Everbridge Inc., a company that provides incident notification systems, has launched Everbridge SmartGIS. It provides an opt-in service for citizens to receive emergency alerts to five separate locations via landline or other communication medium, such as email, text message or FAX. According to the company: "Residents can prioritize the communication modes for receiving alert messages, which can be targeted for a particular geographic location affected by an incident." Editor in Chief Joe Francica interviewed Marc Ladin, vice president of global marketing for Everbridge.
Directions Magazine (DM): Can you give us an overview of the Everbridge SmartGIS system, including the software components, development platform, mapping engine used, and interface to telecommunications systems? Where do you get your data?
Marc Ladin (ML): Everbridge SmartGIS combines the power of broad citizen notification with geographic targeting - simplifying and accelerating the process of communicating with people who live or work within a specific area. Everbridge SmartGIS is built on an ESRI compatible Oracle Spatial engine that integrates our emergency notification system with geocoded contact data and intelligent street centerline data from NAVTEQ. This allows our clients to geographically select a region and contact all residents within the specified area.
Data are commonly acquired through the use of white pages and 911 telephone databases. While these data sources provide a great starting point, they only contain a single telephone number per address, which greatly limits the effectiveness of the overall solution. For example, trying to contact people at home during work hours is not effective. Likewise, solutions that are dependent on these limited data sources cannot reach individuals in critical situations, such as evacuees. How can emergency managers communicate with evacuated residents to provide reentry instructions if they only have home phone numbers in the system?
According to the CDC's 2008 National Health Interview Survey, 20% of U.S. citizens no longer have active landlines in their homes, which means their contact information is excluded from 911 data.
The new Everbridge SmartRegistration citizen opt-in portal provides a customized, user-friendly opt-in/registration process that allows individuals to identify preferred methods of contact (and contact order) and specify the information they want to receive, for example, severe weather, road closures, Amber alerts, etc.
In addition, because citizens manage their own contact information through the portal, data management burdens are eliminated.
DM: Are your solutions designed to be implemented by large municipalities and organizations? What is the pricing model for these customers?
ML: Everbridge services municipalities of all sizes and in some instances we are the technology vendor for the entire statewide initiative (e.g. Connecticut uses Everbridge for statewide emergency notification). We also work with Global 2,000 corporations in vertical sectors, including healthcare, finance, higher education, utilities and others. You can see some of our users at: http://everbridge.com/customers.
Cost depends on the size of the user's audience or citizen base. The system starts at $10K and goes up, based on the scope of the project.
DM: Is the system in compliance with the WARN Act?
ML: The intent of the WARN act is to provide communities the ability to send text messages to cellular telephones based upon their current location. Requests for these messages will be channeled through a federal clearing house for approval. As such, integration options have not been fully determined, but we anticipate that our service will complement the federal government's efforts. In fact notification providers are called out as part of the WARN act's efforts to promote the adoption of community alerting systems like Everbridge's.
DM: What is the broadcast mechanism for emergency notifications? Do you have agreements with cellular carriers?
ML: Everbridge's delivery platform utilizes the most advanced technology and infrastructure to ensure clients have rapid and efficient communications capabilities across the globe. Everbridge has direct relationships with both global communications facilities common carriers and communications aggregators, to ensure deliverability and speed of delivery when sending notifications. Everbridge's proprietary ACT-SaaS service architecture ensures a robust, highly scalable, high-availability platform for the efficient notification delivery.
DM: Your literature describes the solution as one that allows the end user to select up to five locations to be included for the warning messages. So, these are not personal alerts based on an individual's existing location… is that correct? Will there eventually be solutions that automatically locate a user (via personal communication device such as a cell phone or other PND) and send an alert only if that user is within an area impacted by the emergency?
ML: Everbridge notifications are triggered based on locations provided during the signup/opt-in process; citizens may specify up to five locations (such as home, work, their children's schools, etc.) for which to receive alerts. We are actively exploring capabilities to enhance message deliverability based upon members' real-time location information.
DM: Are your solutions offered most frequently to public safety organizations (police, fire, etc.) or emergency preparedness organizations (civil defense, departments of health, etc.)?
ML: Everbridge systems are widely used by both types of organizations, as they each have a very defined need for the emergency notification capability that Everbridge provides. While their audiences might differ, their need to communicate critical information in a timely manner during a crisis does not.
DM: What happens once the end user receives the alert? What other information can be supplied to the end user with the notification? Evacuation route, safe house, etc.?
ML: After the end user receives AND confirms the alert, the Everbridge system stops broadcasting to that recipient. Our broadcast dashboard tracks confirmations in real-time and displays updated broadcast results every 60 seconds for quick and informed decision making.
Organizations use the Everbridge system to communicate throughout the crisis lifecycle. In addition to delivering critical information, Everbridge SmartGIS facilitates real-time polling so emergency managers can survey constituents to determine safety status, manage requests for help, coordinate and manage volunteer resources and more.
Additionally, Everbridge SmartGIS supports the use of file attachments, which can be used to send maps of evacuation routes, pictures of missing persons or other important information.
DM: What future enhancements are planned for the SmartGIS solution?
ML: Our goal is to continue to collaborate with emergency managers to provide the most advanced, interactive GIS-based messaging solution available. We will continue to develop methods for organizations to use geospatial technology to understand their many layers of data for targeted message delivery and we plan to incorporate mashups and support for non-standard map data in future releases.