Exercising is a great practice for improving your physical health. It’s also a great practice for improving the health of your critical communications program. Many organizations conduct business resilience drills. However, some bypass using their notification systems to their fullest extent during these “practice” events. Here’s what you should do instead.
Exercise your emergency communications program. Notification services should be exercised regularly to ensure they are producing expected results and users are comfortable with system interactions.
Notification services should certainly be exercised in conjunction with broad business continuity plan tests, but due to the infrequency of these events, managers should also develop exercise plans to augment these large-scale tests. “Light weight” notification exercises can be implemented daily and aimed at a handful of administrators (this can be automated with scheduled alerts), while “heavy-weight” notification exercises should be conducted quarterly, or at least twice per year. These may involve your entire department or organization.
Audit your emergency communications program. After each exercise, be sure to analyze the results of your notification efforts. Identify and build on patterns of success, and close any gaps in communications. Communicate the results and follow-up steps to all appropriate stakeholders.
Maintain your emergency communications program. Like other critical systems, emergency notification services need care and feeding. If employee contact data is out of date, or groups and scenarios do not accurately reflect the organization’s current structure, communication will fail.
Have your employees update their own contact information through an online self-registration portal to ensure their latest contact information is available. Meet with senior management, department heads and human resources regularly to affirm that your current scenarios and groups are still complete and valid. Then follow up with additional exercises to ensure the implemented changes have the desired impact.
Building a notification program is important, but it’s only the first step. Exercising, auditing, and maintaining this business resiliency component is also critical to ensuring the program’s overall health.