You've Got Emergency Mail!
- By Emily Bryant
- May 01, 2005
I often consider myself something of a Neo-Luddite (one who opposes
technological advances), railing against overzealous cellphone users and people
who spend too much time on the Internet. Having said that, my only phone is a
cellphone, and I pay top dollar for broadband Internet access at home. For true
Luddites, it might seem there's just too much communicating going on in the
world today. Maybe . . . but there are genuinely useful and potentially
life-saving applications for cellphones and the Internet that you might want to
One application I recently learned of is the service provided by the
Emergency Email Network Inc. (EENI), a company based in Jacksonville, Fla., that
specializes in emergency notification to both wireless and wired devices for
first responders, officials, employees, and citizens. In addition to operating
the country's largest public service network that provides free emergency
content about weather and homeland security (as well as selected other news),
the company provides two fee-based messaging solutions offering a variety of
notification options for businesses and organizations.
Let's start with the first service. The company's Web site, www.emergencyemail.org,
is a cyber gateway to all types of emergency notification from national, state,
county, and city government, as well as certain public service agencies.
Visitors can sign up to receive homeland security updates and severe weather
news, delivered to their e-mail address, cellphone, fax machine, or personal
digital assistant (PDA). It only takes a few minutes to complete the form; as
long as users just want information pertaining to their county or parish, it's
Help from the Wild Wild Web
This public service was conceptualized in
1999 during Hurricane Floyd and the ensuing chaos of mass evacuations. J.
William Tamargo, EENI's CEO and one of its founders, said he and his associates
believed they could harness the burgeoning popularity and technology of the
Internet to help bring more order to emergency operations in the future. At the
time, many Internet inventions were fun and crazy but not necessarily practical,
he said. Today, EENI sends out more than 100 million messages per year, a volume
Tamargo said is not too far behind the AOLs and Yahoos of the world.
Helping to fund this vast, free public service is the commercial side of
EENI. If a person or business seeks to expand the notification information to
cover more than one area, there is a cost based on the number of locations being
added. If someone is interested in this enhanced content, a salesperson will
call and work up a price schedule--it can be as low as $3 per month ($36 per
year) or up to several thousand per month, depending on how extensive is the
coverage area someone wants.
Expanded content is one option for company owners who wish to provide
employees in different locations the notification service. However, EENI offers
another solution more beneficial to large organizations: the Enotem™
Notification Manager (ENM). This is Emergency Event Notification software that
provides a company with its own custom Web portal designed specifically for the
company's communicative needs, enabling permission-based access for an unlimited
number of administrators and subscribers.
Sending Out an S.O.S.
Employees not only receive the expanded weather
and security content transmitted through EENI. Organizations now have the
ability to create event-specific messaging scenarios in advance that pertain directly
to the company. For instance, a site manager could create a message saying,
"plant closing, evacuate immediately," and employees would be notified
instantaneously via any desktop or laptop computer, landline, fax machine,
cellphone, or PDA.
Tamargo demonstrated how quickly this takes place by putting my cellphone
information into a test program. Within seconds, I received both a text message
and a recorded call alerting me of a used truck for sale in the parking lot.
While this obviously was a non-emergency test message, I could definitely see
the benefit of this service for communicating urgent information.
ENM gives an organization control over what messages are being delivered, an
aspect Tamargo believes to be a big advantage of using this service. "If you are
an emergency manager for a utilities company, you need to know of specific
threats but might not want everyone else to know. You would receive the alerts
and then be in charge of who gets them after that," he said. There is also a
built-in feature that requires verification of message receipt so that when
users get an emergency notification, they are instructed to enter a number or
voice acknowledgement. This allows a system administrator to track the success
of message communication.
This application is marketed as a cost-effective means of broadcasting
information because it takes advantage of the ubiquitous use of mobile devices
and employees' access to computers at work and at home--technology sources that
are widespread, even among us staunch Neo-Luddites. For more information on the
free public service or commercial products, visit www.emergencyemail.org
This column appeared in the April 2005 issue of Occupational Health &
This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.