FlashAlert® collects emergency messages and news releases from 2,130 schools, colleges, fire and police departments, hospitals, businesses, government offices, utilities and other organizations in Portland/Salem/SW Washington and distributes them to the news media via a continuously updated website and e-mails. It also automatically places emergency information into the websites of participating stations and newspapers and can send it directly to the public.
FlashAlert Portland has two service tiers available. Due to the huge number of organizations that want to make weather closure announcements, not all organizations can be served with on-air messages. But most can be accommodated through the media’s websites. Thus, two tiers – based on organization size and type – are available.
1. The free basic tier is for churches, small schools, preschools and other groups of at least 40 people.
You may be asked for verification of size, because the media can be overwhelmed with too much info. It is free of charge and puts your emergency information onto the websites of the Portland TV stations and iHeart Media radio stations, but not on air. You may register under four categories: private schools/day cares, churches, businesses, and organizations. You will see your posted information on these sites:
Register here for the basic service, if you meet the minimum size requirement.
2. The premium tier is for groups that meet the size requirements below, as well as all government offices, police departments, etc.
Like the basic service, the information you post is placed on TV and radio websites. It also is delivered to all newsrooms (TV, radio, daily/weekly newspapers) for on-air use, and TV screen crawls. This service includes access to news release distribution, account customization to reach people other than the media and the optional FlashAlert Messenger system detailed below. Private schools, post-secondary schools and organizations must have at least 125 students/participants, and businesses must have at least 200 employees or daily customer traffic.
Register here for the premium service, if you meet the minimum size requirement.
Please note that to protect your organization from false reports, your account must be authenticated – which may take several hours – so please register in advance of needing the service. No service is available for fewer than 40 people.
Clients can start at a web page where they can view the real-time status of other organizations. After logging in and posting, they get a confirmation email.
The public can see your information on TV and radio stations and their websites, as well as on a page for just your org to which you can link. The optional FlashAlert Messenger (see below) allows you to send messages directly to parents, staff, students and others at the same time as the media.
FlashAlert provides the news media with local, accurate, time-sensitive information that impacts a large number of people. Airtime is in great demand during emergency situations. The news media will air information they deem appropriate; you will have greater success if you give them only what you really need to communicate.
FlashAlert’s second premium “channel” emails non-emergency news releases. You choose which cities you wish your releases to be sent to, based on whether it is a local or regional issue. You can upload photos or PDFs or even a sound or video clip. You can have a preview emailed to yourself or anyone else you choose.
Newsrooms get hundreds of emails per day; FlashAlert helps them filter this mail and see items from local organizations first. The news releases are available on an archive web page for one month. You also can save a release as a draft, and even schedule it for future delivery.
FlashAlert distributes to all media – radio, TV and daily/weekly newspapers – in the cities you choose. National media, too, if warranted.
In addition, you can add into your account the e-mail addresses of “Business Partners” – people whom you would like to receive your emergency message and/or news release (in addition to the news media). And any time an organization’s name shows up to the media, it is as a link to the organization’s home page, enabling the media to quickly get to their site.
Does your org have a Facebook or Twitter account? FlashAlert can post your emergency messages to your feeds. If you manually delete a message in FlashAlert, it also is removed from FB/TW. If the message reaches its delete time, the message stays on your page.
Organizations have a link to their FlashAlert information. This page brings together each organization’s emergency messages, news releases and news conferences. No more need to update your web site manually – just link from your home page. Click here to see the page for Oregon State Police.
Messenger is a companion service where the public, including parents, employees, reporters, etc., may self-register up to three email addresses and receive your information at the same time as the news media. When the public registers, they trigger test messages to make sure they’ve entered addresses correctly and that messages get past their spam filters. Each summer, an opt-in message is sent to keep the database current. Text message addresses are discouraged due to the delays caused by cell companies and them truncating messages.
Even faster is the free iOS/Android app FlashAlert Messenger, which allows the public to receive push notifications of your emergency messages – much faster and more reliable than text messaging. They also can view all emergency items and news releases in the system.
New is the ability to add sub-organizations so your constituents can subscribe to get org-specific news. A school district, for example, could make each school a sub-org. In fact, FlashAlert allows you to add a third sub-org level, so you could send news about a specific school’s PTO or Band Boosters. A police department might set up sub-orgs for their precincts, and be able to target news releases to people subscribed to that precinct, as well as the news media. Even newer is the ability to create an account or sub-account that limits subscribers to those who have a specific email suffix, in the event you want to keep some communications restricted (such as messaging employees about when to report).
There is no charge to the public for the Messenger service; the annual cost to an organization is 20¢ per subscriber for the first 1,000, then 10¢ per subscriber thereafter. Click here for sample text you can use to explain to the public how to sign up for FlashAlert Messenger.
We discourage text messages, in favor of push notifications through the Messenger app. Text messages are a major problem, being subject to delay or deletion by the cell companies, as well as some companies cutting off text messages at 160 characters. If someone simply must get a text message, they can enter their address manually (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org for AT&T).
News editors prefer emails, since the info can be forwarded and copy/pasted. They are faster than faxes, more accurate than phone calls. FlashAlert is redundant in that stations can see information as it is posted (media web pages update automatically every 10 minutes with an alert function) or by the e-mails.
While FlashAlert resides on a group of servers with multiple power supplies, the Internet is an unregulated medium and performance cannot be guaranteed. Also, subscribers should take into account the reliability of their own Internet service provider (ISP) through which they access the network, as well as their home/office power supply. For redundancy, it is advisable to be able to call a colleague in another part of town, who uses a different ISP, to be your backup. The FlashAlert web sites are tested every 20 minutes by an independent monitoring company.
In the event of a system outage, clients may go to FlashAlertBackup.net, hosted at a different ISP, to launch emergency messages to key media in your region.
FlashAlert has managed emergency communications for the school districts in the Portland area for 38 years. In 2000, the nearly unlimited capacity of the Internet created the opportunity to bring in other regions and organizations. Users benefit from easy access to the news media, while the news media benefit from having an information clearinghouse. The automated nature of the network keeps costs low.
Here’s who is using FlashAlert in the Portland area: Participant list
Click on the link and choose your region to see annual fees for unlimited use (September-August billing cycle, pro-rated after January 1). View fee schedule.
You may renew your existing account by check or by credit card through PayPal below. You do not need a PayPal account, you can make a one-time payment. On the page where you see “Price per Item,” enter the invoice amount.
Take FlashAlert for a test drive. Click here for a “dummy” zone.