Use Text Messages to “Talk” in Emergencies, Don’t Block 911
National preparedness campaign unveiled to promote use of text messaging to communicate during an emergency
Atlanta, Aug. 31, 2011 – The Safe America Foundation briefed business, civic, governmental and non-profit leaders in metro-Washington, DC today on its Be Safe America national preparedness campaign. Launched in mid-August, the campaign is a five-year effort by the Foundation to encourage the use of text messaging and other tools to “talk” during a crisis.
A University of Missouri research study shows that a single one minute phone call consumes the same bandwidth as 800 short text massages,” noted Pagano. “Even where digital communications may go down, text messages may still ‘get through’ or be held in the queue for delivery. This is why the Foundation has been encouraging the utilization of a new texting ‘safety shorthand’ –“RUOK”/“IMOK” as part of our preparedness programming since 2009.”
The value of text messaging for communication in an emergency was initially exposed during the September 11, 2001 attacks. When call volume overwhelmed mobile voice networks text messaging provided emergency personnel and millions of people in Washington, DC and New York City the only method of phone communication. Unfortunately, the recent East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene have illustrated that wireless voice communication systems overload is just as vulnerable as it was on 9/11.
The Be Safe America campaign mitigates this by promoting the use of text messaging to communicate during an emergency with three principal initiatives:
- “Text First Talk Second.™” seeks to raise public awareness of the value of using non-voice wireless communication options (text messages/social media) for letting family and friends know a person is safe before, during or after a disaster.
- “March to 1 Million” encourages Americans to “pledge” at the Safe America Foundation web site to plan and practice a text or social media communication drill this September, National Preparedness Month, with friends and family at home, work or school.
- “Safest Kid in America” enlists youth from 6 to 18 to create collateral emphasizing the importance of emergency readiness drills, teach their parents how to text, and lead their families in preparedness exercises.
About the Be Safe America campaign
The Be Safe America campaign was established in 2011 as a five-year initiative by the Safe America Foundation to increase public grassroots readiness. The components of the program include ‘March to 1 Million/Pledge to Drill,’ ‘Text First. Talk Second.’ and the ‘Safest Kid in America’ contest, which are designed to:
- Inform public of how new technology affects disaster communications
- Teach them to use the new ‘tools’ (texting – and a ‘safety shorthand’ for emergencies)
- Practice the use of this technology (via drills)
- Involve youth (via school curriculum and other programming)
The program includes a multi-city educational tour with upcoming briefings in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta.
Be Safe America partners include the Medical Reserve Corps, National Foundation for Women Legislators, National PTA and 20 other non-profits. Companies supporting the project include Travelers, Motorola, UPS, Federal Signal, Alcatel-Lucent and Rayovac. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is playing a federal liaison role on this effort as well.
About the Safe America Foundation
The Safe America Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit licensed by the state of Georgia. Chartered in 1994, the Marietta, Georgia based foundation partners with corporate, governmental, public and private sector organizations, and other nonprofits to improve the safety awareness and preparedness of Americans nationwide.