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211 Disaster Support: How SMS Text Messaging is Changing How 211s Mobilize Resources During Disasters While Staying Relevant in Tough Economic Times
EMS has always developed projects that aim to increase efficiency, and funding for our partners. 211s are in a unique position to provide support to their communities with health initiatives that emphasize community partnerships, an aspect of 211s that make them crucial to properly and efficiently linking resources to individuals. Inter-agency partnerships lead to more funding, particularly during times when public dollars are so dear. Utilizing 211s as dissemination portals for mobilizing resources while supporting innovative alliances that seek to maximize infrastructure already in place, can help community programs become more kinetic in an age where timely, relevant information is the most critical component toward sustainability. In our collaborations with hotlines, helplines and now 211s we often find there are untapped resources available to them, initiatives they either werent aware of or in many cases they feel they dont have the capacity to support the work that is required. In the case of 211s, for example, there are unused dollars that are allocated for Veterans services, womens health, youth services, disaster preparedness and disaster relief strategies/infrastructure. By augmenting standard phone support with sms text messaging capacity, 211s can bolster their ability to manage large volumes of regional messages that can be sent to specific groups/zip codes, within the communities they serve. SMS Alerts is a critical piece for obtaining numerous federal funding initiatives because of its history as a key communication channel during disasters and its universal appeal across some of the most difficult and disadvantaged priority groups. Text communication during and in the wake of disasters is the most effective communication strategy available to 211s. TXT211 is a complete sms service for I&R as well as community health & safety alerts and post disaster alerts. In the following document, we discuss how texting and community alerts are essential during disasters. Additionally, we offer a solution that supports 211 with instant sms services that are provisioned with all cell phone carriers in the US and Canada as 211 services. There is no other service of its kind. This exciting platform is available now and has been tested in crisis centers and 211s for info and referral, disaster relief support, and

Educational Messages Services Inc. Health information at your fingertips

automated text based follow-up. Testing has concluded that TXT211 service can save staff time, and curtail missed calls. Unlike telephone support, that requires a 1-to-1 operator to client ratio, Txt211 has demonstrated instances where an operator is managing 5+ encounters simultaneously. Adding text will decrease voice call volumes because more clients are texting 211, and text will increases response times due to the unique nature of sms communication. Text will also open the door to new funding sources, as we will discuss further in this document. Please contact jonathan@emsmail.org or text INFO to the short code 898211, to learn more or schedule a demo. Text Alerts, Resource Dissemination: Background Fire, Police, and Emergency Services are increasingly relying on text messaging, when all other communication is down. Text message alerts have saved lives during disasters. SMS alerts systems are already being used by public service agencies worldwide to help communities stay connected with essential information about shelters, emergency evacuations, alerts about storms, food banks, and relief efforts. When phones are down, or over-burdened, text is the only communication channel that has survived during disasters. The very elements that comprise a text are, by nature, resilient. In fact, SMS was first developed to help the Armed Services communicate in a safer more secure manner in war torn regions where communication infrastructure has been compromised. Alerts by Text are helping locate children who have been abducted through mobile Amber Alerts. Text messaging has helped Centers for Disease Control inform communities of new health risks, i.e. swine flu outbreaks, in an effort to keep our communities safer. During moments when every second counts, mobile phones are helping keep us all safer. Text based alerts offer the quickest most efficient method for getting short bursts of information to entire communities in a matter of seconds. 211 has expanded into nearly every community in the US making the 211 network ideally suited for text message based alerts and resource provisioning. Communication Needs During Disasters: September 11th tragedy and the more recent hurricane and oil spill affecting the Gulf, has drawn attention to need for telecommunications to connect people quickly and efficiently with help and community information. The terrorist attacks created one of the greatest challenges that the United States network of community information and referral

