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Notification: Confirmed, Delivered, or Disappeared?

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While many organizations use emergency notification systems to update constituents about critical incidents, some of these groups focus only on sending messages as quickly as possible. However, confirmation of message delivery by a recipient should be the goal of every user of emergency notification systems. A critical alert that misses its mark is ineffective, but an organization that confirms receipt instantly bolsters its crisis communications.

To develop an effective emergency notification strategy, an organization should consider the 3 categories of message delivery:

Confirmed Receipt – The target recipient has gotten and responded to the message.

Delivered to Device – The target device was reached, a message was delivered, and the device was disconnected. However, there is no way to determine if or when the intended message respondent received the alert.

Disappeared – The most common result and expectation of users employing emergency notification tools, a message is sent, but no one knows whether it was delivered.

There is a “just blast it out” legacy issue with emergency notification systems. The issue is that, “blasting” the message to “anyone on any device” became the accepted goal of an emergency notification effort. 

Blasting the message is simply sending a message and hoping someone gets the emergency alert. It is commonly viewed as “better than nothing,” as recently described to me by one emergency notification system user. This particular individual is a 911 dispatcher who also shared his opinion that his job was simply making a map-based selection polygon, recording a message, and sending it out – what happened from there was of no concern whatsoever because he had done what he was told to do. This is a bit short sighted.

The idea of sending messages “out” and accepting that they disappear into the world comes from the days of blasting faxes (remember fax machines ?) or sending a group email. In many cases, people send a message and don’t follow up, therefore, they assume most individuals got the message and successfully processed the information.

A step up from “I don’t care what happens, blast it” is the report of Delivered to Device. This category simply involves reporting when a telephone line opened and a message was delivered in its entirety before terminating the connection.

Note: Almost every vendor who blasts messages reports “Delivered to Device” as message delivery confirmation. Delivering a message to a device is not confirmation – it is simply a report that a message was delivered to an open line. Who got it? What got it? Did the alert help? Who knows? But, be aware and ask, “Is what you are reporting to me message confirmation or message delivery?”

Further, beyond a phone line opening up, a message playing, and the line disconnecting, there are all of the lost contact paths (email, SMS, pagers, fax, etc.) that you can also get confirmed receipt from and process that information into immediate next steps to apply relevant and logical response protocols.