Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Effect of Gas Prices on Emergency Notification

Gas prices are affecting everything. From the obvious, like the decrease in sales of SUVs and the increased charges for deliveries, to the not-so-obvious, like the increase of the cost of milk and the resurgence of the locally-grown-produce trend. One of the not-so-obvious affects is on emergency notification, business continuity and disaster recovery.

Gas prices affect where people live and how they work. People bought large houses in the exurbs during the 1990s because gas was cheap and it was easy to get to work. People got used to commuting 15 miles in a large SUV. Since many of these cars get 10 miles to the gallon, that meant people were paying for 3 gallons of gas a day. At $2.50/gallon, that's $7.50, or roughly the cost of taking the BART from Oakland to San Francisco. Or the cost of commuting from New Jersey to New York along the Erie Lackawanna train system. Or maybe double the cost of taking any large city's metro system from the 'burbs.

Even with a small difference in price, people will often opt for using their car. It's just a lot easier than riding the bus or light-rail. I take the bus sometimes. I have an incredibly easy route, just one bus to take and it stops within a block on both sides. Still, if it's raining or snowing or really cold, I'll drive because it's better than waiting for the bus in the rain. So, at $7.50/day for driving and maybe $3.50/day for metro service, it's easy to justify the extra $4.

Fast forward to 2008, where gas is $4/gallon, and now you're looking at $12/day. At that point, it makes sense to look for either alternative transportation or increasing the amount of time you work from home. Either way, you're spending more of your day outside the office.

The purpose of emergency notification is to contact the responsible parties during an emergency, wherever they are, whatever time it is. Any notification that relies on your employees being in the office is bound to fail. This is only exacerbated by the new trends towards mass transportation and increased telecommuting. The ability to respond to those emergencies, even if it's just to escalate the alert, from whatever mobile device you are currently using, is critical.

My product, Reliable Response Notification, addresses this problem. By supporting many device types, and multiple devices per person, your monitoring, ticketing and security systems are able to reach your employees on the bus, in their car, at home, at the local coffee shop, wherever. Store-and-forward technologies, like email and SMS, allow the employees to answer at his or her convenience. They don't have to miss the bus to take the call, they can get on the bus and read the message when it suits them. Escalation allows the system to adapt to times when an employee is simply unavailable, whether that's in a tunnel on the BART or because they're on a bike and can't hear the ring.