A few months ago I posted about how we were building an emergency texting communication option for our 400+ home HOA (homeowners association). Our area had a tornado in May and power was down in our HOA development for about 24 hours, so I looked into our options for texting and found a pretty good deal through GraphicMail to buy texting credits that can be used at any time from now until whenever, no expiration. You can see our previous posts about it here and here.
I talked to the President of our Homeowners Association and she agreed it was a good idea, the HOA could use it in case of another future power outage to distribute emergency information to our neighbors.
We use Wild Apricot for our Homeowners Association web site, and all households have a member record that they can directly update. We quickly added a field for members to include their cell phone number, and about a month ago we used the Wild Apricot emailing feature to email all members to request that they add their cell phone number in the database IF it could accept text messaging. Texting would only be used in case of emergencies. Members slowly did this.
I sent the email out again the week before Hurricane Irene arrived here, and activity picked up – particularly AFTER Irene. We were fortunate, we did not lose power in our neighborhood, but many local neighborhoods did, some for 2-3 days. Timing is everything. Our development is next to a creek, and this week our area is expected to receiving flood-causing rains from Tropical Storm Lee, and I expect there to be another surge of folks to be added to the list. I will be sending an email to those who have not participated to ask them to do so as a reminder.
What is really surprising about this is how cheap this is. We spent $50 for the GraphicMail credits, which are good forever, and should allow us from 1000-2000 sent texts before we need to add more. We only have about 20% of the neighborhood on the texting list at this point, which means we have to use it in a daisy-chain delivery – the recipient will need to tell his/her neighbors about any emergency text messages. We are not likely to get to 100% participation in this – I’ve had neighbors brag to me about how they have gotten along all their lives without a cell phone and don’t need one now – but for $50 it can be a heck of a timely investment.
And it goes to show how valuable an easily expanded online membership database can be for collecting information like this. Again, it can’t get to everyone, as there are still folks in our neighborhood that don’t use the Internet, but for those that do, it opens up so many opportunities and speeds up the delivery considerably.
Clearly, the emergency texting option is something that all Home Owner Associations probably should consider, at least, particularly because the price isn’t overwhelming. But it may fit into the needs of other associations as well. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that conferences and annual meetings may benefit from this. There could be other uses as well. For the cost, it’s worth an association’s consideration.