The similarities between an alerting system and a sports car.

I had an engaging conversation with a gentleman today who is in the tech space. He, his partners, and his team have developed a Public Notification System (Platform). It had been some time since I looked at notifications platforms, systems, and applications, as quite frankly, I had previously become “app’d” out.

In June, 2013 southern parts of the Province of Alberta experienced (at the time) the costliest natural disaster and largest peace-time evacuation event in Canadian history – #ABFlood #YYCFlood. For the City of Calgary, with a population of 1.2 million people at the time, the flood waters resulted in the evacuation of approximately 80,000 people from 26 or so different communities – including the downtown core and the Calgary Zoo. There were among other things, infrastructure system failures, bridge failures, and the risk of a train, fully loaded with fuel, slipping into the Bow River.

During the City’s response to the flood, I held the position of Supervisor, Crisis Communications with the municipality.

It was through my position of the Supervisor, Crisis Communications that post flood, I was approached by (at least a dozen) companies and software developers who all had the solution for crisis communications. The City of Calgary must have felt like the best business case scenario and clearly had a need for a system that would alert all citizens to imminent danger and provide clear messaging on how to protect themselves, thereby, saving lives. Additionally, I did have a significant budget to source and implement a Public Notification System for the citizens of Calgary.

Every sales person that came calling had similar visions, which appeared to be well-intended – Save Lives. The ability to save lives is hard to argue, especially when governments are charged with the responsibility to protect it’s the health and safety of it’s communities.

Through the experience of a dozen or so sales pitches and demonstrations, I developed quite an in depth knowledge of notification systems. I also developed a bias for the systems and their capabilities. I welcome you to connect with me if you would like to discuss my insights from research and demonstrations.

What does this have to do with alerting systems and sports cars?

As mentioned, this morning I had an engaging conversation with a gentleman today who is in the tech space. He, his partners, and his team have developed a Public Notification System (Platform). Interestingly enough, he is one of the system developers I had met with several years previously. It was an interesting interaction and as I learned more about his new version of the platform, it’s capabilities, and some of their current client list (a couple of clients that I hold in high regard), I became quite frankly, intrigued.

Here is the thing, to keep in mind if you, your organization, your company, your government is considering implementing a notification platform (and there are many of them to consider), any of them is simply a tool.

A tool is only as good as the operator who is using it. Ask any owner of a high-end sports car what type of gasoline they fill their tank with and I would suspect that the answer is at least, premium. It would likely be difficult to find a sports-car enthusiast who would invest in a performance machine and simply fill it with regular octane fuel.

This holds true for any notification system, for a website, for a Linkedin article, for social media posts, emails etc. Implementing a notification system simply gives you, your organization, your company, your government a tool for communicating with. Some of these systems, like the one I saw today, appear to be very powerful tools, like a performance sports car.

Do not, fill your systems with regular fuel (messaging). Run your communication systems on premium, high-performance fuel (science-based and research-proven messaging).

When you implement a notification system, your vendor is likely to provide you with comprehensive training and support on how the platform works, how it integrates with your other applications and systems. They will likely walk through security features and the differences between opt-in and opt-out, and so on.

Effective risk and crisis communications however requires more than properly functioning and secure systems – your words, your tone, your messaging matters most.

Good words are worth much, and cost little. ~ George Herbert

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