The Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) in Savannah, Georgia, was having a difficult time warning the public of weather-related emergencies. That was until it decided to implement a text alert program.
The organization had decided to communicate with Savannah residents via email blasts, something that had, at the time, seemed practical and cost-effective. However, after a tornado touched down on February 26, a glitch in the system delayed the delivery of an emergency warning by up to four hours.
Kelly Harley, a spokesperson for CEMA, told local publication Savannah Now that a handful of people directly complained about the delivery delay, the error could have affected over 5,000 people in the area. Deeming this an unacceptable failure of efficient communication, CEMA has decided to change its method of communication.
"Email can't be depended on as an immediate notification method due to the fact that inbound servers control when email actually shows up in the inbox," Harley said. "Once it pumps out of our server we have no control over the Yahoo, Gmail or AOL server."
Now, the organization is advising those signed up to receive email alerts to switch to CEMA's new text alerts system. This program will take the same information sent via email and deliver it to registered users' mobile phones. By following a simple set of instructions, Savannah residents can sign up for this service and receive emergency texts if and when there are weather-related events on the horizon.
This is a much more effective method because it's easier for respondents to be notified when they receive an alert. Most text messages are displayed prominently on mobile screens in the form of a notification once they are received. This is not always true with email. Additionally, sending bulk SMS messages is a safer and more efficient practice, which alleviates the risk of a delay, which cannot be said about email blasting.