Emergency alert platform uses coronavirus data to create city-level maps

Regroup combines data from Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Washington to map confirmed cases and deaths at the city and county level.

An emergency notification platform has added state and local coronavirus data to its alert system to help customers to understand the threat level at their local offices. Regroup is using data from the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University to track cases of the coronavirus at the country, state, and county level. 

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The platform allows users to contact employees or customers during an emergency via phone call, text, or email. Users can send these messages to the entire company or create sub-groups based on location or job function.

A Regroup customer who is using the mapping feature of the alert system can use the COVID-19 maps to understand the spread of the illness in relation to corporate offices around the world. A user can see information on the total number of cases in a geographical area in real time as well as information on individual cases. The coronavirus map has two layers: one for deaths and one for confirmed cases.

The data layers in the Regroup map layers combine data from the official sources to give the most granular version of the information as possible. 

Ray Almanza, sales director of Regroup, said the geofencing capability has been part of the Regroup platform for some time, but the COVID-19 data layers are new. 

"We are not charging anything for this service," Almanza said. 

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About 80% of Regroup's existing clients are schools who use the platform to send out cancellation notices and active shooter warnings. Universities and colleges are required by law to have this kind of notification system. Regroup has a web-based platform as well as an app. 

Brian Fischer, a sales rep at Regroup, said the company has seen a surge in customers using the platform to ensure business continuity. He said the company added the coronavirus information to the platform to help customers deal with the impact on their businesses.
 
"We have implemented this so that customers are able to see, based on location, what's going on in the area," he said.

Regroup's system follows the Federal Common Alerting Protocols and is on the official list of software that has demonstrated Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) capabilities. This status gives notifications from the platform delivery priority over other civilian traffic, allowing the delivery of up to:

  • 20,000 voice calls per minute
  • 65,000 SMS messages per minute
  • 100,000 emails per minute
  • 540,000 push notifications per minute

Fischer said this status with FEMA means messages can be delivered quickly and reliably even during times of high traffic. 

"They are at the mercy of their local cell towers and local ISPs if they are not on this list," Fischer said.

Regroup users can send emergency communications to a large group of people or pinpoint a single individual. Reports on each message track the number of messages sent, the format used, and who received the message and who didn't.

Almanza said the platform is for emergency communications only, and messages are limited to a set number of characters. For longer messages, users receive a link to read the full communication.

When individuals have downloaded the Regroup app, it can serve as a beacon to alert users when they are entering a location with a higher number of coronavirus cases. Users can use this functionality to send messages to people within the affected area or outside it to help them make decisions about travel and other activities.

"We can do that in real-time, and it updates automatically when a person is using the app, Almanza said.

How it works

The emergency messaging platform integrates with payroll systems to maintain the most current list of contact information. Almanza said most customers use an Active Directory integration to ensure emergency messages are sent to everyone who needs them. The system is cloud-based, and Regroup uses Amazon servers in five locations around the US.

The platform is used for several types of emergency communications:

  • Critical alerting on the fly
  • Automated critical alerts
  • Unified emergency communications
  • Anonymous incident reporting
  • Real-time incident analytics
  • IVR interactive polling

The platform also can link an emergency message to a particular cell phone tower so that each person with a smartphone passing the tower gets the message, similar to how the Amber Alert system works.

Messages can be translated to 63 languages in real time to allow for employees and customers in different countries.

This article was revised to remove a reference to data from the World Health Organization and update data about Regroup.

Also see

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Regroup, an emergency notification platform has added state and local coronavirus data to its alert system to help customers to understand the threat level at their local offices.

Image: Regroup