Blog Home

How to inform and protect using emergency SMS alert systems

Alia Paavola
minute read
Table of contents:

Staying informed in emergencies reduces the risk of harm to individuals and businesses. But how do organizations quickly get vital messages to the right people in critical or unexpected circumstances? 

Enter emergency SMS alerts, which offer a reliable way to disseminate information to people rapidly during a crisis.

In this blog, we’ll describe different types of emergency SMS alerts. Plus, how to set up an alert system to better protect the public, your employees, and your business.

What is an emergency SMS alert?

An emergency SMS alert is a mass text message sent during an urgent situation. An emergency SMS alert aims to protect employees and customers, improve crisis management, cut business downtime, and mitigate brand reputation risks. 

Emergency SMS alerts get urgent text messages to a large audience instantaneously. You need an emergency SMS platform to send these mass text messages. 

Types of SMS alerts

Public organizations, such as the government, state agencies, or safety authorities, mainly use emergency SMS alerts. However, they still have a place in the private sector. SMS alerts can mitigate safety risks for employees, customers, and business operations. 

Understanding your organization’s unique circumstances and priorities helps create effective SMS alerts. 

Here are examples of different SMS alerts that could be helpful for your business. 

Weather alerts 

Use an SMS alert to inform people about severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, etc. For example, public agencies like the National Weather Service benefit routinely uses emergency SMS weather alerts.

A company could also use SMS weather alerts to warn employees not to commute to work during severe weather.

An emergency SMS alert from an employer to an employee.

Earthquake alerts 

Use an SMS alert to warn affected individuals about earthquake damage or after-shock events. In earthquake-prone regions, sending emergency preparedness plan alerts may be helpful. 

Evacuation alerts

Use a text message to alert affected residents about an encroaching wildfire or weather risk, safety precautions, or evacuation orders. 

Utility alerts 

Public utility companies can send SMS alerts about gas leaks, power outages, or water contamination.

A utility SMS alert from SDG&E.

Local public safety alerts

Businesses, municipalities, or emergency service workers can use SMS public safety alerts to notify a group of people about evacuations, shelter-in-place orders, or hazardous materials incidents. 

Government alerts

Government organizations can use SMS alerts to inform the public about emergency situations or updates about voting deadlines or poll closures.

Terrorism alerts

National or security agencies can send emergency SMS alerts to inform the public about any security threats or terrorism alerts. This type of alert can warn people about domestic or foreign terrorism threats.

Traffic alerts

Improve driver safety by sending  SMS alerts to notify customers about accidents, road closures, or other disruptions. 

A traffic alert SMS from California Transportation

Amber Alerts

Law enforcement agencies use Amber Alerts via SMS to request the public’s assistance in safely finding endangered, missing or abducted children.

Silver Alerts

Public safety agencies can issue Silver Alerts via SMS to help find at-risk or vulnerable senior citizens. 

Public health alerts

Public health departments or business agencies could issue SMS alerts related to disease outbreaks or health emergencies to affected communities. 

School and campus alerts

Use an SMS system to alert campus dwellers to safety risks, school closures, or security concerns. Schools can use these alerts to inform students to avoid a particular campus area or shelter in place. 

A campus alert SMS from SDSU.

Data breach notifications

As security breaches become more frequent, getting an SMS alert for data compromises could be beneficial. Companies can send alerts to inform customers and stakeholders about any data incidents, urging them to take necessary precautions to prevent further damage.

IT system alerts

Use SMS alerts to inform employees or customers about system disruptions, cybersecurity threats, or critical software updates.

Product recall alerts

When a recall occurs, it's crucial to promptly notify partners, distributors, retailers, and consumers, particularly if it could impact their operations or raise safety issues.

Custom alerts

Set up alerts for urgent situations that are unique to your business. For example, a company could send a text message to notify people that phone lines may be down for a few hours while they respond to an outage or security breach.

A custom SMS alert from High Brow Boutique.

