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Alert system’s got your number when emergency strikes

Israeli start-up eVigilo uses every media available to inform people where to go for help in case disaster happens

Israeli and American soldiers participate in a joint earthquake drill in Holon on October 21, 2012, in  the Turning Point 6 emergency drill (Photo credit: Yossi Zeliger / FLASH90)
Israeli and American soldiers participate in a joint earthquake drill in Holon on October 21, 2012, in the Turning Point 6 emergency drill (Photo credit: Yossi Zeliger / FLASH90)

In the event of an emergency — terror, natural, or otherwise — Israelis will get the information they need to cope with the situation. Israeli start-up eVigilo, which develops alert systems that are used by governments and emergency service providers to distribute information during catastrophes, has signed a deal with the government to handle Israel’s new “National Message” project. All existing communications channels — SMS, cellphones, Internet, radio, TV, and more — will be utilized to deliver information Israeli civilians need to protect themselves or get help.

Massive emergencies overcome even the best-laid plans of politicians and government officials, often leading to failure. Among the biggest challenges for government during such crises is to pass on information to the public about safety issues, where to get assistance, and when to expect relief.

To get that information across, according to Guy Weiss, CEO of eVigilo, you need a multi-pronged approach. Many cities, for example, rely on sirens to alert people that an emergency is imminent, only a siren can’t describe how intense or how long the emergency will last. Governments broadcast warnings and information on TV or radio, but what about people who aren’t near them — or if the power goes out?

The more people know, the more prepared — and calm — they are, and eVigilo’s mission is to provide services that keep citizens informed, allowing governments to marshal their resources to dealing with emergencies. To ensure that word gets out, eVigilo has developed a geo-located alert system that covers all communication outlets. Using its SMART Alert platform, eVigilo tries to cover the bases and “enable people to receive information anytime, anywhere,” the company says.

Messages can be sent out via SMS, but also via cell broadcasting, for example. This technology does not require contacting individuals via their phone numbers, instead using the radio components of phones and smart devices to receive a geo-located message. The company also developed broadcast boxes that allow broadcasters to send not just text messages over terrestrial, cable, and satellite systems, but also graphics and sound. With the eVigilo AlertBox, broadcasters can override broadcasts from satellites and implement emergency broadcasts on all channels, the company says. eVigilo’s Internet component allows localities to quickly send alerts via e-mail, social networks, and even roadside digital billboards.

The company even offers an advanced siren platform, which allows automatic alerts for different events or requirements (ie, a siren alerting the beginning or end of an event) and rebroadcasting automatically via Internet, radio, TV, etc.

eVigilo has been used in Israel by the IDF (during several Turning Point drills, and limited information about missile attacks from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense). Last year eVigilo integrated its technology with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), a global network established by United Nations, the European Commission and disaster managers worldwide to improve immediate alerts, information exchange and coordination after sudden disasters, such as tsunamis and earthquakes. eVigilo is also being used in Chile, where officials decided that they needed an alert system after a disastrous earthquake and tsunami hit the country in 2010.

Now, eVigilo has signed a $5 million contract to run the “National Message” project for Israel’s Homefront Command, which will be based on the company’s SMART for Governments system, “a real-time, location-based, multi-channel distribution platform. The messages are disseminated through a wide variety of communication channels including, cell broadcast, smartphone applications, desktops, social networks, TV, radio and sirens.”

The system, said Weiss, “processes hundreds of unique events per second, prioritizes the messages and delivers the right message to the population across the available channels in the targeted area. We are excited and honored to be part of this endeavor, paving the way for the next generation alert and notification system of the state of Israel.”

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