How to Send Mobile Text Alerts & Emergency Text Messages
How to Send Mobile Text Alerts & Emergency Text Messages

Guide to Text Notification Systems for Text Message Alerts and Emergency Messages

You need to reach a bunch of people—fast. 

What’s the best way to do it?

  • Email? Takes too long for people to read and respond to messages
  • Voice? Auto-dialers help, but calling everyone on a contact list takes way too long
  • Internal messaging tool? Efficient, but everyone needs to be a user of the platform

So what’s the most universal and accessible way to send a message to all contacts at once?

Mobile text alerts.

In this article, I cover:

  • What mobile text message alerts are
  • What emergency text alerts are (there’s a difference—hint, it has to do with opt-in)
  • 4 reasons why text alerts work for emergencies, updates, and more
  • Text alerts vs. email alerts and phone calls
  • How to set up a text alert system, like MessageDesk
  • 8 ways to use text alert systems with examples
  • Text alert frequently asked questions (FAQ)

By the end, you'll know everything about text alerts. This includes how to text updates, alert about emergencies, and communicate instantly with contacts, customers, employees, and teams.

Read on for more.

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4 Reasons Why Text Alerts Work for Emergencies, Updates, and More

There’s plenty of proof that text messages have clear advantages over email and voice

This is partly because texts are direct, immediate, and highly accessible. Which makes them highly effective for both business purposes and emergency situations. 

Below are four reasons why text alerts work.

1. Text alerts are great for direct and immediate communication

Text alerts give you a direct and immediate way to reach people. Your messages get delivered directly to mobile phones. 

This high visibility means more engagement in both business and emergency contexts. Texting gives you the ability to quickly convey important information.

2. Text alerts have up to 98% open rates and 36% click rates

Text messages have high engagement rates compared to email and phone calls. 

For reference, the average open rate for an email is around 20%. 

But text messages get up to 98% open rates

The same holds true for click rates. Texts with links have around a 36% click rate - emails get around 2%.

3. Text messages are universally accessible on mobile devices

Text alerts are an inclusive communication method—some 5.1 billion people use mobile devices globally. This makes it possible to reach a broad audience, including individuals who may not have access to the internet or smartphones. 

Accessibility is especially important in emergency SOS situations where timely information is vital for public safety.

4. Text alerts are immediate and actionable

Text alerts often include concise instructions or calls to action (CTAs). CTAs make the next steps and desired actions clear to message recipients. 

Common CTAs include: 

  • Learn more
  • Get info
  • Buy now
  • Save 20%
  • Schedule today
  • Confirm appointment
  • Cancel appointment
  • View invoice
  • Leave review

As you can see, all of the above are direct and actionable. Each CTA encourages prompt response and sets expectations for further engagement.

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Text alerts vs. email alerts  

Text alerts have a tremendous advantage over email alerts.

Recent data shows that SMS text messages have a 108% greater open rate than email. Plus, only 17% of users have zero unread emails. But almost two-thirds of people have zero unread text messages. 

Put simply, people are much more likely to read texts than emails. This makes sending them a text message a better choice for your emergency notification system.

Text alerts vs. phone calls 

76% of consumers don’t like talking on the phone with businesses. And one in four won’t listen to a voicemail from an unknown number. 

So, as part of an emergency alert system for businesses, phone calls can’t compete with alert texts. People are also far less likely to pick up or call back. And mass calling isn’t feasible or practical in an emergency situation.

Text alerts vs. email alerts vs. phone calls

Text Alerts Email Alerts Phone Calls
Reach and Accessibility Widespread accessibility on mobile devices Accessibility on internet-connected devices Requires access to a working phone line or mobile service
Immediate Communication High open rates and immediate visibility Lower open and response rates compared to text alerts Fewer people answer the phone and listen to voicemails
Engagement and Response Quick engagement and response Delayed response times and slower communication Takes time to place individual phone calls
Message Length Limited space for content and detailed information Ability to convey detailed information and visuals Ability to address nuanced or sensitive matters
Interruption and Intrusiveness Non-intrusive and can be read at recipient's convenience May be marked as spam or filtered out Can be intrusive and disruptive
Cost-Effectiveness Cost-effective communication channel Cost-effective for large-scale communication Higher costs, especially for large-scale communication

How to Set Up a Text Alert System

It's clear that text messages have advantages over email and voice - especially in urgent situations. 

But what steps do you need to take to set up a mass text alert system or emergency text alert system?

Below I’ve included a step-by-step for getting started and evaluating your options.

1. Choose a text alert system

There are a bunch of mass text notification systems available. But there are several key features you’ll want to look for when evaluating solutions.

The first key feature is high-volume carrier-verified text messaging—also known as 10DLC

This feature makes it possible to register a campaign and get near 100% delivery rates. Without this, you can only send a limited number of texts, and delivery isn’t guaranteed.

Note: MessageDesk’s text message broadcasts do support high-volume, carrier-verified 10DLC messaging.

The second grouping of features you’ll want to look for are:

  • Text message scheduling
  • Support for templates, tags, links, and media
  • Keyword-based autoresponder texts
  • Contact list management and custom fields
  • And integrations (depending on your messaging needs)

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2. Create a free account or hop on a demo

You’ll want to start a free trial or hop on a demo once you've found a text alert system for your business or organization. This gives you time to get answers to questions and test the platform's capabilities. 

Note: you're always free to meet with a MessageDesk messaging expert for a demo.

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3. Choose an SMS phone number

Most text alert providers also offer a range of text-enabled phone number options. In most cases, you can:

  1. Get a new business text number for sending alerts
  2. Port or host your existing business number for alerts
  3. Text-enable an existing business landline or VoIP number for text alerts
Note: MessageDesk supports all of the above phone number options. It also allows you to text from a local 10-digit number or a 1-800 toll-free phone number.

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4. Import and segment your contacts into groups and lists

Once you’ve got your SMS phone number configured, you’ll want to upload contact lists. MessageDesk makes this easy with built-in CSV upload and custom fields. 

Plan on sending promotional messages for SMS marketing? Keep in mind that TCPA compliance requires contacts to opt-in to receive promotional messages first. 

SMS subscriber systems like MessageDesk can help you get and track this consent automatically. It’s also easy to segment and add emergency contact lists for quickly sending emergency messages and different types of alerts.

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5. Pre-save text message templates with tags, links, and media

Text message templates save you from the tedious task of typing the same message each time you broadcast a text alert. They also allow you to keep a queue of emergency messages ready until you need them. 

A business texting service like MessageDesk makes it easy to customize and personalize your text messages. You can even:

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6. Schedule broadcasts

Many text alert services, like MessageDesk, make it easy to schedule text messages to individuals and groups of contacts. 

Scheduled text messages to groups are often called broadcasts or text blasts

This feature makes it possible to reach everyone at a scheduled time with an emergency notification, alert, or update.

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7. Set up keyword-based autoresponder automation  

Autoresponders are a type of automated text message. They work particularly well for SMS text alerts and SMS emergency alerts because they’re activated with keywords. 

For example: you could set up a keyword like UPDATES or ALERTS and use that as a prompt. 

Someone can text that keyword prompt to your number. Then, they’re automatically subscribed to emergency messaging or notifications from your organization.

Similarly, you can use autoresponders to chain automatic replies and responses together into text message sequences. 

This workflow works particularly well for:

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8. Connect your text alert systems to integrations like Zapier

Integrations like Zapier can help you send automatic text alerts and emergency messages. 

Zapier has its own limited SMS option (SMS by Zapier). But you can also integrate it with an SMS notification system like MessageDesk. This further enables emergency mass text messaging with more advanced workflows and features.

