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Nextdoor in the World of Emergency Notification Systems

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Nextdoor, the private social network for neighborhoods, has evolved into an emergency notification system with one of its core features: the Urgent Alert. The Urgent Alert is a type of Nextdoor post that is immediately disseminated to users via email, push notification (if the app is installed on their phone and notification permissions are granted) and/or text message. It is intended only for rare situations when time-sensitive, critical information must be communicated instantly.

While Urgents Alert are available for both Nextdoor and Nextdoor for Public Agencies, residents can send Urgent Alerts only to members within their own neighborhoods while public agencies can send alerts to specific neighborhoods or the entire service area.

The feature places Nextdoor in an interesting position among well-established emergency alert systems like Nixle, a system that over 8,000 U.S. agencies have adopted for emergency notifications. With Urgent Alerts, Nextdoor offers similar capabilities to traditional systems, making it even more helpful to public agencies but also risking confusion for residents.

As has been reported in Sonoma County, the emergency alert system was woefully undersubscribed, resulting in few residents actually receiving information. The low subscription rates were reflective of a detached public who was either unaware of the option to subscribe to alerts or disinterested in the service. With the introduction of Nextdoor Urgent Alerts, residents may wonder whether Nextdoor an official emergency alert platform and be less inclined to subscribe to public agencies’ official platforms. Alternatively, public agencies may find themselves reevaluating their use of traditional solutions like Nixle. Compared to Nixle, Nextdoor has a much larger built-in community of subscribers and can enhance emergency alert outreach efforts.

Public agencies already had a lot to consider when it comes to their Nextdoor strategy. In addition to greater public awareness about the need to heed official emergency alert platforms, the introduction of Urgent Alerts has increased the complexity of Nextdoor strategies.

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

Users Must Opt Into Mobile Alerts

While Nextdoor designed the Urgent Alert 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. If your public agency must send an Urgent Alert, it would be best if the users opted for text message alerts. Regularly remind your Nextdoor community to enable mobile alerts to ensure they receive Urgent Alerts via text message from your agency.

Message Consistency is Key

Emergency notifications from multiple platforms may raise confusion among residents. When sending an Urgent Alert, ensure your message is consistent with other 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.

Nextdoor’s Limitations

The Urgent Alert may be a precursor for Nextdoor to develop a more complex alert system that is more competitive to other notification systems. Nextdoor doesn’t yet meet the needs of people who have disabilities and speak different languages. Although free, Nextdoor has great potential as an emergency notification system once these limitations are addressed.

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.

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