Statistics show there has been a substantial increase in reported natural disasters throughout the world. Due to technological advancements, infrastructure improvements, and global efforts such as the United Nation’s Sendai Framework 2015-2030, and its predecessor the Hyogo Framework, there has been a simultaneous decrease in lives lost due to natural disasters. These measures, and the use of new technology and solutions, are producing more effective responses to crisis situations.
The European Union issued a directive on 11 December 2018 mandating that all its member states implement public warning systems by 21 June 2022 to better protect citizens, visitors and tourists during natural disasters and other crisis situations.
The EECC (European Electronic Communications Code) Article 110 directive states that the public warning system must be mobile phone-based and capable of sending geo-located mass alerts. The alerts must be received by the mobile phones of everyone within an emergency area. These systems take time to implement as they require collaboration with the major mobile telecom carriers in each country. European member states are also given the option to implement alternate systems if it can be proven that they are just as effective as the phone based systems. Two years after the release of the EECC, BEREC released guidelines on how to assess and compare effectiveness to ensure these potential alternate systems are viable.
There are two technologies that fulfill the Article 110 requirements: Location Based SMS and Cell Broadcast. Both technologies do not require mobile phone users to register; all mobile devices are automatically opted in when they connect to a mobile network.
Location Based SMS can reach 100% of mobile devices without any configuration, regardless of the model or release date. Location Based SMS features 2-way communication to inform senders that alerts have been received. Network congestion can affect the speed at which alerts are delivered, but this is mitigated through several methods.
Cell Broadcast transmits alerts to devices within cell tower antenna coverage and is the fastest way to reach larger populations. However, not all mobile devices are compatible, and those that are require subscriber configuration. Cell Broadcast does not have 2-way communication, making it impossible to ensure that everyone received the alerts.
Article 110 sanctions the use of other options such as mobile apps, but only if the apps are proven to be suitable solutions. The utility of mobile app options is expected to be much lower than SMS or Cell Broadcast. Article 110 also considers the interconnection of national systems as a future development.
Similar national warning systems have already been implemented in some countries. After the tragic events of Black Saturday in 2009, the Victorian Government in Australia, implemented a location-based early warning system using SMS. In 2012, Genasys teamed with Nokia to deploy this system. Over 150 million SMS alerts have been sent through the system to date.
“Since its implementation, there has been no loss of life in Australia due to an inability to warn affected people through emergency services.” Michael Hallowes, former national director of Australia’s Emergency Alert Program.
The Unified Genasys NEWS Platform empowers emergency agencies and mobile network operators to deploy any combination of the following communication channels: Location Based SMS, Cell Broadcast, mobile applications, social media, outdoor/indoor acoustic speaker arrays, radio, TV, digital signage and more. Using multiple communication channels from one unified platform increases the effectiveness and probability that all recipients receive the critical information they need to stay safe. Depending on mobile device settings, Genasys NEWS can also deliver emergency alerts and instructions in several languages, providing visitors and tourists vital information they can understand.
The Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the necessity of implementing national warning systems. The Unified Genasys NEWS Platform is the perfect public safety solution to fulfill all EECC Article 110 requirements.
Official communication during the COVID 19 outbreak has not been as effective as it should be. To find out how a unified multichannel public warning system could have helped during the outbreak, see our previous article.