Study: Emergency Managers Expand Efforts to Increase Public Safety Awareness

Published: October 16, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. – As mobile technologies and social media channels continue to penetrate Americans’ communications behaviors, emergency managers are working diligently to ensure emergency communications keep pace. This is one of the findings from the 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey, which examines some of the greatest challenges currently faced by emergency managers.

As the technology landscape continues shifting, the American public’s communication methods are increasing and gradually becoming more mobile-oriented, claims Federal Signal in a press release. The 2013 study showed that 28% of emergency managers identify the public’s varied communication preferences as the greatest challenge they face. These challenges include effectively reaching a growing, older population with many special language and other needs.  For those with hearing and vision impairments, physical limitations and varying disabilities, communication preferences may extend beyond traditional landline phone calls and e-mail, to include text messages and social media channels and more.

Community members trust emergency managers to provide them with the tools they need during an emergency, making it critical that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to effective communication. More than half of respondents (58%) trust local and regional government officials to ensure sufficient public safety standards, communication and planning, according to the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey.

The 2012 survey results found that less than half (47%) of community members would take action based on a potential severe weather warning.  It comes as no surprise, then, that nearly 22% of emergency managers said that apathetic community members are their greatest challenge, according to the 2013 study. In fact, the study found only 20% of emergency managers feel that their community members are very aware of existing alerting and notification systems in their area. 

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In order to best reach community members, emergency managers need to consider the places where each of their citizens seeks information. As expected, one of the toughest challenges for emergency managers is the cost associated with new tools and equipment.  The 2013 survey found that for 75% of emergency managers, the greatest deterrent to updating emergency communication systems is their budget. Yet, there are many ways to interact with the public that are simple and cost effective, many of which emergency managers have already embraced. According to the 2013 survey:

  • 81% are promoting their activities and programs at community events and meetings
  • 72% are communicating with their community directly though e-mails, direct mail and phone calls
  • 67% are communicating with the public through a community Web site

New technology enables community-wide engagement and can help drive emergency responsiveness among citizens — often at the touch of a button. This presents new opportunities for emergency managers to expand their reach. Only 55% of emergency managers are currently using Facebook as part of their alerting and notification system, and three-in-ten currently are not providing educational tools through Web sites and social media. 

Read the 2013 study.

Read the 2012 study.

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