Emergency SMS notifications to staff
January 28, 2013 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a service that will let me broadcast SMS notifications to all staff in an emergency? I am assuming it would be an SMS marketing service, but if there are other options I'd love to hear them. The main feature I need is that it is easy and fast to send out a notification in an emergency.

I did some searching on SMS marketing reviews, but it's near impossible to find a non-biased article: I just don't trust sites with urls like sms-marketing-reviews.smsmarketingreviews.com/sms-marketing-reviews.html
posted by rhapsodie to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most providers have an email-to-sms gateway, e.g, verizon users can be texted at 10digitnumber@vtext.com. This means simply setting up a distribution list through your email infrastructure so you can just email emergency_list@yourcompany.com.

As a word of advice, place a restriction on that email address so only trusted sources can send an email through it.
posted by bfranklin at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Google Voice lets you do this for up to five contacts at a time.

Where I work, we use Rave Mobile Safety, but I am a mere employee who has been satisfied with the registration and notification process. I was not involved in the choice, or with dealing with contracts or payment.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:34 AM on January 28, 2013

I know several organizations and government agencies that use Blackboard Connect for rapid emergency notification.
posted by RichardP at 10:39 AM on January 28, 2013

I was going to second bfranklin's suggestion. The difficulty is that the solution isn't carrier-agnostic. You need to know not just the number, but the current service provider of each employee's cell phone. That might be a difficult concept to sell to them, and even with the best of intentions the information might not be kept up to date.

If you do go with that solution, test it at least each month to make sure someone hasn't changed providers without reporting it.
posted by jsturgill at 10:40 AM on January 28, 2013

I have used CallingPost before for voice message with good results and it seems they have a service that includes messages, Message911 that may be worth a look.
posted by TedW at 10:45 AM on January 28, 2013

You can't really send emergency notifications to staff by SMS. SMS is a best-effort service and there is no guarantee as to when, or if, the message will arrive. You want a dedicated application that has a SLA with such a guarantee.
posted by kindall at 10:48 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Would you consider something like Send Word Now? More a service for emergency situations, might be overkill. My knowledge: friend worked there, I talked to them about a position, by it didn't work out for me.
posted by kellyblah at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2013

So, twitter?
posted by irishcoffee at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've also been the recipient of Rave Mobile Safety messages and also e2campus (which is, obviously, targeted at schools and universities). They work fine but they require you to tell them your cell provider (so when I changed providers I stopped getting e2campus messages and didn't realize it for like a year). So, depending on how many employees you have it might be easier to just send email-to-SMS or use Google Voice 5 people at a time (GV doesn't require that you know their carrier).

As kindall points out (and my experience with the carrier change issue demonstrates), SMS isn't reliable enough to be a sole source of emergency info so you'll want to have the information somewhere else. But most college campuses are using SMS for emergency notifications now, because it's good to have something unreliable but likely to get checked instead of just a website or something that no one will think to look at in an emergency.
posted by mskyle at 11:37 AM on January 28, 2013

My workplace uses OneCallNow for our emergency notifications. Their text alerts require an opt-in from each user. (Here's a link to their SMS alert instructions for users so you can see what's involved on the user's end.) Echoing others that SMS alerts shouldn't be your only system, but it's a really nice addition to other services for people who want to receive emergency notifications by text.
posted by jessypie at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2013

Thanks for the suggestions so far. Some clarification points:
  • Email-to-sms gateways isn't reliable for the reasons jsturgill mentions: each carrier is different and it would have to be maintained manually. Employees need to be able to sign themselves up for the service instead of me adding their number to an email list and hoping it's correct.
  • The notifications cannot be public and need to alert staff in the building and out in the field. Notices will be more along the lines of "man with a gun in the parking lot stay where you are" not "fire drill procedures."
  • Needs to handle at least 150 employees who may have multiple numbers. If it could send an email at the same time all the better. GV 5-at-a-time won't work.
  • We are working on other notification venues as well and will not rely solely on SMS notifications.

posted by rhapsodie at 11:40 AM on January 28, 2013

posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:17 PM on January 28, 2013

I can do this with Airdroid, Galaxy S3 and generous sms allowance. That is, I have a large amount of texts each month, I don't think Vodafone restricts mass texting, and the airDroid use guide I linked to says there's no limit on recipients with the app. I haven't actually tried to do this with 150 people in any situation but on paper it is possible. I just need a computer and wifi.
posted by K.P. at 2:38 PM on January 28, 2013

EZ Texting is a service I've used to send mass texts in a high school. Cost per txt is reasonable, and for some features there is a minimal monthly fee. Users send a text from their phone in order to register it. You can have groups, import/export data, etc. It's been very reliable.
posted by anon4now at 2:53 PM on January 28, 2013

We use Notifind. I suspect it's probably overkill for what you need--my employer has thousands of people it needs to reach with that service--but I thought I'd put it out there. It definitely works (it's checked regularly) and it integrates well with various other emergency services we are required by law to offer.
posted by librarylis at 11:35 PM on January 29, 2013

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