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Communicating with the Workforce During Emergencies: Developing an Employee Text Messaging Program in a Local Public Health Setting

HN Karasz, S Bogan, and L Bosslet (2014)
Public Health Reports, 129(Suppl 4):61-66.

Short message service (SMS) text messaging can be useful for communicating information to public health employees and improving workforce situational awareness during emergencies. We sought to understand how the 1,500 employees at Public Health - Seattle & King County, Washington, perceived barriers to and benefits of participation in a voluntary, employer-based SMS program. Based on employee feedback, we developed the system, marketed it, and invited employees to opt in. The system was tested during an ice storm in January 2012. Employee concerns about opting into an SMS program included possible work encroachment during non-work time and receiving excessive irrelevant messages. Employees who received messages during the weather event reported high levels of satisfaction and perceived utility from the program. We conclude that text messaging is a feasible form of communication with employees during emergencies. Care should be taken to design and deploy a program that maximizes employee satisfaction.