Corporate messaging to funnel emergency alerts

In response to customer demand since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, instant messaging vendor WiredRed Software Inc. plans to introduce a one-way broadcast alert system designed to improve emergency communications in corporations, schools and government departments.

The product, e/pop Alert, allows companies to broadcast customized emergency notifications in real time to as many as hundreds of thousands of client PCs, according to Allen Drennan, CEO and founder of WiredRed in San Diego.

e/pop Alert is a pared-down version of WiredRed’s instant communications software featuring the ability to embed audible alarms within a text message. Using the system’s predefined templates, administrators can distribute predefined emergency instructions such as evacuation procedures to hundreds of computers in a matter of seconds, according to WiredRed officials. The notification system also includes security options such as RSA for authentication, digital certificates, and encryption capabilities.

As part of contingency planning efforts since the terrorist attacks, government agencies and corporate clients have been clamoring for the capability to instantly notify an entire organization or group of impending emergencies, evacuation procedures, or security incidents, Drennan said.

In the event of a crisis in a large, distributed office environment, instant messaging is an ideal platform for conveying emergency communications, he said.

One problem with relying solely on building’s public address system to communicate during an emergency is that alarms often drown out broadcast instructions, he said.

“Typically alarms are going off while the PA system is broadcasting, so instructions are not heard and messages are not clearly disseminated,” Drennan said. “Whereas if you have 500 computers setting off alarms at the same time across multiple buildings with unidirectional content, you get the message across a lot clearer and a lot faster,” he said.

e/pop Alert available now as a standalone product or can be plugged into a company’s existing e/pop messaging platform, with prices starting at US$10 per seat for 100 users. The system operates in peer-to-peer or distributed client/server environments and supports Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Linux.