Nextdoor in the World of Emergency Notification Systems

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Nextdoor, the private social network for neighborhoods, is reshaping the emergency notification landscape as a powerful addition to public agencies’ emergency communications toolkit. The network has evolved into an emergency notification system due to two of its core features: the Urgent Alert and the Emergency Alert.

Urgent Alerts are resident-created Nextdoor posts that users immediately receive via email, push notification and/or text message. Nextdoor users should only use Urgent Alerts in rare situations to instantly disseminate time-sensitive, critical information. All Nextdoor residents are able to post Urgent Alerts, but these alerts are limited to the poster’s Neighborhood and to 110 characters in length.

In contrast, Emergency Alerts are available only to public agencies. Nextdoor partners with thousands of public agencies across the country–including police departments, fire departments and cities–that can send these alerts to specific Neighborhoods or to their entire Service Area. Residents receive immediate messages via text message, app notifications and emails that convey time-sensitive information. Agencies can include relevant images and may choose to allow residents to reply to these alerts on the web or on the mobile app. There is no character limit for these alerts, although residents who opt in to receiving text emergency alerts will receive a message that includes the first 110 characters of the alert.

These two features place Nextdoor in an interesting niche among well-established emergency alert systems such as Nixle, a system that over 8,000 U.S. public agencies have adopted for emergency notifications. These established systems have low subscription rates in many regions, since the public is often unaware of the option to subscribe to alerts. Or they may simply be disinterested in the service.

Compared to Nixle, Nextdoor has a much larger built-in community of subscribers and can enhance emergency alert outreach efforts. With the introduction of Nextdoor Urgent and Emergency Alerts, residents may view Nextdoor as an official emergency alert platform and be less inclined to subscribe to platforms like Nixle.

As your public agency leverages Nextdoor to send emergency notifications, consider the following tips:

1. Encourage users to opt in to mobile alerts.

While Nextdoor designed Urgent and Emergency Alerts to be distributed via email, push notification and text message, users will only receive the alert via text message if they have added a mobile number to their account. Regularly remind your Nextdoor community to enable mobile alerts to ensure they receive your agency’s Emergency Alerts via text message.

2. Make sure the essential parts of your message are short and placed first.

Since text message versions of your Emergency Alert will only show the first 110 characters, it is important that messages are appropriately crafted to get key points across at the beginning.

3. Ensure message consistency across all emergency alert platforms.

Emergency notifications with different content from multiple platforms may cause confusion among residents. When sending an Emergency Alert, ensure your Nextdoor message is consistent with messages going out through your agency’s other emergency notification systems. Your agency may be able to reach more residents through multiple platforms, but it is important for residents to receive consistent messages that don’t make them wonder which platform to trust.

Tripepi Smith provides Nextdoor support in its work with clients, such as the City of Millbrae and the City of Culver City. Our team stands ready to help your agency with its Nextdoor strategy. Contact us for help today.