Educational Messages Services Inc. Health information at your fingertips

providers has ever seen. Evidence suggests that the enduring stress and trauma of the tragedy has produced increasing incidences of substance abuse, eating disorders, and domestic violence. For example, twentythree states have detected an increased demand for alcohol and drug treatment since September 11th. Immediately following the attacks, agencies offering crisis support service experienced significantly higher call volume from families looking for victims, individuals stranded in airports, frightened children and concerned parents, individuals reliving other disasters, mentally ill persons feeling overwhelmed, and people looking for ways to give help. Crisis centers connected them with the appropriate organizations. In Atlanta, for example, calls increased 78% from the previous year. Call volume continues to remain significantly higher than last year. And recent trends are showing the demand for text message based support services are reaching record levels. SMS Crisis Alerts How Texting During Disasters Saves Lives A UK report, Inclusion Through Innovation: Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies, explores the potential that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have to improve service delivery and quality of life for the most excluded groups, and argues that effective use of ICT is key to addressing exclusion and meeting complex needs. "For instance, mobile phones are being used by homeless people to avoid the problems of not having a permanent address, leaving a mobile number on job applications. Medical results can be texted to the patient without someone else answering the phone. And, individuals in rural areas, with limited resources, are able to get the help they need through text message. The report, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, argues that 'excluded' people already use technology extensively and that we need to build on this enthusiasm." In most cases, theyre not using mobile phones by choice, but rather by necessity. Their phone is their only link to community services. In the US, the use of SMS during times of catastrophe or natural disaster has proven to have an incredible impact. Phone lines, fax, and electricity could fail and the only tool you can use is your cell phone1, said SAF Spokesperson, Carla Shaw. For example, during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast of the United States, SMS was the only mechanism available for much of the country to contact those in the affected areas, due to the small amount of data that is
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Txting Could Save Lives During Disasters: http://www.socialnetworks10.com/twitter-texting-could-savelives-during-disasters

Educational Messages Services Inc. Health information at your fingertips

required to send a text message.2 SMS messages are inexpensive and easy-to-use and in recent years the mobile phones that are needed for sending and receiving them have become ubiquitous. During natural disasters SMS and radio have been used to provide emergency communication, for example an earthquake Yogyakarta and Central Java in Indonesia killed more than 5,000 people and displaced 1.6 million in May 2006. With support from Internews, a U.S.-based NGO, a radio station and SMS text messaging provided news about relief efforts. In addition to radio broadcasts, important information was sent and received from the newsroom via text messaging. Outgoing messages warned of aftershocks and identified communities that had not yet received government assistance. More than 180 Indonesian journalists distributed and received information through the service.3 A Canadian woman trapped under rubble after the recent earthquake in Haiti managed to send out a text message to the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa, a place nearly 3,000 miles away. And it saved her life.4 And when the immensely strong earthquake occurred in Chile on Feb. 27, 2010, SMS traffic for the carriers networks that were not initially damaged surged to as much as ten times the normal hourly volumes for the first 24 hours or so. We managed to get a voice call to them around noon, Eastern, Saturday, but soon after that, were unable to reach them due to network overload. For the rest of the day, we communicated via SMS without issue.5 Homeland Security published an article in 2010, The Unprecedented Role of SMS in Disaster Response, where they pose the question, what if we could communicate with disaster-affected communities in real-time just days after a major disaster like the quake in Haiti?6 211 Centers are uniquely positioned to provide this level of service to the communities they serve. What would 211 Based Text Alerts mean to government agencies like Homeland Security and CDC? Is the case for passing the
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CNN Online News Report Report, SMS and Radio can be powerful tools during Natural Disasters: http://comunica.org/radio2.0/archives/87
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Woman Trapped Under Haiti Rubble Sends SMS http://www.textually.org/textually/archives/2010/01/025300.htm 5 Time Magazine, Online Edition: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/0,28757,1953379,00.html
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Homeland Security Newswire: The Unprecedented Role of SMS in Disaster Response, February, 2010, http://homelandsecuritynewswire.com/unprecedented-role-sms-disaster-response

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211 ACT strengthened if 211 has the capacity and listserv to provide first alerts to disaster affected regions, on behalf of Homeland Security? CDC is also very interested in first response capacity in the wake of an outbreak. With a single outgoing message, every mobile phone in the exposed region can be instantly and simultaneously alerted via text. With a nationwide rollout of TXT211Alerts, 211 would be in the position to offer agencies like CDC and Homeland Security, unprecedented capacity and access, the ability to send alerts with pinpoint accuracy to all locations affected by the disaster. Relieving 911 During Disasters Non-Emergency Related Traffic During a disaster, 911 will fail under heavy use, and 211 has been shown to be extremely useful as an overflow solution, encouraging people with non-emergency issues to call 211 during an emergency situation. Recent disasters have taught us that 911 has the tendency of becoming so bogged down from over-use, that the service is rendered virtually useless. 211s reputation as an overflow for 911 during disasters is significantly bolstered with text capacity. Texting has been shown to survive when telephone services are overburdened, or down. 911 is currently unable to support text messaging. In a perfect storm scenario TXT211 could become a sole source for relief efforts and links to resources. PPTMS and Crisis Support: Where TXT211 got its inspiration After extensive training and system testing, Crisis Call Center, in Reno Nevada, launched their pilot program, using PPTMS to deliver emotional support via Crisis Textline service in 2009 to remarkable success. In some cases, within hours of program launch, area residents were using the new services. There was a measurable correlation between placing marketing materials (promoting the text line) in a pilot school, and sameday pick up among individuals in the target population. The development team and CCC expect to see similar results as the program is rolled out to all schools, statewide. SMS text messaging offers a timely and relevant mechanism for acquiring instant help with complex social issues that threaten our communities, across all ages and demographics. Simply put, texting is how the public is choosing to communicate. The PPTMS system is not only giving those experiencing feelings of distress and despair a new method of communication to receive emotional support, but it is also enabling them to feel more at ease with the center staff due to the private nature of text.

