UMS Case Study: Netherland

UMS deployed the Dutch Ministry’s Next Generation of Public Warning System

UMS deployed the Dutch Ministry’s Next Generation of Public Warning System

With public safety at the top of any government’s agenda, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, realised that a modern public warning systemwas essential for the safety of its citizens. With UMS’ Multi Channel Alert and Notification System, it found a solution that met all of its requirements.

they do not provide information of the nature of the incident, nor does it pro- vide information of what the appropriate response should be. Unless a person is near a TV or a radio broadcasting this information, their response to a siren may actually put them in danger. An example of this would be in the event of flash flooding, where a siren may in- fluence people move inside to watch a BACKGROUND founded in 1798, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations is one of the 13 ministries that make up the Dutch Central government and is comprised of over 3.000 civil servants in addition to the Minister and State Secretary. Its activi- ties include upholding the constitution, guaranteeing the rule of law and ensur- ing public order and safety. The public safety function of the Ministry is carried out by the Directorate of Safety and Se- curity and the Department of National Security, including the National Crisis Centre (the NCC). Located in The Hague, the NCC has been designed to serve as a national hub for crisis management, ensuring that the country has the capabil- ity to react quickly and decisively in the event of large-scale public safety events.

ENSUrINg pUbLIC SAfETy A core function of the NCC is warning the public in the event of disasters and threats to public safety. Prior to 2004, the NCC relied on siren systems, TV and radio broadcasts as channels for public warnings and alerts.

realised that the time had come for an updated approach to public warning.

Steenbakkers continued: “We wanted to approach this project from a people- centric standpoint. We wanted the so- lution to fit actual needs rather than to choose technology for its own sake. For that reason we conducted an in-depth audit of exactly what our requirements were.” NCC recognised that for a public warn- ing system to be successful a number of key factors had to be considered. The solution would need to have the ability to provide information on the na- ture of the alert, rather than just alerting people to an unspecified threat. Sirens work well in alerting a large number of people that something is happening, but

Willy Steenbakkers, Senior Crisis Coordi- nator at NCC at that time described the situation: “The nature of the threats that im- pact on the safety of

the public have changed rapidly in the 21st century. The Netherlands, along with many countries in the West, must face up to threats of terrorism, natural disaster and industrial accidents on a scale never seen before, yet our systems for public warning have remained rooted in mid-20th century technologies”. NCC


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TV broadcast – the exact opposite of what they should be doing which is to evacuate the area. Other requirements for the new public warning system were that it should be real-time, to ensure that the public can be alerted to a disaster as it happens, and robust so that the system does not fail in the event of large-scale disruption to the national infrastructure. MobILISINg pUbLIC wArNINg Once the NCC knew what the public warning system should look like, it start- ed to investigate the best approach to take. As mobile phones are now ubiqui- tous in the Netherlands, it was decided early on that the public warning system should use this as the main communi- cations channel. Steenbakkers com- mented: “the mobile phone is a truly universal device in the Netherlands. There are nearly 125 phones for every 100 people, according to the ITU. There is no other communication channel that can reach directly to so many people and carry the right amount of information we need from our public warning system.” The NCC asked the Netherland’s mobile operators for advice on a text-based so- lution that could alert members of the public within any given geography. The mobile operators recommended a Cell Broadcast based alert system.

UMS Alert System offers real-time service of distributing text messages to mobile handsets, specific to their current location using either location based SMS or Cell Broadcast. Location based SMS allows a government to no- tify, evacuate and/or communicate with large groups of people within any given geographical area. Cell Broadcast is ca- pable of broadcasting one single mes- sage to reach all mobile handsets in any given area. Cell Broadcast only requires radio functionality activated on a mobile phone to receive messages. Cell Broadcast is fast and operates in real-time giving the possibility to send a message to millions of handsets within seconds of time. Cellular Broadcasting distributes geo– referenced uni-directional text messag- es to all mobile phones within a target area; it could reach millions in seconds. Cell Broadcast is fast and operates in real-time giving the possibility to send a message to millions of handsets within seconds. This provided the NCC with the exact solution it required.


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The implementation of Cell Broadcast

As Steenbakkers pointed out: “The trials exceeded our expectations and we have found a public warning system that will be of immense benefit to the public.” The UMS system was integrated with the CBC (Cellular Broadcasting Con- troller) and deployed at three different mobile operators. The system became Europe’s first multi-channel alert sys- tem with Cell Broadcast as the initial channel to be integrated. The Netherlands lead the way The Netherlands lead the way in Europe in its approach to public warning. Sev- eral European countries, most of which have selected UMS as their preferred population alert system, had watched the UMS system closely in the Nether- lands. Due to the different threats and priorities each country faces, they have chosen to use alternative mobile alert solutions. Address based SMS solutions have been deployed throughout Greece and Belgium, as well as British, Dan- ish and Finnish councils alongside loca- tion based SMS solutions implemented in Norway and Sweden. All this has lead UMS to become the leading alert sys- tems provider in Europe, and the only

In 2007, the NCC launched a large-scale Cell Broadcast trial in Zeeland. This area has historically been susceptible to large scale flooding and would benefit greatly from an improved public warning ser- vice. The trial composed of 600 mobile handsets that were given to members of the public and businesses in the re- gion with the Cell Broadcast channel enabled. Message alerts were sent out at unexpected times in order to simu- late an actual event. The results of the trial were impressive showing that the messages got through to 72 - 88 % of the users across the course of the as- sessment. 80 - 94 % of the public par- ticipants appreciated that Cell Broadcast was a useful addition to the use of sirens for public warning. The remaining us- ers had their phones switched off when the messages came through. Based on the success of the trial and the excep- tionally high user-acceptance level, the NCC decided to move ahead with a full implementation of Cell Broadcast in the Netherlands. The NCC chose Centric as their supplier using the technical Cell Broadcast solution of UMS.

one that has integrated various tech- nologies in different countries subject to specific threat scenarios and infra- structures. The NCC’s vision was to see mobile alert technologies deployed across the EU in order to enable public safety warnings across the entire re- gion, ensuring Dutch citizens receive an alert if a threat is faced whilst being in another EU country.

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