SMS Notifications: For emergencies and beyond

Topic: SMS

On Sunday 23 April 2023, there will be a national test of Emergency Alerts, a UK government system which uses mobile phones to send information in potentially life threatening situations. Whilst there will be no changes to the traditional methods of sharing this information; TV, radio, social media, the UK is now fully recognising the power and immediacy of mobile communication.

Emergency alerts for situations like extreme weather conditions, fire and flooding are already common place in other countries. The Netherlands government used them to distribute COVID-19 distancing warnings, and some US states even use them for missing child alerts. 

They’re deemed to work particularly well because of the immediacy; 91% of adults keep their smartphones within arm’s reach (source: Morgan Stanley), and sending a notification to a phone is more proactive than waiting for someone to hear via word of mouth, check an email or switch on the radio to gain information. 

So how can other non-government organisations use mobile phone notifications to alert their customers, communities and staff?

SMS notifications

Mass SMS notifications have been tried and tested for use in emergency situations and are a fast and efficient way to get important information into the hands of those who need it. 

Utility companies are one example, where they send customers warnings of extreme weather situations that might affect, for instance, their power supply. Not only are they able to send alerts to make customers aware of potentially dangerous situations, they can include links to useful information on how to prepare and stay safe, with follow up messages once the risk has passed. 

SMS notifications were also a well received source of information during the UK COVID-19 outbreak, with the government trialling text messaging to remind people to stay home and stay safe. Other healthcare providers have since adopted SMS as a way to remind patients of important guidelines prior to appointments. 

Employers can also use mass SMS notifications to communicate quickly with their staff. Here at Esendex, our Office Manager collates and tests our ability to notify staff via SMS regularly to ensure we can share information quickly and easily – from anywhere. From a burst pipe in the office, or an emergency situation in the city centre close by, staff can be alerted without them needing to check their work email, or take a call from their manager.

WhatsApp notifications

WhatsApp may be the new kid on the block, but it holds some serious advantages to communication, not least because of its popularity – over 2 billion users worldwide and counting. Accessed via mobile data or Wi-Fi, it gives extra resilience over phone networks, and users tend to be naturally more conditioned to using WhatsApp to reply. So, it’s ideal for situations where you want to not only notify someone, but also check on their well-being. 

We’ve seen a number of schools utilise WhatsApp; most recently when schools were closing early because of heavy snowfall. As well as notifying parents that school is shutting, they’re also to request a reply to find out if and when someone is able to collect each child; making it easier to manage staff resource and keep pupils safe.

WhatsApp is also popular because of its ‘group’ functionality – encouraging the sharing of important information amongst existing groups of friends, families, neighbours and other already existing communities people are part of. 

And of course both WhatsApp and SMS are great tools to notify customers quickly of changing situations in non emergency situations:

Unexpected service or software disruption? 

Send an SMS to customers with a link to useful online information and redirect non essential calls from your busy call centre. 

Need to close early and save customers a wasted journey and maintain your brand reputation?

Send a mass SMS notification to your customers base (and maybe a discount offer to incentivise a visit tomorrow!). 

Your top, fully booked dentist calls in sick at 8am? 

Sending a message can help you notify all patients within minutes and prompt them to rebook their appointment.

Want to learn more about how your organisation can use these tools to communicate quickly and effectively? Contact our experts today, or take a look at our masterclass: WhatsApp Business Platform vs SMS: How do the two compare?

Author Avatar
Laura Brown

I am a self confessed marketing geek, with a love of well orchestrated multi-channel campaigns; especially those that end with an SMS delivery notification and a parcel at the door! With a tech marketing background I'm interested in all aspects of digital marketing, marketing automation and customer experience, and have worked with customers across the software, finance and retail industries. Find me over on LinkedIn at: