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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Digital Tripwires

Any good emergency plan includes sources of information that can help a planner anticipate future events.  They use this information so that they can act now to lessen any negative impacts.  The general term used is, tripwires.  These can include things such as economic indicators, or a Civil Defense siren sounding, or a tornado alert being issued.

How can you position yourself to ensure you receive these alerts or information in a timely basis?  Some items, because of their nature, won't be reported until the emergency has already occurred.  An example of this would be a train car full of a dangerous substance overturning.  You can make plans for such an accident, but you can't normally predict when or where it will happen.

Most communities have some sort of emergency alert system that will report this.  It may include notification through the TV or radio.  Our county has an automated phone system that calls home phone numbers that might be affected by an accident or other similar incident.

As I noted in Emergency Notifications, California has a fantastic alert system that uses email or SMS text messages to make notifications.  Just yesterday, I got notification of a tornado that had actually formed in my city here in Northern California!

It worked like a charm.  Our personal Shelter In Place, and GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) plans were immediately put on alert.  The storm passed fairly quickly, and we didn't need to put either plan into effect - but we were ready, because we were informed.

What about slower moving incidents or trends?  Things like the economy, world events or proposed legislation.  How do you gather the information you need without having to read every single newspaper, blog post or magazine that is out there?

I use Google Alerts.

These allow you to receive email notification whenever your particular item-of-interest is posted anywhere on the Internet.  Any news article, any blog post - anywhere.

They work best when you have very specific and unique search strings.  You "focus" the search by placing the search words in quotes.  For instance, I have one set up to keep tabs on a piece of California legislation on Shall Issue gun permits.  It is called AB 357.  If I just put in AB 357 as the string, I'll get alerts on anything with AB in it, and anything with 357 in it.

Information overload.

If I make the search, "AB 357" - putting the whole string in quotes, I will only get alerts when the entire string is published somewhere.

You can set the alerts to email you immediately, once a day or once a week.  You can have them search everything on the Internet ('comprehensive'), just the news, or even just stuff that is in video form.

Take a look at these economic tripwires one person has established.

If you were to agree with these indicators, you could set up Alerts for, "dollar index", "ARM mortgage resets" or "wholesale food prices".


The Google alerts allow you to use any email account (even non-Gmail accounts) to receive the notifications, but you have much more flexibility to manage and update your alerts if you have a Gmail account.  It can be a bit of a pain setting up a Gmail account, as you must first set up a Google account, which is tied to an outside email address.  I have no idea why they make it so difficult to do this, but they're all now gazillionaires, so they must know what they're doing.

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What things need to happen to make certain parts of your emergency preps kick into action?  Natural  disasters?  Specific business failures or earnings reports?  Overseas financial trends?  Inflation?  Deflation?

I also have them set up to report any time my business is mentioned on the Internet, or when any of my business partners are mentioned.  It helps me keep up with any good or bad things being published.  I can then take advantage of an opportunity, or squash inaccurate information before it spreads.

If you haven't set up tripwires - things that must happen before you act on a part of your plan - you need to do so immediately.  Being caught off-guard does not have to happen.  Free, easily-customizable tools are available to keep you informed of the world around you.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

I've got a weather radio and that's about it. cell phones don't work at the house so anything that comes over them wouldn't always work for me.

Chief Instructor said...

Our weather around here generally doesn't warrant a weather radio. We just don't have enough severe weather to justify it. After the tornado warning, though, I might re-think that!