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In today’s society, people are heavily reliant on their mobile phones. It is only logical that the most effective means of ensuring the immediate delivery of important messages is through mobile devices. These  messages can take the form of voice calls or text messages. However, a significant challenge faced by
agencies seeking to notify their communities during emergencies is the
unavailability of published cell numbers. This issue is a common struggle for all
present-day public notification systems, as they are unable to communicate
directly with citizens’ cell phones. The collection of cell numbers from a
community has posed a persistent challenge for many years.
Numerous city and county websites exist, offering individuals the opportunity to log in and
provide their contact details, including their cell numbers. Despite this option, most citizens are
unwilling to share their numbers due to a variety of reasons. For a comprehensive exploration of
these reasons, it is recommended to refer to an article authored by one of the leading
emergency notification companies >> Opt-In Issues
1. Imagine if there was a way to send notifications to mobile devices without the need for cell
numbers. Well, good news! There is a well-established technology that has been in use for many
years. However, it’s essential to understand the distinction between SMS and PUSH
notifications, as many people often mistakenly use the term “PUSH” when referring to SMS
notifications. Let’s explore the significant differences.
2. Delivery: Push notifications are instantly and reliably delivered to users who have the relevant
mobile app installed, eliminating the requirement for users to provide their phone numbers.
Whereas, SMS messages can experience delays or fail to be sent due to network issues or
technical glitches.
A new Methodology To
Acquire Citizen Mobile Devices
Visibility: Push notifications are typically more visible to users compared to SMS messages.
They appear directly on the user’s home screen and may also manifest as banners or alerts.
In contrast, SMS messages might get buried in the user’s text message inbox or easily go
The most important difference when using PUSH technology that it does not
require a person’s mobile number. This overcomes the opt-in issue. It also boosts
user retention. Let me explain further.
Retention marketing has gained significant recognition among marketers who understand its
importance. Nowadays, there is even greater emphasis placed on retaining users through
diverse user engagement strategies. While there are numerous avenues available for user
acquisition, the options for engagement channels remain relatively limited. Relying solely on
SMS and emails may prove challenging, especially when your audience is reluctant to open
messages and frequently unsubscribes from emails. In such cases, engagement becomes a
difficult task.
You may argue that you’re not directly involved in marketing, but the truth is that collecting and
retaining mobile device information plays a crucial role in effectively notifying your community.
Consider the following key points when establishing a community database to capture the
maximum number of mobile devices.
1.) Understand the importance of delivering messages to mobile devices. People live on their
cell phones. If you intend to alert citizens of an emergency, it makes sense that cell phones are
the optimal choice for delivery of that message.
2.) Do not require registration of cell phone numbers. Once an Emergency Notification System
is installed, training is complete, TV and Radio inform the community of the new service, then
the real work begins; gathering and storing contact information. Land lines can be acquired from
many different sources such as the local phone company. The fact that cell phones are not
published, other methods are required. The most common way is a public awareness campaign
Interactivity: Push notifications offer greater interactivity than SMS messages. For
instance, a push notification can include buttons that allow the user to take immediate
action, such as opening the app or responding to a message. SMS messages, on the other
hand, lack this level of interactivity.
Personalization: Push notifications can be personalized for each user based on their
interests, location, and behavior within the app. This enables tailored and relevant
notifications. SMS messages, in contrast, are generally sent to a broad audience and may
not be as personalized or pertinent to individual users.
In summary, by leveraging push notifications, we can achieve instant, visible, interactive,
and personalized notifications without relying on cell numbers. This technology provides a
more efficient and effective way of reaching mobile users.
that advises their citizens to opt-in, by filling out an online signup form and registering their cell
numbers and other personal information.
3.) Frequently engage the community by providing them with non-emergency notifications.
Some examples
To accomplish number 3, involve other government and private agencies to send information
regarding these categories.
Allow the citizens to turn categories off and on which affords them the ability to select their
preferences. Allow the community to easily share their notifications with their social media
friends. This is the same idea as “word of mouth”. If friends receive valuable information from
their friends, they will become a member of your data bank.
Make sure the notifications are interesting by providing rich
graphics and videos.
In addition to building a public database, there is an additional advantage to regularly
broadcasting community-based notifications. It provides the agency team with the assurance
that the system is functioning effectively. In many cases, emergency managers refrain from
sending out notifications until a significant public event necessitates their use. However, there is
always a possibility, albeit unlikely, that the system may encounter issues and not work as
To mitigate this risk, it is crucial for emergency managers to conduct regular system tests and
exercises to ensure its reliability. By proactively sending out notifications on a consistent basis,
the agency team can gain confidence in the functionality of the system. This approach allows
them to identify any potential flaws, address them promptly, and fine-tune the system to
maximize its performance.
Park Information Notices Neighborhood Watch
Just for Kids 4-H Youth Sports
Regularly testing the system not only confirms its efficacy but also provides an opportunity for
emergency managers to refine their notification processes, evaluate response rates, and
improve overall emergency preparedness. By continuously verifying the system’s functionality,
agencies can instill trust among community members, knowing that they have a reliable means
of communication in times of need.
Putnam County, West Virginia took the initiative to collect cell phone numbers starting in 2004,
intending to utilize them with their mass notification system. Citizens were provided with the
option to log in to a dedicated website and input their cell numbers. Over the course of six years,
by 2010, they managed to gather a total of 242 signups. Building upon this progress, they
implemented this methodology more extensively in January 2019. As a result, the number of
registered cell phone numbers has significantly increased to a current count of 14,957. This
demonstrates the growing success and effectiveness of their efforts in acquiring a larger
database of mobile devices for community notifications.
I hope this has been helpful in two ways:
1) The need for the emergency services agencies to continually market PUBLIC AWARENESS and
capture as many mobile devices as possible.
2) Some technics that can be used to build that invaluable mobile device database.
About the Author:
Butch Evans has been involved in the emergency communications marketplace since 2007. His
Company, Software Computer Group, Inc. has served Universities. Emergency Services, and
Utilities a wide variety of rapid communications solutions. He now serves on the Board of
Directors of Heads Up Holdings, a technology firm dedicated to finding better platforms for
notification delivery.


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