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.
• The basic service is for churches, small schools and 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/daycares, churches, businesses and organizations. You will see your posted information on these sites:
and many radio and newspaper sites.
Register here for the basic service, if you meet the minimum size requirement.
• The premium service 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 radio announcers for on air use, and is displayed on TV screen crawls. This service includes access to news release distribution, high school sports score reporting, account customization to reach people other than the media and the optional FlashAlert Messenger system detailed below. This service carries a fee; click here for the schedule. Size requirements: 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 up to 24 hours - so please register in advance of needing the service. No service is available for fewer than 40 people.
More about FlashAlert Newswire premium service
• Emergency Communications:
In emergencies, you go to a web page where you can view the real-time status of other organizations. You input your organization's user name, password and message and get a confirmation message back.
Information is distributed to the news media in three ways.
1) Your information posts into a page for the media (FlashAlertPortland.net) as soon as it is received. The media can monitor the page, which automatically refreshes every 5 minutes. When the browser detects new information during a reload, it puts an alert up on the screen, even if the page is minimized. The main page displays both news releases and emergency messages.
2) New or changed information is emailed to newsrooms at the addresses they request.
3) Every 5 minutes, the list is pushed into news media web sites and in some cases, TV "crawls" or "tickers." The information automatically appears on their web pages, where the public can view it. Click here for example of TV station web use.
At the 7 p.m. default time, the system deletes the information and orgs may begin placing information regarding the next day, for use in 10 and 11 p.m. television newscasts. Postings before 7 p.m. can be flagged that they pertain to the next day and are not deleted at 7 p.m.
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 may link. You also can have your emergency messages automatically posted to your Facebook page and/or Twitter account. 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.
What kind of emergency information is appropriate for FlashAlert?
The network is intended to provide the news media with 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.
• News Releases:
FlashAlert's second channel sends out non-emergency news releases as individual e-mails. 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 clip. You can have a preview emailed to yourself or anyone else you choose. You can save a release as a draft for future work or schedule one to be sent at a later time and the releases can carry your logo.
The news media 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. Since there is no cost to the media, all are included.
Customization and Your Organization's Own Page
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 organizations 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? You can set your FlashAlert account to have your emergency messages and news releases posted on your page. If you manually delete a message, it also is removed from FB/TW. If the message reaches its delete time, the message stays on your page.
Plus, organizations have a link to their FlashAlert information. This page brings together each organizations emergency messages and news releases. 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.
FlashAlert Messenger: News direct to the Public
FlashAlert Messenger is a companion service where the public, including parents, employees, reporters, etc., may self-register up to three email or text message 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 iPhone/Android app FlashAlert Messenger, which allows the public to receive "push notifications" of your emergency messages - much faster and more reliable than text messages. They also can view all emergency items, news releases and sports scores in the system. Click for the Android version; iOS (iPhone) version.
New this year 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.
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 to see the FlashAlert.net page to which you can refer your publics to register. Click here for sample text you can use to explain to the public how to sign up for FlashAlert Messenger.
Please note that we are discouraging registering text messages, in favor of push notifications through the FlashAlert Messenger app mentioned above. 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 140 characters. If someone simply must get a text message, they can enter their address manually (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org for AT&T).
Speed and Reliability
E-mail is the delivery method of choice for news editors, since the info can be forwarded and copy/pasted. They are faster than faxes, more accurate than phone calls and can be copy/pasted. FlashAlert is redundant in that stations can see information as it is posted (media web pages update automatically every 5 minutes with an alert function) or by the e-mails. The FlashAlert web sites are tested every 20 minutes by an independent monitoring company.
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.
FlashAlert does not track email open rates. Open rates are obtained by hiding a one-pixel graphic in the email. When the email is opened, the email reader calls back to the sender for the graphic. The graphic is not sent, but the sender logs the address of the receiver. FlashAlert doesn't do this for two reasons. First, many (if not most) email readers offer the option to not load graphics. FlashAlert's email readers do not. Therefore, any number or percentage that could be obtained would be wildly inaccurate, on the low side. Secondly, we have ethical issues with this sneaky approach. In the past, you could request a return receipt. Fair enough; the receiver has the option of approving the confirmation. But collecting this information in stealth mode crosses our ethics boundary.
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 36 years. The nearly unlimited capacity of the Internet has 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/Salem/SW Washington 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.
Credit card renewal
You may renew your subscription by check or by using a credit card through PayPal below. You do not need a PayPal account, you can make a one-time payment. On the first PayPal page where you see $0, enter the amount shown on your invoice.
Take FlashAlert for a test drive. Click here for a "dummy" zone.
This page is for your use only, and should not be distributed to the public. The public may view any of the news media web sites that carry the info or send them to FlashAlert.net.
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For more information, Craig@FlashAlert.net (360) 834-1953 Camas, WA