The History of Mass Notification: From Paul Revere to Amber Alerts and Beyond

Picture of Andrea Lebron By Andrea Lebron


history of mass notification

Looking back through the history of mass notification, how it has evolved over the years and what the future holds.

Technology is ever-evolving and it’s no surprise that methods we use today to notify the masses are different from years past. To understand the history of mass notification, it’s important to look at the evolution of communication as a whole.

An infographic created by Atlassian shows how humans have connected and communicated with each other over the years from cave paintings to social media posts. As the infographic shows, communication methods have become shorter, quicker and digital. This widespread expectation of instant communication has also transformed the mass notification market.

History of Mass Notification

View complete infographic on DesignTaxi

Walking Through the History of Mass Notification

Another infographic produced by Rave Mobile Safety illustrates the evolution of mass notification. Here’s a closer look at some of the events featured.

1775 – Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

One of the most famous stories of mass alerting is Paul Revere’s midnight ride, in which Paul was part of “an elaborate warning system set up by the Sons of Liberty to spread an alarm quickly and efficiently.” A team of messengers, including Paul, rode by horseback to military stores in several Massachusetts towns, to warn of the impending ambush by the British. This form of personal and manual mass notification was successful for its time and several others, including a 16-year-old girl, dubbed the ‘female Paul Revere’, delivered important warnings on horseback.

1939 – London’s Air Raid Sirens

Jumping up a couple of hundred years during World War II in London, the Prime Minister “interrupted the regular radio broadcasts to announce that Britain and Germany were at war”. Soon after, they tested their alerting system, air raid sirens, preparing thousands of civilians for a possible air strike.

1996 – AMBER Alerts

Nearly 60 years later, the abduction and murder of a little girl named Amber Hagerman in 1996 inspired the development of a revolutionary early warning system that has helped recover hundreds of missing children. The AMBER alert is part of the Wireless Emergency Alert program, which sends out warnings for weather, presidential and imminent threats.

Evolution of Mass Notification

The History of Mass Notification in 2018 and Beyond

Mass notification in 2018 takes an integrated approach to alerting the public. It’s no longer enough to use a singular approach for mass notification such as sending out an email, especially with the overwhelming amount of emails we receive today. Multi-modal mass notification tools allow messengers to deliver urgent communications to the public. Advanced tools give messengers the power for better data management, audience targeting and even selective communication channel options, where you turn on or off specific platforms such as social media or voice mail, if you don’t want messages being delivered through them.

Examples of The Future of Mass Notification

Here are a few examples of future-proof mass notification tools being used by organizations today:

  • AlertSeattle – allows residents and city employees to receive important emergency and community updates, by email, text, voice call, and on social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Wellness Checks System – allows GE Appliances security leaders to send critical updates to its employees and perform wellness checks during natural disaster events, which was put to use recently during the Harvey, Irma and Maria hurricanes
  • 24/7 Emergency Communications – allows Carle Foundation Hospital to easily coordinate work schedules, vacations and sick time with employees that work around the clock; the tool also provides easier database management, compared to a previous tool used by the hospital

Download the "The Evolution of Mass Notification" Infographic Here

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Written by Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Digital Marketing Manager, 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.


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