With MessageDesk and Zapier you can do the following and more:

  • Add or update a contact: You can use Zapier to sync contacts into MessageDesk.
  • Add contact to a group: Zapier allows you to edit MessageDes contacts automatically.
  • Send a message: Zapier can trigger MessageDesk to send a text alert to everyone on your emergency contacts list.

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8 Ways to Use Text Alert Systems + Emergency Message Templates

You know what to look for and how to get started with text alerts and how to send an emergency alert to someone’s iPhone or Android.

Now, let’s look at some real-world text alert use cases and emergency broadcast message examples.

Emergency text message alerts

Almost every business or organization has a need for emergency text alerts. Your situations may vary, but here are a few emergency message templates:

Fire danger emergency alert

ATTENTION EVERYONE: Fire danger. Please exit C Building at once.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Code red emergency message

ATTENTION: a code red is in progress. Please seek shelter immediately and await further instructions.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Public health emergency alert

As the HEALTH ISSUE impacts our region, we’re working to meet customer needs while doing our part to mitigate this issue. We will continue to provide additional guidance as new information becomes available.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

HR managers and recruiters

Managers and HR professionals benefit tremendously from having the ability to text employees and staff members. Texting even works for staffing and recruitment as well.

Email and voice are also possible options. But they lack the speed, responsiveness, and scalability. They’re not always ideal as an employee or staff emergency notification system.

Application status update

Hello {{ FirstName }}, we appreciate your interest in {{ OrganizationName }}. Your application for the {{ JobTitle }} position is currently under review. We will provide an update soon.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Onboarding reminder

Friendly Reminder: Your first day at {{ OrganizationName }} is tomorrow. Please arrive at {{ Time }} in {{ Location }} with your completed onboarding documents. We look forward to welcoming you!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Training announcement

Attention {{ Team }}: A mandatory training session on {{ TrainingTopic }} has been scheduled for {{ Date }} at {{ Time }}. Please ensure your attendance for important updates and skill development.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Return to office employee alert

Hi {{ FirstName }}, just letting you know that all remote workers must return to the office by 02/15. Type PROBLEM if you have a conflict.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Overtime availability SMS alert

It’s that time again. Please let us know if you’re available to work any overtime shifts next month. Questions? Send them to us and we’ll get back to you ASAP. Thanks!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Out-of-office text alert

Hey {{ FirstName }}, I’m out of the office starting {{ StartDate }} through {{ EndDate }}. I’ll be back on {{ Return Date }}. Please contact {{ FirstName }} at {{ EmailAddress }} for immediate assistance. Otherwise, I’ll respond ASAP once I’m back. {{ FirstName }}, {{ OrganizationName }}

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Timecard due text alert

Attention staff members: Please submit your completed timecards by this {{ Day }} at {{ Time }} to ensure you receive a paycheck. Questions? Let us know and we’ll respond ASAP. Thanks!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Safety and facility managers

Safety and facility managers need a robust communication link between the people they protect and supervise. However, safety and facility managers may end up in areas with no internet access during an emergency.

Text messages travel through telecom networks instead of the Internet. As a result, safety and facility managers gain confidence. They can send emergency texts from anywhere and reach someone even if their phone is on silent.

Safety drill reminder

Reminder: Safety drill tomorrow at {{ Time }} in {{ Location }}. Please participate actively and follow the designated safety procedures. Your cooperation ensures a safer workplace. Thank you.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Equipment maintenance alert

Alert: Scheduled maintenance of {{ EquipmentName }} is planned on {{ Date }} from {{ StartTime }} to {{ EndTime }}. Please plan accordingly, and if required, arrange for alternative resources. Contact us for any questions.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Hazardous material spill notification

URGENT: Hazardous material spill detected in {{ Area }}. Follow evacuation procedures immediately. Emergency response teams are on-site. Avoid the affected area until further notice.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Security incident update

Security Update: An isolated security incident occurred at {{ Location }}. Security measures have been heightened, and the situation is under control. Continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Fire alarm testing notice

