An emergency strikes and the power to your facility, building or campus is disrupted, or a human threat endangers personal safety, or a natural disaster puts data security and business operations at risk.
In any of these scenarios, and there are hundreds if not thousands of emergency circumstances your organization might face, the lack of a well-planned Emergency Communication process can make things worse: imperiling people; exposing your network or infrastructure to uncertain risk; compounding a problem by stalling a quick resolution.
Here are five best practices in formulating your Emergency Communication protocol so you can be confident the right people will receive the right messaging when communication is a priority.
1. Create a Team and Identify Roles
Who’s in charge of your emergency communication, and what’s the chain of command? Depending on the size of your organization you will want to assign a single person or a small team to be in charge of creating and managing your emergency preparedness. The individual, or the point-person on the team, will be in charge of planning or supervising incident response, emergency communications and after-event briefing and analysis. The leader should report directly to the stakeholders of your organization: an emergency communication process needs buy-in from everyone.
When creating your team, you may also want to recruit outside liaisons to assist in your communication efforts. As suggested in a paper from the University of Washington: “Collaborate with community leaders within your various populations to help facilitate communications during a crisis … These people may serve as interpreters, translators and cultural navigators, and they will make your communications team more robust. More importantly, they will help you build trust.”
2. Write Templates and Scripts
Once an emergency happens, the processes should already be in place, and the alerts automatic. Writing scripts saves precious minutes during an emergency and may be challenging to compose during a stressful situation. Think through how you will communicate various incidents to your audience via text message, email, your website, a recording at an emergency call-in line, and so on. Keep your messages short and easy to understand. While the actual content may have to be tweaked depending on the exact emergency, it’s faster and easier to tweak a message than to write one from scratch for a multitude of mediums, and even multiple languages, if needed.
3. Test and Drill
By testing and practicing your response to a disaster, you ensure the plan is appropriate and operating correctly, and will make it easier to implement when an actual emergency strikes. Do a fire drill. Send out alerts. Make sure everyone who is assigned a role, knows that role. You don’t have to get the entire company involved but if you do, make sure everyone knows it’s a test and not an actual alert.
Some of the things you’ll want to check during your test, as suggested by the website ready.gov are:
- Can alarm systems be heard throughout the building?
- Can members of the emergency response team be alerted to respond in the middle of the night?
- Is there an alternate facility you can go to in case of an emergency and if so, what sort of preparation or equipment is needed there?
4. Know Your Audience
As reported by ready.gov.com: “Understanding the audiences that a business needs to reach during an emergency is one of the first steps in the development of a crisis communications plan.” You’ll want to ensure the information you communicate is relevant before, during and after the event for each audience. For example, different messaging is likely needed for lower-level employees and management, for off-site and on-site workers, families, suppliers, news media, and so on. A school will likely choose a different tone and information for parents, or to students, than that sent to school staff or administration. You may find it helpful to group people based on their roles, department, location or another criteria.
5. Ensure You Can Reach Multiple Devices
We recently wrote about our new partnership with Cistera, and how their instant communication system can be a life-saver, literally. We still recommend any school or organization consider implementing this emergency alert software system.
We’re also proud of our relationship with Singlewire and their Informacast alert software. Their mass notification system is used by more than 6,000 organizations worldwide. Singlewire has long been known for audio paging, but their messaging capabilities include phone calls, SMS text messages, push notifications, desktop pop-ups, and even social media posts. Their equipment can integrate with multiple devices including mobile devices, desktops, IP speakers, digital signage, panic buttons and more. As Singlewire says, they “connect people when and where it matters.”
Contact us to learn more about how Single Path and Singlewire’s Informacast can help keep your organization connected and alert in an emergency.