The downtown area of Dallas is in the midst of a major renaissance, adding high-rise towers with offices, restaurants and stores. The building boom has encouraged city leaders and local businesses to take a new approach to security planning for the downtown area, considering a variety of risks including fires, severe weather, and crime.
The city was tested recently when a fire out of a local restaurant’s kitchen hit the downtown area. The incident, which occurred in February 2019, resulted in massive transit shutdowns and delays, though luckily no residents were injured. The fire spread to other parts of the city, causing a delay in service of all Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) modes and suspending transportation in other areas. With about 140,000 employees work in the downtown area and over 250,000 people employed in the city center, there’s a lot of necessary emergency communication to be done.
It takes an average of five minutes and 17 seconds for the fire department to respond to a fire nationwide (one minute and 15 seconds to get ready and four minutes and two seconds to reach their destination). There is very little time to notify the necessary people of an ongoing incident. The kitchen fire in downtown emphasized to local officials why fast and convenient emergency notification is an absolute necessity for local officials.
Downtown Dallas Inc. (DDI) is a private, non-profit advocacy group that facilitates funding in downtown Dallas for public safety issues, maintenance and repair, capital improvements, economic development and planning/transportation. The City of Dallas has a mass notification system, but the alerts are not specific to the downtown area. That's where DDI steps in, and the firm uses its own mass notification system to notify commercial property owners, operators and facility and security personnel of incidents, and then they alert their employees, residents and others.
DDI sent out five alerts giving status updates on the fire, including the shutdown of a nearby DART stop and adjacent streets.
Martin Cramer, Vice President of DDI, says the focus of their alerts is just for the commercial, residential, hotels and schools within the downtown area. “We let them know if there’s a critical incident, such as a road closure, a fire or whatever impacts downtown as far as egress and getting people in and out of downtown, or if there’s an incident. They’ll get the message from us and they’ll blast it out internally.”
DDI uses their mass alert system to send about 150 email and text alerts a year, not counting follow-up messages, about all kind of incidents. Alert messages are sent to 1,700 owners, operators, and security and safety staff who are responsible for sharing that message internally with the employees and residents in that location. DDI is able to pre create templates so that a DDI or Office of Emergency Management administrator only needs to fill in the basics, such as dates, times, and what streets are affected in a particular area. Currently, DDI has 20-30 pre created templates at the ready.
DDI’s messages are targeted towards the more than 30 companies that have their headquarters in downtown Dallas, including AT&T, Comerica Bank, Hunt Oil and the Dallas Morning News. The downtown area also features over 190 shops, approximately 500 restaurants and 100 live music, art and cultural venues, as well as 52 acres of greenspace across 40 parks and plazas.
“A mass notification is a trusted message, where social media is great but there’s so much misinformation,” Cramer said. “Anybody can post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can’t trust it to be accurate. Coming from DDI or local government, you can trust that messaging.”
While the city of Dallas has its own mass notification software, DDI specifically keeps up with events and alerts people in the downtown area. Learn more in our latest case study!
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