Whether your employees are on-site or traveling on behalf of your business, your company is responsible for their safety. While a crisis management plan is required to deal with severe weather emergencies, it can’t be executed without a communications plan to support.
According to the 2017 Emergency Communication Report conducted by BCI, “organizations took between 31-60 minutes to deploy their emergency communications plan.”
Given that you might have just a few minutes warning that a tornado or severe weather is about to hit, that isn’t enough time to notify employees.
Many organizations think they have crisis management covered because they have a communications plan, but the plan is only as good as the data that supports it. This is why regular exercises are beneficial, as they’ll help you expose both weaknesses in your data and in your plan.
Before you begin tuning up your EMNS, sign up for FEMA emergency alerts, which can help give you and your BC team a head start should a disaster hit. Now, let’s jump into seven ways you can tune up your EMNS to support your crisis communications plan.
7 Ways to Tune Up Your EMNS
1. Confirm that Your Data is Accurate
In order for everyone to receive your messages during an emergency, it’s imperative that employee contact data is entered into your EMNS system accurately. You’ll likely need to work with HR to gain access to a list of current employees, their phone numbers and email addresses. With contact information in flux, you’ll need to append this data regularly, maybe even once a quarter. If you’d like to avoid using (and updating) personal contact information of employees, you can find EMNS solutions that utilize a mobile application for notifying employees. The catch here is making sure that everyone downloads the application on their mobile device so all employees can be contacted.
2. Test Your System
To make sure your system is set up correctly and that messages are delivered, send a test message to yourself or your BC team members on a regular basis. If a problem does occur when testing your system, reach out to the support team of your EMNS provider. Also, even if your message is delivered effectively to recipients, the message may not be ‘heard’ if they can’t identify the sender. Without some context, employees might think it’s spam. So, it’s important to inform your employees on how to identify a message from your company. Encourage them to save your company emergency number as a contact in their phone, so they’ll know exactly who’s calling.
3. Train and Prepare Recipients
Because real emergencies don’t occur every day, it’s important to educate employees on how they’ll be notified and what messages will look like. Hold a company-wide meeting or send an email reminding employees how they will receive messages and how to react in an actual emergency. Make sure employees understand your planned communication methods, how they can respond, and who to contact in an emergency if they have questions.
4. Use Multiple Methods of Communication
To make sure your messages are received, use multiple forms of communication to reach everyone. Text messaging is often an ideal method of communication, but if cell service is disabled due to a real emergency, you could send a message out via the downloaded mobile app. You could also utilize a conference call to bridge the gap and reach more people at once. Additionally, social media is a great option when you need to notify employees and the general public in instances when your office or a store location is closed due to an emergency.
5. Write Notification Messages Ahead of Time
Instead of writing your notification messages in the middle of an emergency, write them ahead of time. Because you’re likely to be dealing with a barrage of questions and tasks during an actual emergency, writing your messages beforehand will save you the time and headache of doing so in the middle of disaster. You can also get in-advance feedback from your BC team on the clarity of your message. Save your approved messages as templates for reuse in the future. Now you’ve got one less task during an emergency.
6. Establish an Alert Approval Workflow
Implement an alert approval workflow that allows designated approvers to edit, approve, or reject proposed alerts. Within your ENMS system, you can likely utilize role- and scenario-based permissions, which require that alerts are approved before being sent. As part of your alert approval workflow, have backup contacts established in the event the determining employee is unavailable on the day of an emergency. You don’t want to have a single point of failure in a diligently created crisis plan.
7. Perform Exercises Regularly
Now that you’ve tested the efficacy of your ENMS software, it’s time to perform recurring exercises. An exercise requires that you simulate an emergency, bringing together your ENMS software and the people designated to use it. Simulate an actual emergency—perhaps spontaneously—to see how well your technology performs and how your employees react and receive it. Don’t be afraid to branch out and add in additional contingencies to these exercises, such as the power being out, or certain doorways being blocked. Do this twice a year to ensure everything is properly set up and running smoothly when it counts. Exercises also help to determine your message receipt rates and how effective your communication plan is.
Along with these steps, building a culture around emergency preparedness will help ensure that your employees know what to expect and how to react. With all of these measures in place, your company will be better positioned to handle a real-life emergency.
For more great industry information, check out our free whitepaper:
Topics: Emergency Notification
Written by Dustin Fioravanti
Dustin is the Director of the Assurance Software Support Team, providing best practices, technical support, and implementation and training services for the Assurance Business Continuity Planning and Emergency Notifications software solutions. Dustin has been with Assurance Software for over 12 years and has more than 20 years of Customer Support and Technology Industry experience.