Why is it so tough to get people to sign up to receive emergency alerts?

A full year after Itawamba County, Miss., implemented its emergency notification system, 25 percent of community households had signed up to receive notifications. Oddly enough, that’s a strong sign-up rate — even extraordinary.

As we’re sure Itawamba officials will tell you, obtaining buy-in from the general public and other community stakeholders is no easy task. In fact, it is easily one of the greatest obstacles to emergency notification success. Despite the use of good technology and best intentions, your alerting objectives will fall short without a powerful and compelling outreach program.

Consider the following facts about emergency alert programs:

  • The general public is not easily motivated to undertake even a small action (like signing up online) to get information that could impact, maybe even save, their lives. The fact is, people are regularly bombarded with information, so requests for action that will ultimately lead to more information are often dismissed.
  • Even if your chosen vendor provides a telephone database for making telephone calls, it will have significant gaps, particularly where cellphones are concerned.
  • Special steps and considerations are required to accommodate alerts for people with disabilities and language challenges. This requires a clear understanding of disabilities, the way people access information, and best approaches for mitigating alerting challenges.


How Can I Get Stakeholders Engaged in Emergency Alerting Signup?

You cannot claim “best efforts” and avoid the fallout when people are not alerted of a significant event. If people are not notified, you will be blamed — regardless of your efforts. And worse, failed notifications and bad publicity can actually derail a notification initiative by causing stakeholders to “opt out.”

Our free Whitepaper, “Seven Essential Building Blocks of Better Stakeholder Engagement,” lists specific ways to create a stronger messaging platform and improve your agencies outreach efforts.

What About Alerting for Special Needs Populations?

Recognizing that alert and warning information is only effective if received means understanding how people in our communities choose to receive information. And if the goal is to alert everyone, then it is vitally important not to overlook the approximately 25% of our population who rely on assistance or accommodation in their day-to-day lives.  FEMA has published an impressive whitepaper, “Alerting The Whole Community: Removing Barriers to Alerting Accessibillity,” which can help you reach the goal of making sure alerts and warnings (and outreach) are fully accessible by the whole community.