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PURVIS notification system enables Red Cross to request assistance

Written by PSIT Staff

The American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. It does this through services that are consistent with its congressional charter and the fundamental principles of the American Red Cross and the International Red Cross Movement.

All Red Cross disaster assistance is free to clients. The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on private donations to provide emergency assistance to Rhode Islanders in crisis.

The Challenge

The American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter is frequently called upon to activate teams of volunteers to respond to incidents such as fires or flooding. Due to this pressing need and the importance of being able to quickly respond to these emergencies, the organization sought a faster and more efficient method to notify its more than 600 volunteers of emergency situations where their assistance is needed. The traditional phone tree method they were using was taking three Red Cross volunteers up to two 8-hour days for initial calls, using valuable time that could be better spent apprising volunteers of the specifics of a situation and dispatching them to a site.

“In an emergency, there is very little time available to spend trying to track down every volunteer and pass along necessary information,” said John Holt, the chapter’s CEO. “With only nine full-time staff members and a cache of more than 600 dedicated volunteers, it can be very difficult to accomplish this in a timely manner using more traditional technologies.”

During the search for a better method of notification, it was recommended that the organization take a close look at PURVIS Systems’ Emergency Notification System (ENS). After a demonstration of the software, the Rhode Island chapter was impressed.

The Solution

A secure system that enables key officials, first responders and emergency personnel to quickly and easily send and receive mass notifications, PURVIS ENS enables the Rhode Island Chapter to pass along the specific information needed to best respond to an emergency situation. The information is sent to groups of volunteers or to volunteer captains, who can then accurately determine how many volunteers are needed and which of them should be called into action. Also, by eliminating the traditional phone tree method of notification, the organization’s leadership is able to spend significantly less time notifying volunteers and more time thoroughly addressing each emergency situation.

“We learned that PURVIS ENS will allow us to not only contact all of our volunteers but also to track which of those volunteers actively receive a message,” Holt said.

Within moments of an alert being placed, selected volunteers receive a message with specific information. Recipients can then rapidly respond to volunteer captains and let them know if they are able to assist with the emergency. A tracking mechanism within the PURVIS ENS system also enables volunteer captains to determine if the message was received, what positions still need to be filled, and which volunteers are qualified to fill them. In addition to volunteers, the Rhode Island Chapter can use PURVIS ENS to contact local agencies such as food banks and the Salvation Army for assistance during emergencies.

The Result

The Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter has successfully utilized the new system during both staged and actual emergency scenarios with great success and is expanding its use of the system daily. It has decreased its average response time needed to deploy a full shelter team that can handle a mass care situation by 47% since implementation, putting an emergency response team on the scene within 25 minutes.

Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2008

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