking for in a mass notification system?

Combined Services, Connectivity, and Live Audio

If you want to achieve true mass notification you need to find a solution that can reach more than just mobile devices and doesn’t just need to rely on calling to deliver audio alerts. The first thing to look for is a solution that combines mobile and on-premises alerting into a single platform. As we’ve already mentioned, time is of the essence during an emergency, and you can’t afford to waste time logging into and out of different systems to activate your mass notifications. A combined solution will allow you to prebuild messages and groups that get sent to everyone and everything at the same time in a variety of formats. That means whether someone is inside a building or traveling, at their desk or away from it, they can know about dangerous situations that may be taking place.

That leads us to the second consideration when weighing your mass notification options: connectivity. Mobile devices are an important element when notifying your people, but you need to be able to use all of your existing communication devices and build an ecosystem that reaches everyone. IP phones, IP speakers, digital signage, desktop computers, collaboration tools like Cisco Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams, and other devices can all be used to deliver messages. Internet of Things devices can also be used to help trigger alerts and activate procedures like locking doors, lighting up strobes and more to communicate with your people and protect them from harm. The more devices and systems you can utilize for alerting, the more likely it is that everyone gets the information they need to stay safe.

Which brings us to our last point of consideration. You need to get attention-grabbing, intrusive audio notifications out to all of your people quickly. Live audio messages offer one of the best ways to accomplish this, and it’s an option mobile-only solutions can’t provide. Live audio interrupts ongoing proceedings, and when connecting to IP phones, IP speakers, overhead paging systems and desktop notifications, can permeate a wide area with critical safety details. You also don’t need to worry about overloading your system, because you’re not calling these devices, you’re broadcasting to them. This helps you get the message out quickly and helps people respond to instructions quickly.

These are just a few of the reasons mobile notification does not necessarily equate to mass notification. Review details on vendor websites, speak with representatives to get your questions answered and find the right solution for keeping your people safe and informed.

Download our Mass Notification System Buyer’s Guide




InformaCast Online Demo