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by Rick Wimberly: Best practices for emergency notification programs

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People will trust but verify emergency notifications
May 17, 2010
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Two recent studies have shown that, when it comes to emergency notifications, the public won't likely take action unless they receive their directions from at least two sources. It's kind of like Ronald Reagan used to say, "Trust, but verify."

The most recent confirmation comes from research from Georgia Tech on emergency notification preferences of people with disabilities. (See our earlier post.) A study by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC) was designed to determine preferences for wireless devices for emergency notifications. But, an off-shoot of the research was a finding that, regardless of the initial form of notification, a secondary form was necessary before action would be taken.

When Oak Ridge National Laboratories conducted a FEMA-financed study on evacuations during the San Diego wildfires, they found that residents generally wouldn't leave their homes until they had received confirmation from a second source. (See our earlier post on the study.) In the case of the San Diego wildfires, most people got their first evacuation notice from an automated telephone call. However, they generally sought confirmation from television news before evacuating. Others received confirmation from family members or acquaintances.

Anecdotally, we can confirm the need to confirm. Our home area (middle Tennessee) has recently gone through serious floods and many tornado watches and warnings. We experienced first-hand the need to get alerts from more than one source before evacuating our homes or taking cover.

Although independent, both studies (not just our personal experience) confirmed the need to use multiple forms of notifications - besides the fact that different people get information from different sources. Once again, we make the point that a system of systems is the way to go. (Browse our earlier posts for a lot of of information and insight on making a system of systems a reality, or request a copy of our white paper on the topic at info@galainsolutions.com.)

Thank-you Wireless RERC and Oak Ridge National Laboratories for confirmation of the need to confirm.

All the best,

Rick
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