Created on 2017-01-24 15:05

Published on 2017-01-24 15:53

This is Part 3 of the series on “Re-imagining the way society prepares and responds to emergencies.” Read Part 1 here & Part 2 here

During a crisis, inability to broadcast life saving instructions to affected population and gaining situational awareness, is the most fundamental challenge faced by response agencies.  

Our belief is that, in the event of crisis, a proactive two-way information exchange between response agencies and affected population can be established, by tapping into popular communication channels that are already actively used by population.

E.x. telecom partners and apps like UBER, Flipkart, Google Now, Messenger Bots, etc, are already on our phones and a vast majority of people with smart phones can be engaged to create a temporal two way communication channel which government authorities can leverage to seek and disseminate information. Such a system can be used to broadcast incident report, crowd-source ground information or seek/ direct on-ground volunteers during crisis.

Figure 2: Illustration of a prototype ‘Public Notification’ and interactive ‘Crisis Portal’

How will this work?

  • Information Release: Authorised government agencies release crisis information in structured format: incident report, level of severity, impacted location.
  • Broadcast: Outreach partners voluntarily subscribe to broadcast notification of specific severity levels to their customer base in relevant locations.
  • Crisis Portal: Public with internet access can further access Crisis Portal – a makeshift website – to further communicate with response agencies.
  • Crowd Sourcing: If required, people on ground can pass critical information to response agencies or volunteer to help.

Choice of Channel:

  • SMS/ IVRS: serves well for bigger emergency scenarios. It provides assured coverage, but the minimum broadcast area is the range of cell tower (> 22 miles).
  • Mobile Notifications: has the advantage of targeted deployment and richer interface. It can be deployed with minimum geo-fence radius of 100m. Though the requirement to have the internet connection switched on, limits its coverage.
  • Other: integrations with email list, regional radio/ tv channels, etc should follow.


FEMA in USA has ‘Integrated Public Alert and Warning System’ (IPAWS) that works on the internationally recognised Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standards. Though the concept is not new, the conventional alerting systems have not yet tapped the potential of establishing two way communication or bind additional services over it. When it comes to channels, prominent players like Google already invites government agencies to collaborate and share crisis data on their platform.

Way Forward

‘Mass Notification System’ framework can be scaled for crisis ranging from fire accidents to bigger disasters. It requires more work on managing protocols, rather than building infrastructure. With low implementation cost, quick deployment time frame for a city and high perceived value for public, this initiative can efficiently tackle most design challenges – and can thus act as a leading initiative for the overall platform.

We are looking for partners, collaborators and organisations who are exploring similar ideas or are keen on partnering with us. Please reach out to us!