The first big push for emergency communication systems
came, not surprisingly, after 9/11. Such technologies have
garnered more attention over the past two years, a direct
result of more recent terrorist attacks such as the London
subway bombings, and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
April’s Virginia Tech tragedy is the most recent example
of why mass communication tools are important for keeping track
of, updating and organizing people during a crisis.
In 2004, Gartner predicted that 75 percent of Global 2,000
companies would have emergency notification systems in place by
the end of 2007. Roberta Witty, a research vice president at
Gartner, says that although that estimate has turned out to be
high, more businesses, and now college campuses, are paying
close attention to crisis communications methods.
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Although there are many vendors in this space, Witty says
that the technology they offer is, by and large, the same.
“Notifications can be sent through cell phones,
landlines, e-mail, pages, but mostly SMS text messages at this
point,” she says. She predicts that VoIP-enabled
communications will increase the ability of employers to send
larger groups of messages, faster. That’s because,
according to David Lemelin, a senior analyst at In-Stat,
“the world is moving to an IP environment.”
For example, Dimension Data, an IT consultancy, is
partnering with IPcelerate, a vendor offering emergency
notification tools based entirely on IP. Matthew Kershaw,
solutions architect for converged communications at Dimension
Data, says that many organizations in the financial space,
retail and higher education are using IPcelerate. Here’s
how it works: A message is typed into a Web interface. Then,
simultaneous alerts, displayed as SMS text messages or read as
text-to-speech, are sent to all employees or predetermined
groups via cell phone, pager, PDA or intercom.
No matter which vendor you choose, it’s important to
remember that the tools are part of a larger business
continuity plan. You also can’t forget to use them
responsibly, says Witty. As companies start to use these tools
more frequently, the possibility of sending alerts too often
could become an issue. “It can’t become routine.
You have to make sure you’re using these tools at the
right time,” she says, adding that 3N, one of the major
mass communication systems vendors, has already heard such
concerns voiced by some of their customers.
The following are some of the most well-known vendors in this
Dialogic’s main emergency notification product, The
Communicator, is available as an onsite installation or a
hosted application and claims to automate almost any manual
notification procedure. Communicator NXT, an upgraded version,
is a Web-based notification system that is powered by
Microsoft.net and SQL.
Offerings include notification systems under Envoy WorldWide
brand, designed to provide pertinent information to first
responders and affected individuals during a crisis.
3n (National Notification
3N’s Instacom applications include Instacom Campus
Alert, Instacom Enterprise and Instacom GIS, which enables
employers to contact individuals in a specific geographical
area or region.
Rev Interactive offers Global AlertLink, an Internet-based
crisis management system. Companies can provide information to
employees, media and shareholders during an emergency.
Strohl’s Incident Manager is offered in conjunction with
ESi’s WebEOC. The new iteration enables incident
communication and tracking and monitoring of events online.
NotiFind is the vendor’s other major emergency
Prodigent, Evoxis’s product, allows for communication
across multiple channels. The vendors says its Delivery Server
component distributes messages and integrates speech cloning,
automatic speech recognition and text-to-speech
With AlertFind, MessageOne’s main offering, authorized
users can enter messages and create delivery rules via a Web
interface or phone. The notification engine delivers messages
to recipients immediately, via cell phone, pager or PDA.
Mutare’s Emergency Notification System product supports
voice, e-mail and text messaging, and can be used to notify
thousands of people during an emergency.
AlertNow emphasizes availability; it uses hardware housed in
redundant data centers in multiple U.S. locations to deliver
notifications, and touts its relationships with six
telecommunications providers to ensure that message are
Specific to the higher education sector, e2Campus enables
critical campus information to be sent via cell phone, RSS, Web
page, e-mail, PDA, pager, or through an individual’s
Google, Yahoo or AOL page.
Amcom’s e.Notify system can be implemented onsite or
used as a hosted service. Features include support of any
e-mail addressable wireless device (such as BlackBerry and
Palm) and expanded paging services that include SMS and
wireless communications transfer protocol, or WCTP.
IPcelerate’s capabilities include: the ability to send
emergency messages through an IP phone, cell phone or PDA, and
wireless sensors that, when activated, trigger intelligent
notification messages. The company also offers wireless
handheld “panic buttons” that alert response teams
to the whereabouts of an individual during a crisis.