HHS Emergency Text Message Tool Kit: Txts Cn Sv Lives

Jun 27, 2011, 5:18 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a toolkit of public health emergency text messages. In an emergency such as flooding, power outages, or severe storms, for example, public health departments can send the messages to community members who have signed up for the service.

The messages contain brief reminders, toll-free phone numbers and links to websites for more information. Examples include:

  • Prevent child drownings. Keep kids from playing in or around flood water. More info from CDC 800-232-4636 or http://go.usa.gov/bGa.
  • Keep generators 25 ft outside door/window. Don't grill inside. Fumes can kill. More info from CDC 800-232-4636 http://go.usa.gov/bfv.
  • Don’t drive through floodwater; it can be deeper than you think. More info from CDC 800-232-4636 or http://go.usa.gov/bGc.

Before, during and after an emergency such as severe flooding, health departments can download and distribute the text messages using their existing cell phone emergency message distribution systems. To receive the texts, community residents can sign up with the local emergency management office.

According to HHS, the messages, all limited to 115 characters, can be used as received or tailored to specific local emergencies. Health departments can register by emailing publichealthemergency@hhs.gov to receive current, new and updated text messages. Over 400 state and local health agencies have signed up so far.

Weigh In: Have you used text messaging to alert community residents to an emergency or potentially dangerous situation?

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.