SMS for Emergency Services

When an incident occurs emergency services need to be able to contact crews, get vital news to authority members, management teams and staff. Quick, reliable communication is therefore essential to disseminate this information.

Organisations also have a duty to inform and keep businesses and residents up to date, as well as provide the capability for the public to contact the organisation.

During crisis management, and for business continuity, SMS text messaging is the perfect channel to deliver this. It enables emergency services to contact the relevant people quickly and easily, thanks mainly to its availability, ease of use, instant connectivity and wide adoption.

Public Information Service
An SMS service can easily be set up and integrated into existing systems, such as CRM, to help disseminate information to a large database of subscribers. This is useful for emergency services to keep the general public informed about issues that may affect them in their particular area, such as severe weather warnings, road closures and traffic conditions or even terrorist threats.

Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service is one such service benefitting from text messaging, having integrated SMS Server into its content management system. The system is capable of sending specific text messages via SMS Server to people in a particular postcode area, providing relevant information about major incidents.

“During a crisis the public are able register to a free message system, via our website, designed to keep them informed via text. This gives us the ability to send information on major incidents,” said Tim Bevington, Head of Planning, Performance and Communications within Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service. “The flexibility of the system means that the public can register with up to three postcodes – home, place of work and perhaps the address of a vulnerable relative.”

The SMS service also allows users to text an information line, which people can use to book or confirm appointments for home and safety checks and to obtain access to all relevant Fire & Rescue Service information.

Accessible Communication
Text messaging also enables public service companies to provide a means of communication for deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired members of the community. This addresses regulation outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which came into force in October 2004.

The Act requires that those who provide a service to the public make their services reasonably accessible to disabled people so that they can share the same level of goods and services provisions as the able-bodied.

“For the deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech impaired, regardless of age, it’s an easy and obvious way to pick up public service information and communicate with us,” said Bevington.