Emergency SMS Alerts Let Police Notify Constituents Faster

When the message is urgent, SMS alerts reach the community faster. Learn how police are using an API to send important safety information by text message.

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Emergency SMS Alerts Let Police Notify Constituents Faster

“To serve and protect.” This is the motto adopted by law enforcement agencies across the US, and the general sentiment of law enforcement around the world. But as technology is rapidly changing both the nature of crime and best practices for law enforcement, how can officers serve and protect their constituents best? By the very nature of their jobs, police officers are frequently on the move. What if they could easily communicate important safety information to hundreds of local people from wherever they are? This is what SMS alerts make possible.

SMS Alerts 101

SMS stands for “short message service” and is also commonly called “texting” or “text messaging.” Texts, or SMS messages, are usually short, text-only messages sent over a cellular data network from one mobile phone to another. According to Forrester, 6 billion text messages were sent every day in 2011, in the U.S. alone. With more than 80% of the US population owning a mobile phone and almost 70% regularly sending or receiving text messages, SMS has become one of the most popular forms of communication worldwide. Businesses and organizations are catching on, realizing that text messages are often the fastest and easiest way to reach their communities.

SMS alerts are text messages sent to a mobile phone to notify the receiver of something. Often, a person opts in to receive SMS alerts, from businesses such as their payment or travel service. When it comes to law enforcement, SMS alerts are an efficient way for officers to notify the community of important safety information. Since 98% of text messages are read within three minutes of receiving them, SMS alerts are often read faster than email. And since many people can be texted at once, SMS alerts are much more efficient than phone calls.

Customer Story: Avon and Somerset Constabulary

In the UK, texting became the most popular form of daily communication among friends and family members more than five years ago. So when the Avon and Somerset Constabulary (or police department to those of us in the US) wanted to easily communicate important information between police and community members, SMS alerts just made sense.

Previously, the constabulary relied on multiple communication tools and platforms to reach their constituents. For example, farmers tend to prefer text messages as they often don’t have a good internet connection. Neighborhood Watch, on the other hand, favor phone calls and email as they’re often based at home. Keeping communication flowing was time-consuming and complex. The constabulary needed a more efficient communications solution.

Avon & Somerset Constabulary Emergency SMS Alerts Platform

By switching their communication interface to Twilio, they simplified from having three separate databases—each with an independent platforms—to one database and one interface. With Twilio as their messaging gateway and API, constables now can relay messages via SMS or voice, to any segment of the population they select. For example, an officer can send a text message to the farming community in a set radius around a particular postcode or they can send a voice recording using the Twilio Voice API to Neighborhood Watch members and get immediate eyes and ears on the ground.

How it Works

Twilio offered the Avon and Somerset Constabulary the right functionality, combined with slightly lower messaging costs, to build the exact messaging system they wanted to provide for their community. The constabulary built a “Community Alerts” platform, which their officers can access via their mobile devices while they’re out on patrol. The platform lets officers send a voice recording, text message, or email (or all three) through the system. They can also choose who to target with the message, such as a particular community group or postcode. Constituents sign up to receive Community Alerts on the Avon and Somerset Constabulary website, where they can indicate their preference for text, voice, or email.

If this sounds like something your business or organization would like to build, APIs like Twilio make it easy. Find out more about Programmable SMS.