Communicating during a crisis can be extremely challenging. Cellular networks are overloaded and affected people cannot get messages to their loved ones. First responders are limited to their radios making interdepartmental communication difficult. Social media can be shut down as seen in Istanbul.
Kmunic8 is solving these challenges with a one of a kind messaging capability that can send voice calls, sms and emails without the need of a cellular network. Below is a detailed look at what happened in recent terror attacks and how to be prepared.
People in Brussels were urged to use texting and Internet messaging rather than calls as mobile networks has become overloaded in the wake of the explosions throughout the city.
“Calls may fail in spots where a large number of people try to connect at the same time, Jan Margot, a spokesman for phone carrier Proximus SA,” said by phone. Other wireless carriers including Mobistar SA also asked customers to use Wi-Fi networks or text messaging. “Brussels mobile networks are getting saturated,” Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s minister for development cooperation, digital agenda and telecommunications, said on Twitter. “Please contact through data messages. Avoid calls.” Phone carriers in Belgium include Proximus, Mobistar, Base and Liberty Global Plc’s Telenet, which said Tuesday it opened its network of Wi-Fi hotspots to all users amid the overloading of mobile-phone systems.
Shortly after the attacks in Paris left at least 127 people dead and injured more than 350, Facebook activated its Safety Check tool. The tool, which automatically sends users in the affected area a prompt asking if they’re safe, notifies Facebook friends when a user clicks “Yes, let my friends know.”
When a disaster occurs, whether it be a terrorist attack or a natural disaster mobile phone networks become overloaded and messages fail. Immediately following the disaster, hundreds of thousands of people are trying to call into and out of the danger zone.
Since its official launch in October 2014, Safety Check has been activated only a handful of times, including after the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal. More than 4 million people used the tool to mark themselves safe following the Paris attacks. This was the first time the program was used outside of a natural disaster. But what about all of those who don’t have a Facebook account or don’t actively participate on the site?
We saw this in Boston when two IEDs went off during the Boston Marathon. Despite being well covered by the large mobile providers, the networks still could not cope with the massive surge. One mobile provider issued a brief statement saying they were, “enhancing network voice capacity to enable additional calling in the Copley Square area of Boston. Customers are advised to use text or email to free up voice capacity for public safety officials at the scene.” The outages became widespread throughout Boston. Mobile networks have sufficient bandwidth more than 99% of the time. However during a crisis, this is greatly reduced and even crippled.
In 2014 FEMA began urging families to have a family emergency communication plan. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says the government may have set the bar so high that people feared getting prepared would be expensive and time consuming. So this year, Fugate says, FEMA will ask families to complete just one task: a family communication plan. “One of the biggest stressors in an emergency is not knowing if family members are OK,” Fugate said. “A family communication plan doesn’t cost anything and takes very little time.” “Such a plan, while indispensable in a major disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, may also be useful for more everyday emergencies such as a school lockdown or a public transportation delay,” Fugate said.
So how do you communicate during a crisis? SMS text messages utilize much less bandwidth than voice and data networks, like LTE, are not impacted. However relying on soley on SMS is not the best approach during an emergency because according to a UCLA study, SMS text messages can fail as much as 5.1% during normal operations and failure rates can spike to greater than 30% during so called “Flash Crowd” events. Email is less likely to fail however far from real time communication because when networks are servers and overcrowded, messages will queue up and be sent or received as capacity becomes available. Voice calls are also subject to network availability and also consume a much larger portion of network capacity.
After the horrific tornadoes that occurred in Moore, Oklahoma, part of the relief effort was to launch OK Strong. OK Strong is a website of response and resources for those affected by the tornados. The state of Oklahoma understood that is was crucial for communication occur through a variety of channels. They recommended using every communication channel that you can: voice, text and email. Also to be aware of the rumors that sometimes occurs with the use of social media.
If cellular networks are suffering outages, what’s the next approach? You should make your to a location with WIFI, which typically remain operational at a much higher level than cellular networks during a crisis. But this is a portion of your communication plan. How will you send your messages and how will you ensure that your intended recipients receive the message?
Crisis communication also needs to consider the recipients access to communication. Do they only have a land line? Do they only check email once a day or are they glued to it? Is it possible for the recipient to read a text due to a vision problem or a hearing impaired person to receive a call? What should you say during a crisis communication? Just the facts and communication whenever you have an update. The more updates, the better.
Use your time wisely. You might need to be on the move or tending to the crisis. Communicate with friends and family efficiently. Don’t get distracted or spend time sending the same message over and over to multiple recipients. Find the most efficient means to send your updates; preferably in one technology that all people can and will receive the message.
The bottom line is that given our lives and families include a diverse group of people and subsequent communication preferences, we can’t rely on everyone having Facebook or Twitter to communicate during a crisis. In order to communicate during a crisis, one should focus on utilizing the 3 common denominators that most people have reliable access to: voice, sms/text and email.
Let’s look at the facts behind communication preference. Getting a timely message to a diverse group of people with varying communication preferences, is often a huge challenge. Some want an email, some a phone call and some a text message. And of course, every telephone number, every email address and every text number is different and constantly changing. Importantly, everyone is impacted differently and the impact varies by demographic group.
According to recent Pew Research, 36% of American adults do not own a smartphone, that’s over 88 million adults. Furthermore, there are over 36 million American adults that do not use the internet. Still there are over 19 million American adults that don’t own a basic cell phone. For receiving news and updates, these American adults are reliant on receiving a phone call or SMS if they are not at a computer.
The Pew Research also goes onto explain that 15% of Americans have few access options other than their cell phone and 7% or more than 17 million American adults are totally smartphone dependent, meaning, those who own a smartphone but have no broadband at home, and have limited access options beyond their cell phone.
When it comes to communication preferences across generations there are distinct differences. Baby Boomers (1946-1960), prefer face-to-face or a phone call, and after business hours they prefer email unless it’s urgent in which case they prefer telephone. Gen Xers (1960-1980) believe they must be connected to peers at all times via cell phone, email and sms. Millennials (1980-1994) have a very strong preference for text messaging.
Given that not everyone has a smartphone, generations have clear communication preferences and everyone’s life involves a broad spectrum of people, how do you quickly and efficiently communicate to these people? How do you ensure that you’re not leaving anyone out of an important message? Do you send a blast of emails, text messages and make a myriad of phone calls? How do you ensure each person gets the same message with the same fact base and details? It’s widely understood that delivering information to different audiences can change based upon the conditions and distractions. Reaching across a diverse group can not only be complex but timing consuming.
Consumers and commercial operations are routinely faced with a family and business emergencies, important updates and announcements recreational needs or disasters where an immediate must update is vital and exception bases communication is eliminate. In these times, communicating in a timely, accurate and safe manner – with one version of the truth and landing all of these messages simultaneously is virtually impossible and can be a very costly.
A Boston based startup, Kmunic8 (www.kmunic8.com) has solved these communication challenges, with their mobile phone app, Kmunic8 Messenger. Kmunic8 Messenger’s patent pending process is the first app that offers simultaneous email, sms and voice calls (text to speech). Users of Kmunic8 will use data and WIFI networks to send their messages. Kmunic8 Messenger allows users to build lists of users with predefined communication methods. For example if a user knows their parents want a phone call when something is timely, then the user would designate their parents to receive a voice call. Additionally users can select all 3 mediums (SMS, voice and email) when sending a message. Kmunic8 Messenger doesn’t require those who receive a message to download anything which is a limitation of existing communication applications. Kmunic8 can call any phone, including landlines, and send messages to any platform.
During Kmunic8 Messenger beta testing, the team learned that not only were people using the app for keeping family and friends up to date, for sports and events, but they were also using it for crisis communication/preparedness. Users were prebuilding groups for use during a crisis so that communication could flow very quickly when needed.
As the importance of timely accurate and simultaneous communication grows and technology and demographic trends converge, Kmunic8 Messenger is providing solutions for meeting today’s consumer and commercial communications needs. During a crisis, your level a preparation makes all the difference. Know who and how you need to communicate. Use your time wisely. Have the technology ready. And hope it never happens.
For more information, visit KMUNIC8.com or contact Kmunic8 founder Doug Olsen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Distributed by PREngine
Company Name: KMUNIC8
Contact Person: Doug Olsen
Country: United States