Deliver Critical Information Via SMS Text Alerts and Notifications

10 min
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Leveraging Emergency SMS Alert Systems in Critical Situations  

In a time where communication is instantaneous and vital, the role of SMS text messaging during emergencies and critical situations cannot be overstated. Whether dealing with natural disasters or man-made crises, the swift dissemination of vital information is critical for saving lives and minimising damage. Mass text alert systems have transformed crisis management, providing authorities and individuals with a rapid and efficient means of communication when every second counts. 

For organisations across sectors like government, healthcare and education, the effective delivery of time-sensitive information can mean the difference between life and death or the continuity of essential services. In this blog post, we explore the effectiveness and benefits of leveraging mass text alert systems and provide use case examples of how text messaging has been used in real life emergency situations.


The Power of Emergency SMS Alert System    

Unlike emails, SMS messages bypass spam filters and do not rely on internet access or app installations for reception. With an impressive 98% open rate, significantly higher than the average email open rate of 21.33%, SMS alerts are more likely to be read by the recipient. This reach and reliability make SMS alerts indispensable in various life-saving scenarios.

Natural Disasters Text Alerts: In the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, floods, blizzards or wildfires, severe weather alerts play a vital role in rapidly disseminating critical information to affected communities. These SMS weather alerts provide timely warnings about impending dangers, evacuation orders, and shelter locations, enabling individuals to take prompt action to ensure their safety.

Public Safety Emergencies: During public safety emergencies like active shooter situations, terrorist threats, or civil unrest, SMS text alerts serve as a crucial communication tool for law enforcement agencies and emergency responders. These alerts can notify residents about potential dangers, provide instructions for staying safe, and offer updates on evolving situations, helping to minimise risks and coordinate response efforts.

Health Emergency Text Alerts: In healthcare emergencies such as disease outbreaks or pandemics like COVID-19, SMS text alerts are instrumental in sharing important health information and guidance to the public at scale. Broadcast text alerts can provide updates on the spread of infectious diseases, offer instructions for seeking medical care, and share preventive measures such as vaccination or mask mandates, helping to mitigate the impact of the health crisis and protect public health.

Missing Persons: SMS text alerts are invaluable in cases of missing persons, particularly with children or vulnerable adults. Alerts, such as AMBER alerts in the United States, can quickly reach a wide audience and provide critical information about the missing individual, including physical descriptions and last-known locations. These text messaging alerts mobilise the community to assist in search and rescue efforts, increasing the likelihood of a safe recovery.

Environmental Hazards: SMS text alerts are essential for informing the public about environmental hazards such as air quality alerts, hazardous material spills, or water contamination incidents. These text message alerts can advise residents to avoid certain areas, take precautions to protect their health, or provide instructions for safely disposing of hazardous materials, helping to minimise exposure and prevent adverse health effects.




Advantages of SMS Alerts During Emergency Situations    

Direct and Immediate Communication: SMS alerts directly reach individuals on their mobile devices, ensuring instant communication even when other channels may be unreliable or inaccessible.

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Widespread Coverage: With mobile phones being prevalent, using an online text messaging service gives organisations the ability to send mass SMS alerts to thousands of people. In Australia, where the population totals 26 million, there are 21.6 million smartphone users. This extensive reach gives organisations the ability to swiftly convey information to people simultaneously ensuring the urgent message has the best chance of being received.

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Personalised Messaging: Online SMS services enable organisation to create custom messages. This targeted messaging option can improve engagement and encourage recipients to carry out the required instructions in the message. Using custom merge fields can also help agencies customise emergency information based on factors such as location, date of event, and specific emergency needs.

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Two-Way Text Messaging: Establishing a two-way communication channel may be essential during certain emergencies. Organisations that use a online SMS alert system can receive replies to text messages to an online inbox, into their own system with an API or to email. 2-way SMS services provide affected individuals to report emergencies, request assistance, and seek clarifications,  

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Real-Life Impact: Effective Utilisation of Emergency SMS Alert Systems    

Utilising an online text messaging service is the best way to notify communities about emergency situations. It’s common to receive national weather service text message alerts or sharing state-wide health updates via national text alert systems, you may have received text messages warning you about hail storms or flooding. Here we explore some real-life examples that highlight the power and effectiveness of emergency mass text alert systems, demonstrating their important role in saving lives and enhancing emergency and critical response efforts


1. Namadji Bushfire Alert - During the Namadgi bushfire in January 2020, over 15,000 emergency alert text messages were dispatched to residents of Canberra as the fire intensified to a watch and act alert level. These messages aimed to inform and advise individuals, even those residing outside immediate bushfire-threatened areas, about the blaze and evacuation measures, highlighting the urgency and widespread impact of the unfolding emergency.


2. Western Victoria Bushfire in February 2024 prompted tens of thousands of residents to evacuate immediately, with emergency services dispatching over 25,000 emergency alerts via voice or text messages initially and an additional 5,500 messages on follow-up. The blaze, originating in Bayindeen, engulfed more than 11,000 hectares with firefighting efforts involving about 1,000 personnel and 175 trucks.


3. The Heart Foundation conducted a pilot program that sent 42,000 text messages to eligible patients, resulting in a remarkable 14-fold increase in visits to GPs for heart health check-ups. Published in the Australian Journal of General Practice, the program targeted patients aged 45–74 without cardiovascular disease who had not had a health assessment or HHC in the previous year, indicating a genuine increase in cardiovascular disease screening. This success has led to a larger implementation trial aimed at replicating these outcomes in higher-risk areas and among patients with less recent engagement with preventive cardiac health services.

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4. The TEXTMEDS study, led by Dr. Clara Chow of Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney's Applied Research Centre successfully supported heart attack survivors across 20 hospitals in Australia, aiming to enhance medication adherence and lifestyle changes post-heart attack. Through personalised text messages, participants received guidance on managing blood pressure, cholesterol, medication benefits, and lifestyle recommendations like diet, exercise, and smoking cessation. Despite no significant impact on medication adherence, participants improved their healthy lifestyle measures after 12 months and 86% of the participants found the program useful. High participant satisfaction and effectiveness were reported, indicating the text messaging program's potential as a cost-effective post-heart attack care intervention.

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Embracing Innovation for Safer Communities    

Online SMS services enable organisations to send emergency SMS alerts that make a significant difference in crisis management, offering a fast, reliable, and bulk text messaging for sharing critical information with the public.  

Notifyre offers organisations the ability to send broadcast messages to thousands of contacts. This is made easy with contact import tools and custom SMS templates that can be used to input contact information. With pay-as-you-go sending Notifyre’s flexible SMS alert service can help organisations prepare for emergencies.

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