Testing Notice: Fire alarm system testing scheduled on {{ Date }} from {{ StartTime }} to {{ EndTime }}. During this period, alarm activations may occur. No cause for alarm. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Evacuation drill announcement

Announcement: An evacuation drill is planned for {{ Date }} at {{ Time }}. Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and assembly points. Your participation ensures preparedness. Thank you.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Safety training workshop registration

Registration Open: Join our upcoming Safety Training Workshop on {{ Date }} at {{ Location }}. Learn essential safety practices and enhance workplace safety culture. Register at {{ RegistrationWebsite }}. Limited seats are available.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Logistics and dispatch

Many transport and logistics businesses rely heavily on text software for internal and external communications, with drivers, customers, and other stakeholders. 

Shipment status update

Good news! Your package with tracking number {{ TrackingNumber }} has been successfully delivered to its destination. Thank you for choosing our logistics services!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Delay notification

Attention: Due to unforeseen circumstances, there is a delay in the delivery of your shipment. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to expedite the process. We will provide updates soon.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Pickup reminder

Friendly reminder: Please ensure that your shipment is ready for pickup at {{ PickupLocation }} at {{ ScheduledTime }}. Our driver will be there shortly. Thank you.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Delivery rescheduling

Important: We regret to inform you that the delivery of your shipment has been rescheduled to {{ NewDeliveryDate }}. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your understanding.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Special handling instructions

Attention: Your shipment requires special handling. Please ensure fragile items are properly packed and labeled. Contact our customer service if you have any specific instructions or concerns.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Delivery confirmation

Great news! Your shipment has been successfully delivered to {{ FirstName }} at {{ DeliveryAddress }}. Thank you for choosing our logistics services. Let us know if you have any feedback!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Route change alert

Alert: Due to road closures on {{ StreetName }}, our delivery route has been modified. Deliveries may experience slight delays. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Last-mile delivery notification

Exciting update! Your package is out for last-mile delivery. Our driver will arrive at your address between {{ TimeFrame }}. Please ensure someone is available to receive the shipment.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

School administrators

A school text service can be a great tool for K -12 schools and higher education institutions. 

Text alert software for mass texting emergencies can give school administrators more ability to manage situations. This includes situations like class cancellations, construction on campus, and school closures. 

Text alerts for schools (personalized)

Hi {{ FirstName }}: Due to a plumbing problem, Mr. Widmarkd's 1 p.m. chemistry class in room 107 is canceled. Thank you.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Student attendance and notices to parents SMS alert

Hi {{ FirstName }} {{ Student }} missed 2 classes this week. Please contact the attendance office to discuss this.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

School closure and reopening SMS alert

Parents, faculty, and staff: campus will be closed today due to heavy snowfall. Please check your email and our website {{ Link }} for more information about closure plans for the rest of the week.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Report card and grade notification SMS alert

Attention parents. Report cards will be available today at 3 pm for grades 6-8. Please review them with your student and sign the report card.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

IT professionals

Whether it's system setups or software development, IT professionals have a constant need to alert their team members or company stakeholders.

They can use emergency text message systems to notify team members of emergency meetings, system shutdowns, and protocol changes.

Servers down text alert

Attention: Our systems are currently experiencing an outage. IT technicians are working to resolve the issue. We apologize for the inconvenience and will provide updates shortly.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Password expiry alert reminder

Reminder: Your account password will expire in 3 days. Please visit {{ PasswordResetURL}} to change your password and ensure uninterrupted access to our systems. Thank you.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Scheduled maintenance notification

Notice: Planned maintenance is scheduled for {{ Date }} from {{ StartTime}} to {{ EndTime }}. During this period, there may be intermittent system availability. We appreciate your understanding.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Security alert text

URGENT: A potential security breach has been detected. Please refrain from clicking on any suspicious links or opening unknown attachments. Contact the IT department immediately if you have any concerns.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Phishing awareness reminder

Attention: Beware of phishing attempts. Do not share sensitive information or click on suspicious links. Remember, IT will never ask for your password via email or text. Stay vigilant!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Local municipalities and governments

Local city and town officials can use SMS to alert staff and residents. SMS works well for notifying people about blocked roads, power outages, and hazards due to foul weather or fallen power lines.

