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New York State Office of Emergency Management - (NY-Alert)

Customer Snapshot: Overview

Within 15 minutes, NY-Alert can send as many as 1 million SMS messages

NY-Alert communicates safety and emergency information to New York citizens’ mobile devices. Poor performance hindered the system as traffic overwhelmed carrier bandwidth, but SAP SMS 365 saved the day by managing message flow and enabling 1 million SMS messages to be sent every 15 minutes. New York now efficiently keeps citizens informed in real-time.

Company
New York State Office of Emergency Management - (NY-Alert)

Customer Website
www.nyalert.gov/

Line of Business
Service

SAP Solutions
SAP SMS 365

Headquarters
Albany, New York, USA

Number of Employees
~300

Industry
Public Sector

Customer Snapshot: History

Committed to a Safer New York from the Beginning

When the NY-Alert mass notification system was launched in 2006, it initially notified New York citizens of both routine and emergency incidents based on municipal boundaries. However, in the event of a localized incident, such as a fire or chemical spill in a dense urban area like New York City, that method was not ideal. NY-ALERT looked to SAP when they needed to find a way to mitigate the potential for inefficient over-alerting that could cause panic in nearby unaffected populations, and they have been upgrading NY-Alert with enhancements based on these evolving needs since the system’s inception.

Customer Snapshot: Business Model

Statewide Safety Commitment

As part of New York’s ongoing commitment to providing critical safety and emergency-related information to citizens as well as instructions for responding accordingly, the NY-Alert service offered by the State Office of Emergency Management protects New Yorkers with a vital notification system.

Customer Snapshot: Success Strategy

People’s Choice

NY-Alert allows New York citizens to sign up only for the safety and emergency alerts they want to receive, and localizing efforts helps eliminate unnecessary notifications. NY-Alert currently provides safety and emergency information to 6.3 million subscribers, including 3.6 million people (and counting), that receive text (SMS) alerts on their mobile phones.

The Challenge

Getting the Promised Alerts Delivered
When the New York State Office of Emergency Management first launched NY-Alert, they relied on the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) and SMS gateways to send messages to citizens via wireless carriers. The system eventually reached volume levels where message delivery was slowed by carriers or even blocked as spam due to carriers simply running out of bandwidth.

A snapshot of how the NY-Alert system was creating a huge communication traffic jam:

Previous
10,000 new subscribers each month
up to 1,800 varied alerts to different groups around the state
156,000,000 emails and 93,000,000 SMS alerts in eight months
that's an increase of 4X and 9X (respectively) over the last year
Next
Given this trend of sharp increases, the Office of Emergency Management realized the need to deploy a technology that would allow them to effectively process all the e-mail and SMS traffic.

Enter SAP

Help Adjusting the Flow

To take on the challenge, the NY-Alert system administrators turned to SAP, installing an SAP SMS 365 aggregator at their main data center and a backup aggregator at a secure off-site location. SAP SMS 365 offers Tier 1 aggregation, which manages the flow of messages to carriers so NY-Alert never floods the carriers with more than they can handle at one time. SAP SMS 365 also tells system administrators when outages occur and dynamically switches between carriers if necessary.

Enter SAP: The SAP Experience

Alerts that Accept Feedback

Besides the volume of messages SAP SMS 365 can process, the solution also allows system administrators to know immediately if SMS messages are successfully delivered to mobile device users, which eliminates all doubt about delivery. System administrators also like the speed at which SAP SMS 365 handles two-way SMS messages. This is helpful because NY-Alert serves as a conduit for state agencies and school districts that need to send alerts.

Once an agency publishes messages on the NY-Alert system, they don’t get approved by the Office of Emergency Management, they simply get published. SAP SMS 365 bridges this gap by providing the agencies with immediate feedback from their target audiences. If a state university sends out a text to notify students that college is closed for the day, the university can receive immediate replies from students. For example, if students respond wondering how long the college will be closed. This helps the school craft a better, more informative second message.

Better Business

Efficiency During Critical Times

The Office of Emergency Management can now efficiently send alerts at any time, from anywhere. As a statewide mass-notification system, NY-Alert allows schools, universities, county governments, the New York State Department of Transportation, the State Office of Counter Terrorism, and other state organizations to notify residents through a variety of means—fax, pager, e-mail, automated phone call, an RSS feed to the website, and SMS messaging.
In sync with today’s mobile society, NY-Alert messages can be proactively sent to mobile subscribers rather than broadcasting on TV or radio. Now, if there is a critical or life-threatening situation, people within potential harm’s way are alerted immediately. This is especially true in a populous state such as New York. Powered by SAP SMS 365, NY-Alert sends messages in minutes, helping ensure the state’s citizens stay knowledgeable and safe.

Better Business: Benefits

Taking it Beyond Efficiency and Emergencies

New York citizens and students at state colleges and universities can now efficiently receive key information that keeps them informed about state events as well as helping them proceed as safely as possible during emergency situations. Besides weather and traffic alerts, citizens can sign up at the NY-Alert website for AMBER and missing-child alerts as well as public health alerts such as flu vaccine clinics, consumer protection news, sex offender relocation alerts, and state and local government press releases.

Better Business: Lessons Learned

Weathering the Storms

SAP SMS 365 has proven crucial in enabling the Office of Emergency Management to weather many winter storms and process a massive number of messages. During one recent winter storm that hit New York City and surrounding counties, the Office of Emergency Management sent 1 million SMS messages in just 15 minutes—along with 388,000 phone calls and 4 million e-mails—without any system hiccups. Another important benefit is the speed at which the system handles two-way text messages so that agencies can quickly receive feedback from target audiences on message effectiveness.

Better Business: Run Simple

Service at Every State Level

Across the State of New York, NY-Alert currently provides alert services for 800 different entities at 160 organizations. Out of the 64 campuses of the State University of New York, 60 rely on NY-Alert as do 23 campuses of the City University of New York. NY-Alert also services 31 counties and 19 state agencies while continuing to grow as other state entities realize the communication value SAP SMS 365 delivers.

Journey Ahead

Taking Mobile Tech Farther than Texts

With the help of SAP SMS 365, the Office of Emergency Management is adding a multi-media messaging service (MMS) to the next version of NY-Alert. MMS allows for the embedding of photos for missing-child alerts and road maps of traffic congestion and detours. For special-need populations, messages can be sent as audio .wav files instead of straight texts. Another project in the works involves working on iPhone and Windows Mobile apps for subscribers as well as senders. Gaining this capability will prove valuable as mobile apps become more popular and as 4G technology reaches the masses.

With all of these enhanced communication capabilities that SAP SMS 365 provides, the State of New York is primed to keep citizens well informed and as safe as possible, no matter what type of emergency situation might arise.

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