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The PPTMS technology, in conjunction with the TXT211 short code, is ideally suited for 211 because it considers the individualized messaging needs of each site as well as the macro messaging and routing needs of 211 US. What does this mean to your 211? Adding text is a simple solution that will change how your agency operates. With the addition of TXT211, your resources are more mobile. TXT211 gives you the capacity to obtain grants for government and local initiatives pertaining to group specific health programs, and disaster relief services. As a backup to 911, its imperative 211 maximize its reach to all demographics. SMS reaches across all groups, and does not discriminate. TXT211 platform increases reach to many of the most disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups e.g. youth, hearing/speech impaired, homeless, and the millions of unemployed and/or temporarily displaced Americans. TXT211 will increase operator efficiencies, while decreasing missed calls. TXT211 supports fully automated follow-up triages so that 211s can collect data required by their funders, without having to expend precious staff time. I&R Specialists should be doing what they do best linking communities to resources. With the TXT211 platform you also have real people behind you. We pride ourselves on our IT support. We also utilize Wiki development protocols, so that your suggestions become real features in the system. The TXT211 system was designed for 211s based on the functional needs of I&R specialists and the admin controls and data needs of administrators. But the improvements that make it a more perfect system come from 211 specialists that use it everyday. . Key FAQs about TXT211 Services TXT211 supports both two-way text dialogue and regional alerts. The Short code TXT211 was provisioned with every mobile carrier in the US and Canada Carriers have provisioned TXT211 on their gateways to function in two very specific ways, as 211 I&R and 211 Disaster/Health & Safety Alerts

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TXT211 is provisioned as a standard rate7 public service short code and is registered with the Common Short Code Administration as a mobile communication service for individuals seeking 211 services Not all mobile phones are able to call 211, but every mobile phone can send a text to TXT211 Provides a lifeline for underserved populations including youth, hearing/speech impaired, homeless and/or temporarily displaced (where their mobile phone is their only link to social services) TXT211 is provisioned with inherent routing - each site is responsible for a specific set of zip codes (mirroring the structures already in place under 211 and United Way funding mechanisms) TXT211 supports overlap coverage without duplicate responses TXT211 bolsters the argument for the Call for 211 ACT by increasing 211s ability to reach more individuals TXT211 supports 211s primary aim to provide consistent service to anyone, anywhere, anytime (text messaging is the most versatile, durable and consistent form of communication) TXT211 is ideal for post disaster alerts, getting people connected with resources when it matters the most. Even when web and telephonic services are down, text messages survive the most devastating disasters, as witnessed with Katrina, Haiti, Chile and Japan SMS was originally created for the armed services, a small, simplistic set of characters sent and received in the most war-torn regions, a more reliable alternative to short wave radio, CB, web, or telephonic devices TXT211 is registered as a 211 service with cell phone carriers, and is bound by MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) and carrier guidelines to always function according to two levels of service: Two-way I&R support and One-Way Disaster Alerts For more information about TXT211 Services, text INFO to 898211 (Standard msg&data rates may apply. Text STOP to opt out). Or call 805-653-6000.
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Shortcodes are either standard rate (where user only pays their standard rates per their text plan with their carrier) or Tarriff-based where end user is charged additional fees for the service, e.g. $3.99 will be charged to your wireless account

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Contact Information: Jonathan Holly is Executive VP and Co-Founder of PPTMS Textlines (Crisis Textline, Help lines and warmlines including TXT211 Info & Referrals, and Text Alerts) and a principal partner in the social marketing agency, Educational Message Services Inc. Contact: jonathan@emsmail.org