First Aid Charity Finds SMS Solution a Lifesaver

UK first aid charity St John Ambulance has selected an autonomous web-based SMS solution from Text Messaging Centre (TMC) to communicate efficiently with hundreds of volunteers throughout Lancashire. The solution, accessible via the web, enables unit leaders to contact volunteers and staff quickly in the event of an emergency. An additional ‘Campaign’ feature fully automates the recruitment, allowing instant incoming replies from volunteers and automatically sending the appropriate response.

The instantaneous nature of TMC’s SMS solution has prompted quicker response rates from registered volunteers, resulting in significant time savings for the not-for-profit organisation, as well as providing a more convenient communication channel for its volunteers.

Since deploying the solution, St John Ambulance has seen a significant reduction in the time spent calling volunteers to find out their availability in the case of an emergency, or for upcoming events.

Daniel Geddes, Operations Coordinator for St John Ambulance Lancashire, says: “Communication with our staff and volunteers is fundamental to the successful running of the organisation. The majority of our unit personnel are volunteers and generally have full-time jobs in addition to St John Ambulance activities; determining their availability therefore is an extensive task. SMS offers ease both for staff who require instant communication to recruit volunteers to attend in the event of an incident, and for the volunteers who directly receive the SMS and can respond quickly and at their convenience.”

The Campaign feature was developed by TMC specifically for the recruitment of temporary staff, offering organisations like St John Ambulance the ability to fill positions in an instant with minimal input. Campaign automates workflow by managing volunteers into their relevant groups based on the nature of the response given – for example: “Reply YES if you are available to attend an event this evening”.

The feature also allows for the required number of volunteers to be specifically defined, and once this figure is achieved, all further responses are collated in a reserve group to facilitate straightforward contact if last minute replacements are required. 

“This feature is extremely beneficial to an organisation like ours, where the recruitment of staff is timely,” adds Geddes. “The TMC solution manages all responses, enabling us to ensure critical positions are rapidly filled, significantly streamlining our operations, and enabling the message to simultaneously reach our team of volunteers at the click of a button. Each volunteer also receives an automated response message advising if they are required or whether we have already filled the allocated quota.”

The campaign feature also enables the charity to group volunteers and staff by qualification –  First Aiders, Advanced First Aiders, Emergency Transport, and Basic Transport – enabling allowing direct contact in minutes with those required for any given incident.

TMC’s SMS solution is web-based, so can be accessed from any computer; all messages are fully auditable and compliant through the interface. One of the key attractions for St John Ambulance in the selection of the system was TMC’s ability to deliver both cost efficiency and reliability for the not-for-profit organisation. Geddes explains, “The number of SMS messages we send will fluctuate throughout the year, as many of our services are reactive to what is happening at the time, with peaks in activity during summer months. However, on average we expect to be sending in excess of 3,000 text messages per month and TMC offers us the most cost-effective way to communicate to staff and volunteers.”

Geddes adds that the charity is finding other areas where SMS can streamline existing processes, such as alerting paid ambulance crews of their rota, and detailing any overtime shifts available. He concludes: “Since implementing and operating the text messaging solution we have realised just how valuable SMS is to our organisation, encouraging greater replies, fundamentally improving response times and critically reducing the administrative burden of telephone calls – enabling our organisation to focus on the more important first aid tasks at hand.”