Calif. Public Utilities Commission Hearing on Statewide Emergency Communications Strategies

Discuss best practices for mass communications following the devastating fires in Southern California.

by / January 9, 2008

The NTI Group, Inc. (NTI) will participate in a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hearing to discuss best practices for mass communications following the devastating fires in Southern California. The hearing will give CPUC commissioners vital information on communication issues faced during the fires. NTI will be featured as a panel member at the January 9 panel, "How Notification System Vendors Responded/Best Practices," at the Caltrans District 11 Building in Downtown San Diego from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

During the wildfires, city, school, and university officials throughout California used NTI's Connect services to send over six million messages. In the greater San Diego area, schools and universities sent over 2.7 million voice messages and 1.15 million e-mail and SMS messages to over 393,000 students, faulty, staff and parents as families evacuated and then returned to their homes from October 21 through 28, 2007. Remarkably, NTI's clients were able to successfully reach 96 percent of their intended recipients, with many clients delivering messages in the native language of the recipient.

As a member of the panel, NTI will share best practices related to maximizing the impact of a telephone emergency notification service (TENS) and stress important steps that users must take in order to ensure the success of their emergency communication plans.

One of the most important aspects of a notification service is having the ability to send as many urgent messages as necessary without having to incur per-call or per-minute charges. In order to be effective, officials must have the ability to inform, alert, and recover. NTI's clients were successful because they had:

  • Tested the system regularly to reduce bad telephone numbers before the
  • incident
  • Identified which phone numbers were to receive messages in a language
  • other than English
  • Alerted constituents early
  • Used the system throughout the week the wildfires were active,
  • providing targeted messages to special groups, and
  • Informed constituents of special programs in place throughout the
  • recovery process.

 

 

NTI will share additional best practices such as the importance of regularly testing and updating contact information, sending pre-hazard notices to identify a need to improve constituent enrollment in the notification service, partnering with the media to improve enrollment before a time-sensitive situation occurs, and assisting constituents to identify special needs such as language preference and whether they have a TTY/TDD device for the hearing impaired.

"Efficient and effective communication is of critical importance during a situation like the Southern California wildfires," said Natasha Rabe, Chief Business Officer for NTI and panelist for the PUC hearings. "NTI's clients did an excellent job preparing their respective communities and providing updates about issues surrounding the wildfires. NTI has supported school districts, universities, counties and cities across the country throughout countless emergency situations and we have found that the clients who use their service regularly are prepared and fully armed to provide valuable information quickly and efficiently."

To ensure that important messages reach residents, students, parents, and staff quickly, no matter what their preferred method of communication is, the Connect systems send voice and text messages through four different modes of communication:

  • Voice messages to home phones, work phones, cell phones, and even
  • e-mails
  • Text messages to cell phones, PDAs and other text-based devices
  • Written messages to e-mail accounts
  • Messages to TTY/TDD receiving devices for the hearing impaired