Reverse 911 is a public alert system most frequently used by safety organizations to alert individuals and businesses to the risk of danger by sending a recorded voice message to landline telephones and registered cellphones within a defined geographical area. The system identifies which phones should receive the emergency alert by matching databases of telephone service subscribers and databases of registered cellphone users to their physical addresses, and then transmitting the recorded message.
In addition to using voice messaging – as opposed to SMS text – reverse 911 systems differ from WEA wireless alerts inasmuch as emergency alerts are only sent to cellphones registered on the safety organization´s database, rather than to all mobile devices. If an individual wants to receive a reverse 911 emergency alert on their cellphone, they have to register the cellphone with the safety organization. By comparison, WEA systems can broadcast voice messages to all mobile devices in the area whether they are registered or not.
Known Issues with Reverse 911 Systems
A reverse 911 system can be a valuable tool in a multi-layered approach to emergency alerts, but as a standalone system it has its issues. A report released by the U.S. Health Department in May 2017 revealed that more than half of American households (50.8%) were wireless only when it came to having a phone service. The percentage exceeded 70% in homes owned by the 24-35 year age group. Unless these individuals know to register their cellphones with their local safety organization, they will excluded from receiving emergency alerts from the reverse 911 system.
Other known issues with reverse 911 concern the hard of hearing, residents whose first language is not English, and the fact that not all people have answering machines to record an emergency alert when they are out. Furthermore, the reverse 911 number shows up as long distance – which some subscribers block or ignore – and, in some cases, residents have hung up on emergency alerts, believing them to be unsolicited calls. Considering the high proportion of wireless households and the other known issues, a typical reverse 911 system is not the best solution to alert people to the risk of danger.
Rave Alert’s Reverse 911 System
Rave Alert is not a typical reverse 911 system. Although individuals and businesses may still need to register to be included on the Rave Alert database, the system uses multiple channels of communication to alert people to the risk of danger by recorded message, SMS text, email, RSS, CAP, Alertus and social media. Rave Alert is also compatible with the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), so can take advantage of IPAWS-compatible public alert systems to maximize its reach.
Furthermore, Rave Alert operatives via a SaaS platform that can be accessed by safety officials from any Internet-enabled device. This means system administrators do not have to place themselves in danger in order to send an alert to the local population. Rave Alert can auto-translate emergency alerts into thirty-four languages and allows system administrators to send character-limited messages (for SMS text, Twitter and pagers) and long format messages (for email, Facebook and CAP) simultaneously.