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CA Power Outage Shines Spotlight on Communication Emergency Preparedness

During my morning commute today, I was greeted by this headline on NPR: "Utility Giant PG&E Voluntarily Shuts Off Power, Could Impact 800,000 Californians."

I spent the rest of my morning reminding clients in California impacted by the massive power outage that they can use our two-way texting platform to keep their employees, patients and other stakeholders current with any relevant information during the prolonged power outage.

Texting should be a primary component of any emergency communication plan for anyone — not only healthcare organization clients like ours, but all other businesses and individuals.

While I can think of many reasons for this, here are three of the most critical:

1. Cell phone towers have backup generators, which means that when the main power goes off, cell phones still work.

2. More than 96% of Americans own a mobile phone of some kind, and there is a high likelihood that people will have their mobile phone with them throughout an emergency. Most people have their phone with them almost every waking minute, or it is at least within earshot.

3. Texting is a proven form of communication. Research has shown that 98% of texts are read and 95% are read within just three minutes of being sent. This means if you need to get a message out quickly and with a high degree of confidence that your audience will receive it, send that message as a text.

Also consider the following: According to a Nextgov report, data indicates that a person who texts has an 800-to-1 better chance of sending a message to someone in an emergency than using voice communications because a short message (e.g., "imok" for "I'm OK") requires only four bytes using standard text messaging protocols. Furthermore, a Consumer Reports News article encourages texting over phone calls when faced with a disaster. Finally, a Public Health Reports study highlights the effectiveness of text messaging for communicating information to public health employees and improving workforce situational awareness during emergencies.

The irony of PG&E's power outage is that I am assuming quite a few of its customers received text alerts because many utilities in the United States now use texting for emergency communication. This is the case in Denver, where Dialog Health is based. When my power is out, I receive regular text updates throughout the restoration process. We know when to expect power to return and do not need to try to call through to our electric company for updates.

So, if your business has an emergency communication plan that does not include texting, ask yourself: What you will do the next time the power goes out?



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