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Adapting to the storm: Perspectives on hurricane response from county, university, and military leaders

What’s in it for me? The benefits of citizen opt-in programs

What’s In It for Me?


That is the key question you must ask on behalf of people when you are wondering, “Why aren’t more individuals opting to receive emergency alerts?”


Getting people to opt in to receive emergency notifications should be the ultimate goal of any system administrator or data manager. When people opt in, they typically provide far more contact data than you have on file, which greatly increases your chances of communicating with them when the expected delivery path (e.g. home phone) is not working. When it comes to contact data, more is always better.




Every emergency notification system administrator has great expectations for an opt-in program. The assumption is that people would WANT to opt in. People would WANT to provide contact data so they could receive critical information that might save their lives … but as it turns out, the potential benefits of opting in are not broad motivators. There are many reasons for this, including:


Apathy toward notification systems

   * Generally due to not having a clear idea of how “I” will benefit from opting in to receive alerts.


Not having a relationship with the organization sending notifications

   * Who are you and why do I want a notification from you?


Not anticipating a threat

   * What kind of danger could I really be in?


Not trusting the notification sender as the best information source

   * I have an app that gives me up-to-the-minute information instead.


Not understanding the context in which the system will be used

   * Too many administrators assume the end recipient will understand how the system works and why it    should be used. As a result, these administrators often don’t have a comprehensive communications program    explaining the system’s benefits.


So much other stuff to do

   * I’m going to opt in, but not right now.


If you want participation in your opt-in program, you must look at the recipient’s perspective. When asking a person to opt in to receive emergency alerts, make sure to:


Provide a clear system use profile

   * What will the system be used for?

   * What are the goals of sending notifications?


Offer several real-world scenarios customized specifically for the groups you are targeting

   * Line-level support employees need a different set of examples than senior executives.


If possible, tie the system use into other day-to-day communications processes

   * HR open enrollment – send notice and receive confirmation of acknowledgement.

   * Utilize monthly response and react exercises where X action is prompted by Y notification.


Set goals of opt-in participation and publish the results so executives can see success or need for additional support

   * Monitor enrollment data and develop reports.


There are many benefits provided by a citizen opt-in program. Promote the benefits of opting in to stakeholders regularly to boost program enrollment and keep these constituents up-to-date about critical situations.

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