Everbridge last week announced the availability of Everbridge SmartGIS for Citizens Alerts, which is the only Web 2.0 geo-intelligence and communications platform, according to the company.

Everbridge has been working for the last year to advance its alerting system to a Web 2.0 platform that allows government entities greater interaction with residents, said Marc Ladin, Everbridge’s vice president of global marketing.

“We came up with was an approach to doing GIS emergency communications that’s intuitive,” Ladin said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “It’s easy to use, it’s flexible, it’s fluid, and it helps crisis-communications people get the message out very quickly, very easily, very accurately and very efficiently.”

With the new Everbridge platform, residents can opt to receive emergency alerts not only on their landline phone but also via other communications methods they may use, including cell phone voice or text, e-mail or facsimile machine. When using the Everbridge SmartRegistration platform, residents can prioritize the communication modes for receiving alert messages, which can be targeted for a particular geographic location affected by an incident.

This has become increasingly important in urban areas, where studies have shown that 20-30% of people do not have a landline phone at home, opting to use a cell phone exclusively, said Geoff Schemel, Everbridge’s senior director of sales engineering.

“We’ve found over the past several years … is that the best way to reach people the fastest is to communicate with them in the way they want to be communicated with,” Schemel said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “This allows the citizen to prioritize those communication attempts, so it works the way they like.”

Such flexibility greatly enhances the chances of the alert reaching the person, particularly during times when communications networks’ capacity is challenged during the aftermath of a large-scale incident, Schemel said.

“If one specific communications channel is temporarily congested, our system can basically move past that and go to other devices,” he said. “So, if we try to call you on your cell phone and we can’t get through, an SMS might make it, or an e-mail or your home phone might work. It’s going to keep trying other devices to get that message through.”

In addition, Ladin noted that sending messages to the landline phone of someone who has been evacuated from their home is not beneficial, leaving the government entity with the task of finding a way to communicate with the person when it is safe for him or her to return home. Residents can reply to confirm receipt of a message, which allows the governmental entity to stop sending the alert via other devices.

And the Everbridge notification system is not limited to delivering emergency alerts. While residents registering for the system are required to receive emergency alerts, they can choose whether they want to receive other non-emergency notifications from a government entity, such as road closures, changes in parking restrictions or community events.

One of the first cities to deploy the new Everbridge solution is the city of Glendale, Calif. Tami Vallier, customer services administrator for Glendale Water and Power—a department within the city of Glendale—said personnel for the utility last week were trained to use the new notification system, which she described as “really easy to use” during an interview with Urgent Communications.

To encourage citizens to register, Vallier said the city of Glendale plans to include information fliers in utility bills and publicity from various media to let citizens know about the program.

“Just from the feedback from the notifications that we sent, our community is anxious for it,” Vallier said.