Back on articles
Forest fire

Why mass emergency notifications are so important to communities and how the Telco Industry can take it to the next level

A fire, a blizzard, or even an erupting volcano. These are common examples when we think of emergency situations where population evacuation is needed. For this kind of unpleasant circumstance, a fast and reliable means of communication is required, ensuring the safety of the citizen. This is where the Mobile Network Operators come into play.

On 7 February 2009, also known as Black Saturday, 173 people lost their lives and more than 2000 homes were destroyed by bushfires in Victoria, Australia. The disaster motivated the Council of Australian Governments, together with the mobile operator Telstra, into developing an emergency notification system that became operational on 1 December 2009 and since then has been used to disseminate warnings for flood, tsunami, bushfire, storm surge, chemical incidents, and missing person emergencies.

The warning system sends voice messages to landline telephones and text messages to mobile telephones within a specific area defined by the emergency service organization issuing the warning message. This type of initiative has ensured that thousands of people are notified of a likely or actual emergency, allowing them to react quickly and potentially save their lives.

But who is responsible to notify the citizen in these cases?

Most countries have a national public warning system commonly used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information. In the United States, for example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Weather Service work collaboratively to maintain the emergency alert system, enabling authorities at all levels of government to send urgent emergency information to the public, such as the well-known AMBER Alert.

In Europe, the Council of the European Union adopted in 2018 the new Directive on European Electronic Communications Code. Under the new Directive, all EU member states will have to set up a public warning system to protect citizens. This system will send alerts to all citizens and visitors mobile phones in a specific area in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other major emergencies in their area. The mandatory implementation of the public warning system will have to be in place by June 2022 for each EU member state.

The role of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in emergency notifications

If “word travels fast”, it can travel even faster boosted by telecommunications. When it comes to emergency notifications, MNO’s have the power to reach entire communities and regions via voice message or SMS in a matter of minutes. That is why they have a key role in distributing notifications with a thoughtful and strategic approach when a large emergency strikes anywhere in the world.

Amber alert on iPhone


In 2017 for example, Tropical Cyclone Donna, a Category 5 storm that struck the South Pacific, tore through Vanuatu. Remarkably, the storm did not result in fatalities because the National Disaster Management Office of Vanuatu, together with the local MNOs, speedily distributed advance alerts that warned of Donna and issued mass messages via radio broadcasts and mobile texts to the public. When the system was not in place in 2015, Cyclone Pam caused 24 deaths in Vanuatu.

Cyclone Donna

Going beyond Emergency Notifications with Big Data

At Instarea, the big data monetization company for MNOs, we believe that communication with citizens can go beyond emergency notifications. With Market Locator, we are empowering municipalities to efficiently communicate with inhabitants, to send alerts and get better insights about people counts in specific areas and people’s socio-demographic characteristics.

This is only possible by using real-time data from Telco providers, combined with our powerful algorithm to aggregate, anonymize, analyze this big data in real-time and then target mobile subscribers to send the message. In Slovakia, the use of Market Locator has allowed municipalities, like the city of Modra, to establish a quick way to notify its citizens about local events, roadblocks, renovations of squares and monuments, and much more relevant information. Here are a few use-cases:

Emergency alerts
Big data can help save lives. An SMS in the case of a disaster can make a difference. Instarea’s tested and proven solution has the capability to contact people who are in a stricken or unsafe area in real-time.

Amber alerts
If a person goes missing, a targeted notification to all people in the area can bring fruitful information and simplify the work of the police.

Lost and found
If something of value went missing, police or public sector officials can send a notification to everyone in the vicinity of the area.

Community notifications
Public sector officials or municipalities can let people in a selected area know about planned changes and limitations as well as upcoming community events.

Population reports
Our Location Analytics can help provide a report on the spatial distribution of people in a threatened area and even real-time movement monitoring. This is useful for crowd management and emergency response planning.

Market Locator enables not just very powerful targeted marketing and location intelligence but provides a strong platform for Smart Cities & Smart Government.

Would you like to have a taste of it? Go ahead and have a look at Market Locator case studies and Instarea’s Smart City solutions.


Felipe Vilela

Share article with friends
We are proud that our hard work gets recognized