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SMS/MMS text messaging can help local governments and public-safety agencies connect to the public

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Communicating with residents is a priority for state and local governments and public-safety agencies at any time, but it is especially important during times of emergency. SMS/MMS messaging systems can help provide alerts during such critical moments, as well as improve information exchanges with the public on a day-to-day basis. 

2. Shelter and Safety Refuge Center Locations: Displacement often follows severe weather and natural disasters, such as earthquakes. Getting people who have lost their homes to safety can be a massive effort. If residents already are receiving messages before or immediately following one of these public safety incidents (depending on conditions of cell towers) the process can become a highly organized and collaborative effort. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a great example of how this can be initiated using common short codes. FEMA uses them to provide updates and information, including where to find disaster-relief shelters and recovery centers, as well as important safety tips.

3. School related public safety notifications: Public-safety incidents can happen at any time. Enabling parents or students to opt-in to a message service that provides timely updates about incidents, where to pick up children and other safety-related information can go a long way for public schools and universities trying to maintain an open line of communication and ensure campus safety. Similar to local governments, higher-education institutions like Walsh College already use text-messaging programs, but common short codes could be an option to make it easier for interested parties to access these programs and sign up.

4. Suspect Photos: During terror attacks, sending information and photos of a potential suspect can become difficult, because emergency personal is primarily relying on WEA, which doesn’t support sending media files or clickable links. MMS texting supports rich content and could be used easily in such situations to complement communications being distributed by WEA.

5. Community Outreach: Establishing a texting program also can help local agencies increase transparency within their communities. They can be used to notify residents of community events or keep them aware of potential public-safety risks, such as heightened criminal activities. In addition, such programs can help create an open dialogue with local residents, providing them with a chance to meet and understand their local police and fire departments—a condition that can go a long way to improve public-safety communication and collaboration.

Messaging via common short codes provides an added layer of ubiquity, and the ability to push messages to mobile subscribers en masse makes them attractive to local government entities wanting to enhance their communication and engagement with residents. Recognizing that any communication method could be compromised in emergency situations, it is best to have multiple options—such as common short codes—to help alert, inform and engage residents in the moments that matter most.

Cliff Holsenbeck is the director of product management overseeing the Common Short Code Registry for iconectiv, a communications-solutions provider enabling the interconnection of networks, devices and applications globally. Reach him at


Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Charles Werner (not verified)
on Apr 20, 2017

There is a committee (Future of Alerts & Warnings) supported by DHS S&T that has been researching and will be making recommendations along this path. A lot of great discussions and forward thinking.

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