Emergency Weather Alert System

Use InformaCast to automatically send alerts when natural disasters strike. Monitor live-feeds from the National Weather Service to trigger emergency notifications that include safety instructions.

Benefits: 

  • Monitor RSS/Atom feeds from the National Weather Service
  • Filter on weather type and geographic area (FIPS6, UGC, polygon)
  • Automatically notify only those people in danger with detailed instructions
  • Configure as many geographic areas as you'd like, and a send separate mass notification for each of them

Additional Resources

 

 

Topics

Emergency Notification System Demand Rises

As reported by Campus Safety Magazine, from a report by IHS Markit, “In the Americas, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes are occurring more frequently, so unimpeded mass communication during these events is critical…”

Many organizations are turning to emergency notification systems to help with mass communication during crisis events, like those cause by natural disasters. Mass notification systems can help send critical information throughout an organization quickly to help keep people safe.

These types of events can develop rapidly, so having a system that can utilize pre-written message templates, or can tie into organizations like the National Weather Service to send automated alerts, can save precious time. Messages can include information about sheltering-in-place and updates about delays or closings.

How an organization communicates with its people is going to depend on its size and how it can best everyone. Using a central system that serves as a hub for an organization’s emergency mass communications can help connect a variety of devices, including IP phones, IP speakers, desktop computers, digital signage, mobile devices and more, to ensure every possible channel is leveraged.

Read more about why emergency notification system demand is on the rise.

 


Preparing for Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can strike anywhere at any time,. Every organization needs to have a plan with policies and procedures for how to they will respond should disaster strike.

Here are a few questions for you to consider when creating or updating your severe weather response plan:

  • How do staff members currently learn about weather alerts?
  • Do people in your organization listen to a weather radio or wait to hear outdoor sirens?
  • Who is in charge of initiating an alert to your organization?
  • What happens if the person in charge is out of the office or out sick?

Can staff members trigger an emergency notification if they’re away from their desk?

Having answers to these questions are good first steps to put together an effective plan, but organizations also need to know what tools they are going to use to help spread the word.

An emergency notification system capable of keeping people informed wherever they are to provide important safety information. The more methods of communication you have, the better chance you have of reaching people wherever they are. An emergency notification system can make this simple.

Discover more natural disaster preparation tips.

 


Understanding Common Alerting Protocol

Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is an open, XML based, digital message format for a wide range of alerts and notifications. This format allows for the exchange of public emergency notifications between many different mass notification technologies that are available and in use today. CAP messages are typically generated by any organization involved with notifications regarding public safety. Businesses, schools, healthcare facilities and manufacturing plants depend on CAP messages to stay informed about potentially dangerous events, such as natural disasters.

Organizations in the US currently issuing CAP messages include:

  • National Weather Service
  • United States Department of Homeland Security
  • United States Geological Survey

According to documentation from OASIS Emergency Management Technical Committee, the CAP format has capabilities that include:

  • Flexible geographic targeting using latitude/longitude shapes and other geospatial 10 representations in three dimensions
  • Multilingual and multi-audience messaging
  • Phased and delayed effective times and expirations
  • Enhanced message update and cancellation features
  • Template support for framing complete and effective warning messages
  • Compatible with digital encryption and signature capability
  • Facility for digital images and audio

All of these can be leveraged by organizations to provide relevant safety information.

For more on CAP, read our Common Alerting Protocol blog post.

 


3 Natural Disaster Preparedness Questions

When an organization begins developing procedures for how it will respond to natural disasters, there are three important questions to consider.

  1. How do you hear about a natural disaster?
  2. How do you reach everyone with critical information?
  3. Who is responsible for keeping everyone safe?

Having the answers to these questions will determine how fast messages go out and can be the difference between people staying safe, o encountering dangerous situations. Severe weather and other natural disasters are unpredictable, so it’s important to always be prepared. By answering these three questions, organizations will have a strong foundation to build their preparedness plan.

See our natural disaster infographic for more.  

 


Scenario: Hurricanes

Hurricanes can have a disastrous impact on an organization’s operations. Those located in hurricane prone areas need to have plans in place for what people need to do before, during and after a storm. Mass notification systems can help spread the word quickly, and provide regular updates on how the storm is affecting operations.

