Why SMS should form part of local governments’ emergency communication strategy

15 April 2020 / Posted By Demi Edmunds

3 Min Read / Public Sector - Crisis communications Local authorities SMS Communications

From road closures and health alerts to adverse weather warnings and protest notifications, local authorities face a multitude of threats which require emergency comms for staff and residents. Here's how a mobile messaging strategy can help to get messages out to the largest audience in the fastest time.

With the range of services provided by councils being as varied as it is, the range of threats that can effect those services can also be just as large. Whether it be adverse weather conditions causing school/facility closures, major roadworks notifications, internal IT system failures, or health and safety alerts, forward-thinking local governments should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

There are two main points to take into account for this when planning an effective communications strategy. Firstly – the speed at which messages can be sent to staff/residents, and also the ability to make sure they have been delivered/read. Secondly, making sure that your message can be delivered to every recipient required.

Mobile messaging tools like SMS stand out as an excellent option at this point. They’re delivered almost instantly, and nearly all of the UK’s population now own a mobile device with SMS support.

Why SMS should form part of local governments’ communication strategy

  • 95% of text messages are read – and 90% of those within 3 minutes (Esendex / Techjury)
  • 95% of UK residents own an SMS-enabled mobile phone (Statista)
  • Text messages work for all demographics, including elderly people who are less likely to have a smartphone
  • You can receive replies and engage in conversation if it’s appropriate
  • Traceable messages mean councils can check when citizens have read messages
  • Messages aren’t going to get lost or moved to a ‘promotions’ folder – every text goes into the Messages inbox.

How can text messaging be used effectively by local governments?

Emergency notifications and facility/road closure updates

When an emergency strikes sometimes it’s not feasible to contact affected parties using traditional communication methods. Post is slow and expensive, emails get lost in inboxes and have low open rates, and manual calling is too time- and labour-intensive. 

SMS is an ideal alternative for things like IT outage notifications, road closure notices, health advice, and also local facility information, as they’ll be delivered straight to your audiences’ pockets on a device that gets checked on average 58 times per day.

Councils have the option to deploy SMS in one of two ways. Firstly, via an API, meaning that SMS functionality can be integrated into your existing systems. This is great for minimising staff training as the functionality is in a system they’re already familiar with.

Secondly, SMS can be accessed from a secure online platform which offers the benefit of being accessible from any device with an internet connection – ideal in the event of an office closure situation or if your main software programs have been compromised.

To make life even easier, both options support customisable message templates. This means that you can save time by selecting a pre-composed message and personalising it for every recipient by using your own data.

Communications with staff/arranging extra workforce cover

From time to time emergencies arise which require extra staff to deal with it. For example, if there are not enough refuse collectors to deal with the day’s commitments, then more may need to be drafted in to help.

By sending out an SMS notification, you can communicate with non-working staff in a matter of seconds to see if they can help. This avoids the requirement of making calls and sending emails which may go unanswered for hours and helps to eliminate the risk to citizens. 

SMS can also be deployed as a 2-way messaging platform meaning that non-working staff can also reply/ask any questions through the platform.

How local governments can get started with SMS emergency messaging

We’ve worked with a variety of different councils to provide better ways of providing emergency communications.

To find out how SMS and our other powerful communication channels can form part of your strategy, please get in contact today with us on 0845 122 1302 or welcome@textanywhere.com to find out more.

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