Can emergency SMS notifications save lives?

How emergency SMS notifications can save lives

How emergency SMS notifications can save lives

SMS is an underestimated form of communication. Texts are usually short, singular, and informal. But that doesn't mean it's any less effective in times of need.

During any emergency, time is rarely on our side. Whether it's natural disasters, extreme local weather conditions, shootings, military threats, or chemical spills. The current COVID-19 outbreak, declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, by the World Health Organization (WHO), has spread quickly.

Direct communication can affect how quickly people react in these critical situations. Accurate information and advice disseminated to the public have allowed the world to respond to the pandemic faster than ever before.

Vital communication during a pandemic

Related: 'Emergency SMS Alerts & Notifications'

Vital communication during a pandemic

It's no question that uncertainty lingers in the air. Scientists and doctors are struggling to ascertain what the future of COVID-19 might be. However, reliable direct communication has proven effective in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

With secure mass communication and access to mass testing, South Korea was able to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases in a short time. Through daily press briefings, online updates, and automated text messages, the government was able to communicate with the population. They shared the recent locations that newly diagnosed patients had traversed with the public. This allows individuals to determine whether they might have been at risk and take precautionary measures.

How can you prepare?

Eliminating, preventing, and minimizing potential threats is obviously the most ideal situation when it comes to health and safety. Unfortunately, no matter what we do to contain and restrict certain events, systems fail, people are fallible, and viruses spread.

Emergency outreach with SMS

Across the globe, people and businesses are moving online, not just because of the efficiency of technology or because it's trending. But because it is necessary during a pandemic to minimize exposure and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. These preventative measures are vital to decreasing the risk of infecting those who are most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

Across the globe, people and businesses are moving online, not just because of the efficiency of technology or because it's trending. But because it is necessary during a pandemic to minimize exposure and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. These preventative measures are vital to decreasing the risk of those who are most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus becoming infected.

Before implementation, communication should be the highest priority when attempting to reduce potential crises and emergencies. Access to accurate, reliable information and advice could save lives. Direct communication allows all involved to educate themselves and react appropriately in the face of hazardous circumstances.

Opt-in

Opt-in for emergency SMS alerts

By opting-in to receive notifications from health services and government authorities (local, national and international), you obtain up-to-date information on COVID-19 news and developments.

An SMS gateway provides practical A2P messaging and is an easy option for recipients to receive quick and concise text messages. A2P refers to application-to-person or mass messaging. And is an effective solution for communicating a brief message to a broad audience in a short time, especially while practicing social distancing.

Related: 'Why the application to person (A2P) SMS market is expected to grow'

How can SMS help during an emergency?

Text messaging is dynamic and efficiently implemented into existing communication strategies. SMS can be used as a mass messaging service to deliver notifications, for connecting individuals during self-isolation, or provide two-way texting for support channels.

Notify

Bulk SMS refers to A2P messaging through an SMS gateway where users can reach dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of contacts. The same technology that businesses use to send opt-in marketing messages also enables authorities to reach the masses in a time of crisis.

In the event of local, state, national, or international emergencies, sending a mass text message campaign could save lives. Whether it be broadcasting crucial information, providing access to aid, or issuing a warning, these messages have a profound impact. Depending on the country, governments can send out bulk SMS alerts in the event of an emergency, including updates on severe weather conditions, an amber alert for child abduction, or warnings of a potential mass shooting.

Recently in the USA, the TCPA lifted the restriction on using mass automated calls and text messages, but only for an "emergency purpose." According to the FCC, distributing important health information on COVID-19 by automated calls and text messages are limited to being sent from hospitals, healthcare providers, state or local health officials, or other government officials.

How can SMS help during an emergency?

Related: 'How easy is it to send bulk SMS from a PC?'

Connect

Reach out to loved ones, to colleagues, and to those in need right now. You may not be able to be there in person, but sending a message of hope, celebration, and of appreciation can go a long way (literally).

Self-isolation and social distancing already take a toll on mental health. But with the devastation that has come with COVID-19, so has come a feeling of helplessness. Communicating digitally has become a saving grace for those in need of connection. SMS and OTT messaging, such as WhatsApp, is a communication solution that allows people to connect in real-time through direct mobile messaging.

There are many ways to stay connected while in isolation. Including fun video chat options like Houseparty, walking through a virtual museum gallery, and online activities that connect you with friends like Netflix Party.

Support

How can SMS help during an emergency?

Essential services refer to businesses that must remain open to the public during COVID-19. However, these services may differ from place to place. Due to this, specific safety measures have been put in place to decrease the likelihood of spreading the novel coronavirus, such as social distancing, travel restrictions, and closures.

There's no doubt since self-isolation and quarantine have become conventional, many organizations have gone online to continue functioning. Some businesses can keep operating as usual, some need to make adjustments to accommodate working from home (WFH). But, others have had to close their doors until it is safe to return to work.

While we've had the technology and processing power for decades for businesses to go online, this global pandemic was the instigator of change. Many industries have been able to straighten out the kinks and implement a new 'business as usual.' Particularly telehealth and other support services.

Access to healthcare during this time is crucial. While hospitals and medical centers' primary focus is to provide care for those most in need, telemedicine has assisted in relieving some pressure on the healthcare system. By implementing medical appointments via telephone and video conferences, telehealth reduces the risk of coming in contact with the virus. At the same time, it allows medical professionals to attend to patients who do not need a physical consultation.

Online support services such as two-way SMS responses, instant live chat support, and chatbots allow people to have their questions answered right away. Those who need assistance can speak to someone through direct messaging, easing the demand for phone calls, and minimizing wait times.

How can SMS help during an emergency?

Related: 'How are telehealth and telemedicine services helping to tackle COVID-19?'

Use cases of emergency SMS

Providing accessibility to emergency services

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, SMS saves lives. By providing direct access to first responders via text message, those who have difficulty with hearing or speech can contact emergency services directly.

"Few can imagine how terrifying it would be in an emergency situation to not know if the person answering your Triple 0 call can understand you, or whether help is on the way," said ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin when the service was announced in Australia in 2013.

Along with SMS, web-captioned telephone and video communication options were also introduced, enabling people with disabilities to communicate with emergency services when they need it most.

Natural disaster survivors use EIS in Haiti

Use cases of emergency SMS

In 2010, the first-ever Emergency Information Service (EIS) was set up amidst the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The service provided free, practical text messages for Haitians to assist in minimizing the natural disaster's impact.

Within 48 hours of being set up, thousands of people used the service to report missing persons, problems with shelter, and food issues. EIS assisted with search-and-rescue and was able to direct Haitians who were injured to hospitals that were still able to treat patients, all with SMS.

Even after the search-and-rescue phase was over, the EIS was implemented to share information such as how to reduce disease risks, trace missing relatives, and protect children.

Related: 'Bulk SMS – The Superhero Without a Cape'

Emergency outreach with SMS

Mobile messaging is a large part of how the world's 3.5 billion smartphone users communicate. SMS can reach recipients who have little coverage or access to data when other platforms can't.

In an emergency, timing is vital. Reliability and speed are what seals SMS as one of the most trusted forms of communication.