When government agencies, schools and universities think about mass notification systems, the safety of the public or student body is usually the primary benefit they consider. But safety is only the tip of the iceberg. A sophisticated unified communications system that delivers robust mass notifications also improves productivity, interactions and agility.
When officials need to connect to the right people at the right time, notifications must be simple to craft and disseminate, with the option to send out messages to select groups of people across multiple devices. Staff, students and parents are demanding. They expect to be informed of events in real-time and through their preferred channels. The antiquated methods of phone chains and even website or social media posts no longer make the grade.
Mass notification systems yield big returns
The good news is unified communications technology has advanced to the point where mass notification systems can meet these elevated expectations, enabling you to communicate quickly and effectively. They represent an investment that pays big returns for governments, schools and universities. The numerous benefits include:
- Enhanced crisis response. In emergency situations, officials can communicate with stakeholders clearly and in real-time, even while they notify and deploy response teams and connect with them through live conference calling.
- Automation of regular communications. They can also optimize operations by automating standard messages or notifications that need to be delivered to students, staff or residents.
- Event notifications and reminders. The system is useful in non-crisis situations, as well. It can be used for any event that should triggers a message – from snow days to town meetings.
- Improved transparency. Reporting is especially important for government accountability. The system should be able to generate real-time reports of auditable records, improving visibility and the effectiveness of communications among your community.
- Improved student retention. Regular communications about events and important information keep student bodies informed and happy, increasing retention and contributing to improvements in new enrollment.
- Support for multimedia communications platforms. Communicate with individuals through their preferred method, whether it be SMS, email, mobile phone, landline or desktop alert.
- Personalization. Campaign messages can be tailored to each recipient.
How it works
Whether they’re used to share daily reminders or alert the right people in a crisis, mass notification systems require the same four-step process: initiate the message, reach the right people in the preferred format, obtain confirmation and track progress with reporting.
While the process may seem straightforward, the technology that supports it must be robust. For governments, schools and universities looking to evaluate systems, here’s a list of must-have features.
Users and groups
Even with potentially hundreds of thousands of people to reach, managing contacts and their communications preferences should be easy. What’s more, the system should support the ability to create groups and targeted audiences.
Maintaining the integrity of the process is critical, which is why only a few people should be able to trigger a notification. With roles and permissions properly set up, that’s not an issue. But the system also has to be flexible. Each official should be able to trigger the process using their preferred method, whether it’s over the web or with a call using a landline phone, IP phone, computer or mobile device. Thus, multi-point activation is a requirement. Text-to-speech technology further simplifies the process.
Sometimes it’s necessary to alert users within a specific geographic location. With precision IP paging, officials can broadcast a message to speakers and phones in a specific area, such as a campus, building or even as precise a location as a room.
Mass notification is also useful to facilitate urgent conversations, even outside of a crisis. Technologies such as find-me and live conferencing coupled with mass notification can bring together stakeholders quickly and easily.
Nothing grabs attention faster than a personalized message, making the capability to tailor communications to specific individuals or groups one of the system’s most crucial features.
Reporting and confirmations
Versatility is critical to ensure that everyone gets the message. Once a notification is sent, there often needs to be a mechanism to verify receipt. With advanced text notification (SMS), for example, alerts can be sent to mobile phones with the option to request acknowledgment. In addition, robust real-time reporting features provide both transparency and accountability.
For governments and schools, a robust and flexible mass notifications system can’t be a one-off. It’s a tool that’s used every day to keep operations running smoothly and key stakeholders informed and up-to-date.