Modernising the preparedness
Image: Michael Sargeant, UMS, shows how the location based system can define a specific geographical area. Photo by: UMS
Oslo Municipality is one of the first municipalities in the country to introduce location based population alerting through SMS. A possible national alerting system being deployed in Norway at some point in the future is not going to cover all of Oslo’s alerting needs. Consequently, the Norwegian capital city has procured location based alerting as they see the need for a local solution. The project is initially a pilot project.
– Norway is largely a stable and safe country, nevertheless, Oslo will be well prepared to deal with both major and minor crises, says Raymond Johansen, The Governing Mayor of Oslo.
Proper alerting procedures essential for good crisis management
Proper alerting procedures are essential for good crisis management. With the implementation of this new alerting system, residents and visitors to the City of Oslo can expect to receive notifications directly on their mobile phones in the event of incidents of a serious nature.
– The population of Oslo is growing every year. In addition, we have many visiting students and tourists throughout the year. We must be able to reach as many people as possible in an affected area, as quickly as possible. At the same time, we must be able to provide accurate and reliable information. Therefore, the choice fell on location based SMS notification, says Johansen.
He believes the implementation of such a solution is an example of how governing bodies must change in the age of digitalisation.
– People in Norway are quick to adopt new technology and there is little doubt that the mobile phone will become an increasingly important device in the future. We must take advantage of this when we need to reach people in situations where fast and accurate information can be crucial, Johansen continues.
The news coverage in Europe is regularly characterised by fear of more or less organised acts of terrorism. It has directed renewed focus towards how governments and the wider world can best protect and warn citizens in relation to unexpected events, accidents or terrorism. The system will be used for a wide range of events, and it may well hold great significance in certain emergency situations.
– Precise warning enables the population of Oslo and visitors alike to take precautions and action to protect themselves and their families. Through a high level of preparedness, we can help prevent loss of life and property damage. Embracing the opportunities created by new technology has been important to us, says Ann Kristin Brunborg, Emergency Preparedness Manager at Oslo Municipality.
The system has been developed by a Norwegian technology company. UMS is headquartered in Oslo, but has extensive international operations. Today, UMS reaches more than 150 million people through the company’s location based alerting systems, and the market is growing rapidly.
Today’s population alerting method is based largely on the Norwegian Civil Defence using the siren infrastructure, and radio remain a main channel for information to the public, even after the transition from FM to DAB+.
– At all times, we must be able to reach the residents where they are, and the same applies to visitors and tourists, says Brunborg.
Many municipalities already use address based alerting systems, where one can send messages to residents of selected addresses.
– We have seen a growing need to notify everyone within a given geographical area. Now the technology is available. Unlike an app, which must be downloaded in advance, we will be able to reach anyone who has a mobile phone without them having to take any action whatsoever to receive information, says Brunborg.
In an SMS, a link to other digital platforms of the municipality may be provided to complement the information. The SMS alerting system was adopted on 1 January this year. It is implemented in the municipality’s emergency response plans and will be in use during exercises and serious incidents.
– In addition to using SMS in combination with the national siren system to provide more accurate information to the recipients during a crisis, the SMS system is also suitable for serious local events like a fire with toxic smoke, flood or other critical events, says Michael Sargeant in UMS.
This is how the Location Based Alerting System works
Location Based Alerting System (LBAS) is a solution where people in a specific chosen area can be alerted in a quick and efficient manner. All mobile phones in a defined area are identified using location information from mobile networks. LBAS makes real-time, dynamic alerting a reality.