How do we get people to realize a situation is urgent? Many of us experience information overload—phone calls, texts, email and social media. It’s a challenge to get your alert noticed, let alone to convey a sense of urgency.
A research team at the University of Texas at Austin examined how to best reach people during emergencies. They studied the notification problems and mix of technologies that will help people realize that a situation is urgent.
A recent article in Campus Safety Magazine presented the results of the study, which we have encapsulated here. These lessons apply to any type of organization, including corporations.
1) Redundancy Conveys Urgency
Recipients often question the importance and relevance of emergency alert messages. The research data showed that multiple messages help people to grasp a sense of urgency.
2) Encourage In-Person Communication
Voice alerts can better convey a sense of urgency than text or email alerts. People who received one of their first notifications from a human realized the urgency of the situation faster than people who got three text messages. Some mass notification systems allow you to record alerts in your own voice, which enables you to communicate nuances that can’t come through with text-to-speech.
3) Don’t Rely Only on Human Interaction
Many people will be mobile during an emergency, making them more difficult to reach. Mobile communications apps like EarShot can play an important role in getting the word out.
4) Messages Should Be Brief but Clear
Text messages are restricted to just 160 characters, so it’s important to carefully craft the message. Don’t use jargon or abbreviations. People receiving a message will little-to-no information about the incident, so the message must clearly state the nature of the situation.
5) Develop Community Resilience
Peers can play an important role in conveying urgency. A coworker can direct people’s attention to the message and verify the information. It’s vital that a network of trust is built before an emergency occurs.
6) Train Stakeholders How to Verify Alerts
Encourage people to visit a special webpage created for the emergency or have a hotline that people can call for more information. Many emergency notification systems allow you to connect alert recipients to a hotline or conference call with the touch of a button.
Encouraging Personal Interaction Works
As we adopt new technologies to help us communicate better, let’s not forget that people play a central role in the success of notifications. The university’s research showed that people can communicate with others and create a sense of urgency more quickly.