Rave blog Post

Everyone's Signing Up for Alerts Through Emergency Notification Systems. Now What?

Around the country, jurisdictions with emergency notification systems are witnessing huge increases in community members signing up to receive alerts related to the coronavirus pandemic. How jurisdictions respond to communities’ concerns can have an impact on how the situation is resolved.

Jurisdictions with existing emergency notification systems obviously take responsibility for community safety very seriously; but having a system in place to alert communities to potential danger is only half the job. How the systems are used is equally important, as this can have an impact on how well communities are prepared, how well they respond, and how quickly they recover.

>> Learn how your community can quickly recover in this video.


Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of people signing up to receive alerts from emergency notification systems run by trusted sources. This implies many people are wary of how the pandemic is being reported by some sources and makes it all the more important emergency notification systems are used responsibly.

But, in this rapidly developing situation, how should jurisdictions best use emergency notification systems to help communities prepare, respond, and recover from the coronavirus pandemic? To help answer this question, we’ve compiled a list of suggestions jurisdictions are invited to take advantage of and adapt to the requirements of their communities.

Segmenting Infected Individuals or Vulnerable Populations

As more states prepare to enter lengthy lockdowns, questions around how to slow the spread will remain focused on identifying infected individuals, those in self-quarantine and more importantly, vulnerable populations or those with access and functional needs who are most susceptible to getting coronavirus.

Some communities have expanded their COVID-19 alerting by incorporating citizen-sourced data to build coronavirus awareness for first responders. One community in Kentucky is asking their community to be active participants in coronavirus awareness: “As Nelson and Washington counties prepare for and responds to the spread of the coronavirus, public health and safety officials are strongly encouraging the community to sign up for the Smart911 national safety profile registry…to take action and provide valuable and accurate health data that increases the awareness of 911, first responders, and Emergency Management to an individual’s risk level for coronavirus.”

To help identify vulnerable members of the community, jurisdictions can use their emergency notification systems to encourage people to sign up for Smart911. This service enables members of the community to create online safety profiles and list any medical conditions that may put them into the high-risk category for contracting coronavirus - effectively, creating a coronavirus special needs registry.

Related Blog: The Benefits of Smart911 and Rave Prepare During the Coronavirus  Pandemic

Respond by Developing a Community Spirit

One of the reasons it has been suggested communities will not be able to cope with lengthy lockdowns is a lack of community spirit. In other parts of the world, a lack of community spirit has resulted in events such as panic buying, unnecessary travel, and other anti-social behavior; and, in order for communities to recover as fast as possible from the pandemic, we really do need to be in this altogether.

Probably the best example of communities coming together is the “aplausosanitario” movement that started in Spain and Italy and has since spread through most of Europe and parts of America. Everyone appreciates the hard work and personal sacrifices of frontline workers during these difficult times, and jurisdictions with emergency notification systems can use the systems to organize something similar.

As word spreads about the efforts being made to develop a community spirit more community members will sign up for emergency notification systems, enabling jurisdictions to increase awareness, manage quarantine check-ins, and target communications to support networks with geo-polling tools.

For example, some states are issuing out a call to nurses with expired or out-of-state licenses in good standing to see if they are available to help fill shifts. A geo-poll alert allows you to quickly identify available healthcare staff.

Take a look at how some communities are responding to the pandemic:

>> Watch to learn more about coronavirus response across the country.


Recovery will be Quicker with Good Preparedness and Response

By organizing a coronavirus special needs registry and managing support for vulnerable citizens, jurisdictions should be better placed to relieve the pressure on healthcare systems and help their communities recover quicker from the coronavirus pandemic. The key things to remember when communicating through emergency notification systems are:

  • Give people realistic expectations
  • Prepare people for lengthy lockdowns
  • Encourage people to sign up for Smart911
  • Use the system to develop a community spirit
  • Organize events people can join in with remotely
  • Keep on top of quarantine check-ins to direct support networks

The bottom line is to take advantage of the growing number of people signing up for alerts in order to bring communities together, respond together, and recover quicker from the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, not everybody confined to their home has Internet access. Therefore, if your jurisdiction does not yet have an emergency notification system with SMS opt-in capabilities you could be excluding community members from obtaining advice, support, and medical attention. Or if you aren’t able to send different messages to different lists based on what your community members have signed up for, you might be losing them altogether from receiving your communications.

How Other Public Health Services Play a Role in Ongoing Communications

Many communities have encouraged their residents to send coronavirus-related questions to certain 211 or 311 hotlines but these non-emergency resources have their limits. Some cities have even encouraged their citizens to call these hotlines if they have available medical equipment donations. The issue then becomes how overwhelmed these resources might get.

In New York City, citizens are bypassing these non-emergency hotlines and tying up 9-1-1 services with coronavirus-related medical issues: “…there were more “fever and cough” calls on Saturday than normal. Other calls, such as for chest tightness or pain, also turned out to be virus related.” The increase in 9-1-1 calls are being attributed to other heavy volume times of the year like New Year’s Eve or even 9/11.

This makes the importance of coronavirus awareness for first responders, city and public health officials, and citizens all the more critical. And opens the door to exploring whether two-way communication systems that can incorporate citizen-sourced medical data can make a difference.

New call-to-action

Andrea Lebron
Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

SMS Opt-In

SMS opt-in provides an easy way for people – residents, commuters or visitors – to sign up for temporary or long-term inclusion in your alert database.

Learn More Today 

Schedule a Free Consultation

Talk With An Expert

Discover our pre-packaged solutions or configure a package that's right for your business. Learn how you can be up and running in days, take advantage of unlimited usage, and benefit from unbeatable performance and customer satisfaction.