Need to know basis

In Easter this year, the lives of tens of thousands of East Anglian people were dramatically affected by the worst flooding this century. If only they could have seen it coming…

Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed. This Easter, as the worst storms and flooding this century brought chaos to Britain, thousands of urgent telephone warnings were delivered by the Environment Agency, courtesy of the country’s first fully-implemented national warning system that enables literally thousands of urgent phone or fax messages to be issued to people deemed to be at risk in the minimum amount of time.

Down by the Waterside: Kingston Voiceware’s early warning system, which it believes could be invaluable to a broad range of organisations, allows people to take action to protect themselves and their property – before it is too late.

Kingston Voiceware’s £750,000 OpenTALK Emergency Alert system, developed specifically for the Agency, is based on interactive voice response (IVR) technology which, simply put, allows your organisation to deliver recorded messages over the public telephone network.

Excepting a number of people in certain parts of the country who were not deemed to be at risk from flooding, and who were therefore outside the scope of the warning system, OpenTALK performed extremely well during the record demand of the Easter floods.

Chemical companies, gas suppliers, police forces and water authorities are just some of the many organisations which may see value in the system, a point Deb Tate, marketing manager for Kingston Voiceware, is keen to put across: “OpenTALK Emergency Alert is ideal for incidents such as accidents, gas leaks, chemical spillage or food and water contamination, as well as natural disaster. Employees need no specialist training to operate it, and because it is automated, the system doesn’t tie up staff or telephone resources.

“It’s far more efficient than traditional methods of notifying the public, such as door-to-door calls, letters, public address systems, manually dialled phone calls or sirens, which tend to warn, rather than inform.”

Once activated, the system automatically dials telephone numbers from a database, which can include local residents, police, local authorities and the media. After listening to the warnings, recipients have the option to press a number on their phone keypad to confirm that the message has been received. The system then updates the database, such that organisations can check how many people have received the warning and who has yet to respond.

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