Emergency Communication Methods - assessment of alternatives

Supplementary notes to the August 8th Fire Risk Report. Michael Organe 10/08/2022

Emergency Communications.

At the Waverley meeting held in Elstead on July 28th it was clear that many of the attendees were concerned about communications in an emergency affecting the area. The meeting concentrated on fire emergencies but the same need could arise from other situations, such as flooding, snow, power cuts or interruption of the gas supply.

These notes suggest possible means of communication, some of which were discussed at the meeting. Their use will depend on the nature of the emergency, how widespread the risk is and its likely severity. 

I have included some communication systems that are not 100% suitable for emergencies but could be used for public education and access to general information.

Various warning and communication methods were discussed at the meeting including:

  1. Notices.
    • A notice will be displayed on the Spar noticeboard in an emergency.
    • Otherwise suitable for announcements of meetings and general information.
    • This can include screen display at Elstead Cinema, as well as the many noticeboards in the village.
  2. Siren or church bell.
    • Suitable for a major emergency requiring a universal alert for a wide area.
    • Would not give specific information for individuals or small areas.
  3. Mobile loudspeaker van (or car with loud hailer)
    • Flexible and suitable for major or minor emergencies.
    • Can be used for wide or selected areas.
    • Information can be general or specific to a particular situation.
  4. Telephone dedicated lines.
    • General pre-recorded information,
    • Help mode for specific purposes, such as evacuation control.
    • Likely to be swamped by enquiries if a general alert is triggered by siren or bell.
    • Dependent on mobile phone signal strength for many people.
  5. Word of mouth.
    • Suitable for use if selected volunteers are given responsibility for communicating within a known small area.
    • Otherwise unreliable.
  6. Public Social media:
    • Not suitable for general information unless locked
    • Suitable for open discussion.
    • Replies inaccurate, misleading and with potential for misuse.
    • Impossible to distinguish signal from noise!
    • Not used by a large number of people.
  7. Websites:
    • Parish Council websites, village organisation sites and private News sites.
    • Suitable for general information, public education and archive records
  8. Dedicated Facebook or WhatsApp Group.
    • Suitable for communication with a limited number of people, possibly for volunteer group control and communications.
  9. Email.
    • Not suitable for fast communications
    • could be used for general information for volunteers on plans and procedures.
  10. Mobile phones.
    • Suitable for use by volunteers during an emergency
    • Not suitable for general use because of privacy laws preventing the storage of personal data.
    • Dependent on signal availability

For practical purposes the information in these notes could be set up as a decision table.