Road closure notification

Traffic Alert: {{ StreetName }} will be closed between {{ StartTime }} and {{End Time}} for maintenance. Please use alternative routes. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Water service interruption

Service Alert: Planned water service interruption on {{ Date }} from {{ StartTime }} to {{ EndTime }} in your area. We are working to improve infrastructure. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Community event announcement

Community Event: Join us for {{ EventName }} happening on {{ Date }} at {{ Location }}. Fun activities, live entertainment, and more. Visit {{ EventWebsite }} for details. See you there!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Public meeting reminder

Reminder: Don't forget! The {{ Topic }} public meeting is tomorrow at {{ Time }} in {{ Location }}. Share your feedback and contribute to community discussions. Your voice matters!

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Banks and financial institutions

Timely alerts are essential when it comes to finances. Text alerts can help banks and financial services better protect their customers from unusual activity or the possibility of having a negative balance.

Account balance alert

Account Alert: Your current account balance is {{ Balance }}. Please review your transactions and ensure sufficient funds are available for upcoming payments. Contact us for any assistance.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Transaction notification

Transaction alert: A debit/credit transaction of {{ Amount }} has been made on your account ending in {{ Last4Digits }}. If unauthorized, please contact us immediately.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Overdraft warning

Important: Your account is approaching its overdraft limit. Please make a deposit to avoid overdraft fees and ensure uninterrupted account access. Contact us for more information.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Fraud alert

URGENT: Potential fraudulent activity detected on your account. If you did not authorize the transaction, please call our fraud hotline at {{Fraud Hotline Number}} immediately.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Payment due reminder

Reminder: Your payment of {{ Amount }} is due on {{ DueDate }}. Please ensure sufficient funds are available in your account for timely payment. Contact us if you have any questions.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Card activation notification

Card Activation Alert: Your new {{ CardType }} ending in {{ Last4Digits }} is now activated. You can start using your card for secure transactions. Contact us if you have any concerns.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Security update

Security Alert: To enhance account security, please update your password regularly. Visit our website or call our customer support for instructions on changing your password.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

ATM withdrawal confirmation

Transaction Confirmation: A withdrawal of {{ Amount }} was made from your account at {{ ATMLocation }}. If this transaction is unauthorized, please contact us immediately.

Delivered 01/06/23, 07:01 am

Emergency Text Alert Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to text alerts and emergency text messages.

Can I send emergency text alerts from my personal phone?

It depends, provided you’ve signed up with a business text messaging service like MessageDesk. In most cases, you can easily host or port your 10-digit business phone number for business and texting purposes.

How many people can I text with a text alert system?

The number of people you can text with a text alert system varies depending on the service or platform used. Some systems have limitations on the number of recipients, while others can handle thousands or even millions. It's important to choose a scalable solution that meets your needs.

Can I add photos and pictures to my text alerts?

Yes, business text message services like MessageDesk allow you to personalize your text alerts. This includes adding pre-saved tags, links, and reusable text message templates. In addition, your text messages can contain MMS images, GIFs, and other media.

Can I send a text alert for free?

No, you can’t send text alerts for free. To send text alerts and emergency texts at scale you’ll need a texting service verified for high-volume text messaging.

How do people opt-in to my text alerts?

They can join an SMS mailing list by texting a unique keyword like SUBSCRIBE or JOIN to your marketing number. You can also have a click-to-text button or a sign-up option on your website.

What types of phone numbers can I use to send text alerts?

Most text alert software is compatible with 10-digit local, toll-free, virtual text numbers, and short-code phone numbers.

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Ready to launch a text alert or emergency SMS alert system?

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