When preparing for hurricanes, tie your emergency notification system into the National Weather Service to automatically provide weather updates on approaching hurricanes. Having this set up ahead of time can save time and allow leadership team members to focus on how they are going to prepare and respond to the hurricane.

Once a hurricane strikes, mass notification systems can be used to provide useful updates and instructions. While it may be too late for people to evacuate, organizations can provide instructions for where to seek shelter or to tell their people they should not come to their facilities. You could also share information regarding the condition of your buildings, along with emergency services information should people require it.

When the storm has passed, emergency notifications can help provide the “all clear” and offer guidance on procedures to helps operations get back to normal. You can provide information about when buildings will reopen, or if people need to work from home until cleanup can take place.

The last step is to assess how well your plan was executed. Systems that offer analytics and insights into delivery and read receipts can help you understand what worked and what didn’t during your hurricane response. Then you can make adjusts to improve your planning and execution for the next time your organization faces a hurricane.

For more details on how to prepare and respond to hurricanes, read our blog post.

 


Scenario: Winter Weather

Winter weather can cause treacherous traffic conditions, impacting businesses, schools and general day-to-day operations for organizations. Being prepared for these challenges can minimize that impact. Leveraging emergency mass notifications systems to send large-scale alerts across an organization helps keep people informed. Some systems can even tie into the National Weather Service and automatically send alerts when severe weather approaches.

As with any emergency scenario, the ability to respond to severe winter weather is dependent upon the training and tools organizations have in place. Simply setting up a system to send an alert is rarely sufficient when it comes to managing a situation. Developing a strong winter weather preparedness plan means know who to contact and what those people should do before, during and after a message is sent.

In addition to National Weather Service alerts, mass notification systems can help manage a response once that initial message is sent. Leveraging capabilities, like automatically launched conference calls, can bring people together to discuss how an emergency winter weather situation can be managed. This can aide in covering shifts, closing businesses or schools, and other decision making needs that are brought on by severe winter weather.

For more details on preparing for winter weather events, read our blog post.

 


Scenario: Wildfires

In December 2017, California experienced an outbreak of wildfires that closed schools, disrupted traffic, and caused issues for businesses and organizations around the state. When natural disasters such as wildfires occur, not having a plan in place can lead to serious consequences that impact businesses and lead to potentially life threatening situations.

When wildfires are approaching, sending an evacuation notice is critical to make sure your people reach safety. An emergency communication system should reach mobile and on-premises devices to help clear people out of endangered areas and prevent anyone from approaching when then should be seeking safety. This is particularly important during off hours when people may not be checking email at their desk. Setting up messages ahead of time with recommendations for where to seek safety also helps provide clear instructions so people can act quickly.

Once people are out of harm’s way, the emergency notification system can be used to provide updates about the status of your organization as the wildfires are battled. Letting people know that buildings will be closed or that buildings have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the fire let people know they should stay away. If buildings need to be closed for extended periods of time, an emergency notification system can be used to alert employees, as well as display messages on devices like digital signage to alert others.

For more details on preparing for wildfires, read our blog post.

 


Scenario: Earthquake

Organizations in earthquake-prone areas around the world participate in the Great ShakeOut, an annual earthquake preparedness drill. Earthquakes can strike at anytime, often without warning, so it’s important for organizations to prepare their people for the actions they need to take to stay safe.

An emergency notification system can help spread the word for quickly for drills and live events. Leveraging a mass notification system for drills helps build confidence that everything will work how it is supposed to when it matters most. Build messages ahead of time so information and instructions can be sent with the push of a button. This saves time and minimizes confusion to ensure a successful test. Groups can use these systems to let people know the drill is underway, offer helpful instructions about what to do during the drill, and give an “all clear” when the drill has ended.

For more details on responding to earthquakes, read our blog post.

 


Natural Disaster Message Templates

It’s a simple fact: planning ahead saves time. When it comes to sending emergency notifications about natural disasters, this is particularly true. Organizations can’t afford to be creating messages on the fly when an emergency occurs; it takes too much time. Every second counts, and the faster information can spread, the more likely it is that everyone can stay out of harm’s way. Building message templates for natural disaster events can help achieve this goal.

