Effective Mass Notification: It’s All About How You Prepare to Optimize Emergency Response Planning

If you’ve adopted a mass notification system, you’ve taken an important step towards crisis readiness.

To ensure a successful response to your next emergency, take the time needed now to prepare and fully communicate your emergency response plan to ensure that your crisis communication is quick, responsive, accurate, and efficient.

Preparation is important in any scenario, but especially in emergency response planning and execution. This means having plans in place for known threats, establishing communication strategies, training staff and more. It can truly make the difference between experiencing utter chaos and assisting in establishing community safety.

A well know example of this comes from evaluating the response to Hurricane Katrina. FEMA has highlighted several preparation-related challenges that came to define Katrina: 1

  • Lack of unified management for national response
  • Insufficient coordination in command and control mechanisms at the federal level
  • Absence of sufficient familiarity with response plans
  • Weak planning and coordination at the regional level

Don’t put yourself in a position to be the next example of poor planning. And don’t think it can’t happen to you. Crisis situations can take place in any community at any time, whether it be a mass shooting, a fire, or a hurricane. The more thoroughly your agency prepares in advance, the more efficient you can be when your community experiences an emergency. Let’s look at how preparation can help you leverage your mass notification system when a crisis hits, as well as help your organization run smoothly and even save lives.

Prepare for a Crisis: Use These Tips

Define Groups

Set up a crisis communication team with clearly defined roles to respond both during and after an incident. This is also the team that will help map out your crisis communications plan. It should include one person from each functional area within your organization, including public affairs, your agency spokesperson, and your legal counsel. Be sure to set your team up for success: establish a designated location for the team to meet during an emergency. Obstacles are bound to arise in a crisis, so prepare a backup meeting point in case the original location is affected by the emergency and is not available.

Define Scenarios

Prepare your agency for the different kinds of emergencies that your community could face, whether it be a winter storm or an active shooter situation. Evaluation exercises are a great way to analyze possible emergencies and can even eliminate other risks that may result. For example, you may be well prepared to help your community through a winter storm, but what if a tornado strikes? You can’t possibly predict where it will touch down, and you need to envision what you’ll do if it hits one neighborhood, several, or the entire city. If you brainstorm possible threats, you’ll be better prepared to respond to them, and by extension, keep your community and residents safer.

Define Target Areas

Take advantage of your mass notification system by defining target areas — identifying geographic locations to target for specific alerting scenarios. Create a mass notification scenario in advance to target residents within a specific zip code or within a 10-mile radius of an emergency. Is part of your community within or adjacent to a flood zone? Define areas based on the likelihood that certain zip codes will be hit. In the case of an emergency, you can’t be too prepared — and you also can’t predict what will happen. If you have mapped out targeted areas in advance, you can act, rather than trying to make critical decisions during a crisis.

Evaluate Database Health

Remember, your communication can only be as good as your information. The effectiveness of your emergency response is directly linked to your database health. Ensure that your database is accurate and regularly updated. After all, sending mass notifications to numbers that are no longer in service or to people who no longer live in your community will be of no help in a crisis.

If you have a mass notification system, you have one of the best possible tools to help steer your community through a crisis. Take advantage of it and prepare before a crisis strikes. By doing so, you can execute your response more successfully. Get more details about any crisis you might face in 2019. Download this free eBook: Crisis Management in 2019: What to Expect and How to Prepare.

Crisis Communication Preparedness Assessment

This assessment is designed to help you consider the area of crisis response that is often overlooked – clear communication to your residents and stakeholders. Getting ahead of an emergency situation starts with planning. This assessment will help you: 1) Evaluate your current level of preparedness 2) Identify weak areas that may need improvement 3) Evaluate your current testing and training processes 4) Refer you to resources you need to improve your plans. Take the assessment today, get resources specific to your score, and share the information throughout your agency!

Grade Your Preparedness