How to set up an emergency SMS alert system

Here are the  steps to help you set up an emergency text message system that works for your business:

1. Conduct a needs assessment

Set up a leadership team meeting to identify your business's specific emergencies. Understand what incidents you want to address and how an emergency SMS alert system can help. 

Additionally, identify goals like boosting employee safety or mitigating system downtime. You’ll also need to set your target audience like employees, consumers, residents, suppliers, etc.

2. Select a service provider

Find a reputable SMS alert service provider. You’ll want to find a provider that fits your organization’s needs and requirements. At a minimum, you’ll want to look for a provider that offers mass texting, text templates, and user permissions.

Textline is a top-rated SMS alert service provider because of its speed, robust feature set, and excellent support team. Textline offers smart SMS, which ensures the speedy delivery of bulk SMS text messages and controls their geo-location.

Plus, we offer admin controls that let you set unique permissions for each user. This can come in handy when setting up an emergency text alert system.

3. Integrate with existing systems

Determine how and if you want your SMS alert system to integrate with other communication channels. For example, connect your HR system for quick employee communication or your CRM to access customer data. 

Additionally, you can connect SMS to media such as Instagram, Facebook, or email. 

4. Set up opt-in and opt-out mechanisms

Any communication by text requires an opt-in from contacts. Make sure you’re getting consent to text your contacts in the event of an emergency. While there are many ways to get this SMS opt-in, one of the most popular is to add a signup form on your website.

In addition to getting that opt-in, you must let contacts opt out of your messages at any time. This includes opting customers out if they reply with words like STOP or END. 

Textline’s platform automatically opts customers out when they respond with words indicating the desire to unsubscribe. 

5. Craft message templates

Once you determine your use case and SMS alert service provider, create timesaving text message templates for different types of emergency alerts. This ensures that you can quickly get an error-free message out in an emergency with just a few clicks. You’ll want to be clear, concise, and actionable. 

6. Develop emergency text notification policies and flow

Develop clear policies and procedures for sending SMS alerts. Determine who can send an SMS alert, when the alert should be sent, and the criteria for different alert types.

For example, can your IT manager send an SMS alert about a security incident to employees right away, or do they need permission from your chief information officer? Make sure to iron out these procedures and document them.

Additionally, you’ll want to create a communication flowchart that outlines how you’ll share this information, from incident detection to alert dissemination and response timeline. 

7. Solidify an incident response plan

In addition to developing a notification system policy, you’ll want to create an incident response plan. This plan outlines how your organization will respond to cyber threats or on-site safety incidents. 

Developing and updating this plan regularly ensures your business can mitigate damages from the incident and provide proper notification to protect stakeholders. 

8. Train employees

Train your staff on how to use the alert system effectively. This includes training for those responsible for sending SMS alerts and those in charge of responding to any alert replies.

9. Set up notification triggers

Clearly define the triggers that initiate an SMS alert. This could be an automated sensor, an employee-reported incident, an executive-reported incident, or notifications from relevant authorities. 

Make sure you have these defined and set up to help you seamlessly get urgent alerts out in emergencies.

10. Test your message and processes

Like school fire drills, conduct regular testing or simulations to ensure the SMS system functions properly and your staff knows the procedures to follow. 

11. Review and optimize

Improve your SMS alert outreach continuously. Refine, review, and optimize using lessons from actual incidents and test drills. 

Keep customers, employees, and your business safe with Textline

Understanding the power of emergency SMS alert systems and how to implement them effectively is crucial for safeguarding both individuals and businesses in times of crisis.

Selecting a reliable service provider like Textline, integrating with existing systems, crafting message templates, and setting clear notification policies are key components of a successful emergency alert strategy.

With Textline's feature-rich SMS platform, you have the tools needed to deliver critical information efficiently.

But don’t take our word for it –  try Textline’s SMS alert platform free for 14 days.

Start texting now

Sign up for a free 14-day trial today.
Get Started
No credit card required

Earn commission for referrals

Get paid for each customer you bring to Textline.