Each organization needs to assess the natural disaster scenarios it may face when creating standardized messages. These messages typically include a subject when being sent as an email or SMS text message, and a body which includes relevant information. Consistent templates help ensure that the proper information is included each time, minimizing confusion for recipients. While every organization is different, we’ve compiled seven common scenarios organizations are likely to encounter, and corresponding templates for mass messaging.

For natural disaster events, organizations may not want people coming in if road conditions are bad, and situations like tornadoes may require people to seek shelter. Here are two natural disaster templates: one for closings, and one for sheltering.

Subject: Inclement Weather Alert:
<INSERT ORGANIZATION> CLOSED <INSERT DATE>

Body: The National Weather Service has issued an inclement weather alert. <INSERT ORGANIZATION> will be closed today. Normal schedule will resume tomorrow. For more information, please contact <INSERT PHONE NUMBER>.

Subject: Severe Weather! Take Shelter Immediately.

Body: The National Weather Service has issued a severe weather alert. Seek shelter immediately and wait for the all-clear notification.

Discover more emergency message templates.

 


Designate Safe Places

A key component when preparing for natural disasters is providing people with a location they should go to when an event occurs. Different situations may require people to evacuate, or head to certain areas of your buildings to stay safe.

The National Weather Service (NWS) hosted a Twitter chat outlining different safe place strategies. Through a series of questions and answers, NWS presented the challenges and solutions to develop the best plan for making people aware of where they should go during severe weather events.

Here are some of the most relevant questions and responses from this Twitter chat and added tips on how to leverage InformaCast to get critical information into the hands of people who need it.

*Questions and answers have occasionally been edited for clarity.

Q: Why is it important to identify your safe place and practice going there?

A: Your location is the number one factor in determining your level of danger when extreme weather threatens. Taking action and getting to a safe location can mean the difference between escaping harm, injury or death.

With InformaCast, users can prebuild an emergency notification in anticipation of any natural disaster their organization may encounter. Determine your safe place and include this in your prebuilt notifications. This will save time in the moment since critical information has already been decided.

Q: Does my safe place change depending on the hazard?

A: Absolutely. Ask: Shelter in place (tornado) or evacuate (hurricane)? Go low (tornado) or go high (tsunami or flash flood)?

Since InformaCast allows users to prebuild messages for any type of scenario, specific information can vary depending on the event. Determine the different places people should go and procedures they should follow, then build a different message for each case.

Q: How much time do I have to get to a safe place?

A: This fully depends on the hazard. Tornado warnings require immediate action to your safe place.

InformaCast makes it easy to quickly send out critical information in the form of an emergency notification. Features like InformaCast Command Center simplify the emergency notification process to minimize the time between learning about event, and spreading that information throughout an organization.

Q: What are the best “safe places” when a tornado warning is issued?

A: Underground storm shelters. Safe rooms. Designated tornado shelters. Basements. At minimum, the lowest level interior room.

Use these suggested safe places to inform your InformaCast emergency notifications. Make sure you are broadcasting to as many devices as possible to ensure everyone hears the message and knows where to go when a natural disaster occurs.

For more details on designating safe places during natural disasters, read our blog post.

 


Staff Communication Tips for Natural Disasters

Communicating how natural disasters will impact schedules can be challenging, especially with larger organizations. No one wants to put their staff in harm’s way, but it’s important to keep everything running efficiently if possible.

Using an emergency notification system to share messages with staff about what they should do before, during and after a natural disaster helps minimize downtime and keep people safe.

Natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes and blizzards often give organizations time to prepare in advance. Depending on where an organization is located, plans should be in place for how to deal with different natural disaster scenarios an organization is likely to encounter. Having prewritten messages that explain severe weather is approaching and what impact it will have on day-to-day operations saves time, since administrators don’t need to worry about what to say, and instead can focus on other preparations.

Include clear instructions about what people are expected to do, whether that’s staying and working from home, or giving themselves adequate time to get in in the morning. Be sure to leverage as many communication channels as possible to ensure everyone gets the message and that there is no confusion about what an organization’s plan is if a natural disaster strikes.

Some events occur suddenly, or the severity of an anticipated event can increase unexpectedly. Messages sent to staff in the midst of a natural disaster should include relevant safety instructions. If offices are already closed, tell staff to staff away and off the roads. For particularly intense situations, it may be beneficial to tell them to listen to government officials about how to best stay safe.

For more staff communication tips, read our blog post.