Critical Communications, Employee Communication

How Critical Communications Technology Keeps Your Staff Safe

By Beth Politsch

If there was an active shooter in one of your organization’s stores or office buildings, how would you alert your staff in order to keep them safe? Prior to the advent of modern critical communications, organizations faced with a crisis often resorted to phone trees or email as a way to spread the word about an emergency. But when lives are in danger, alerts need to be delivered in a matter of minutes, not hours.  

Foot Locker, the American sportswear and footwear retailer, uses OnSolve Critical Communications to alert staff working out of their more than 3,000 stores located around the globe, as well as their corporate headquarters in New York City, whenever there is a threat to employees or stakeholders. The company’s security team has implemented a critical communications system that enables initiators to immediately send silent alerts to staff in the event of a crisis such as a shooting. The messages rapidly advise employees to avoid the area or go on lockdown without tipping off the intruder.

Here are some other ways that a critical communications system can protect and inform your employees.

Rapidly Sends Critical Alerts to All Stakeholders            

In emergency situations for which there is little to no advance notice—such as an active shooter, cyberattack, tornado, or flash flood—every minute counts™. The sooner you can get information to employees, the more likely they are to seek shelter or avoid danger before it’s too late.

If a Foot Locker store is in the path of a tornado, for example, the security team can take a pre-written message, tweak it if necessary, and send it out to every employee in the affected area in a matter of minutes. Messages can be sent on a variety of communication channels, including email, phone, SMS, push notifications, desktop alerts, and more, ensuring that stakeholders receive the alert regardless of whether or not they’re at their desk. 

Allows for Two-Way Communication 

One-way communication is great for alerting staff of an imminent threat, but what if an employee needs to request assistance or has further questions? Two-way communication allows recipients to mark themselves as safe or ask for help.

Most modern critical communications products also enable organizations to see who has received the message, whether they have opened it, and how they have responded. When you see that someone has not received or responded to a message, you can work with your HR team to find out whether they need assistance or simply didn’t bother to reply to the message. Once a crisis has passed, you can analyze the responses and reports to help improve your emergency response plan going forward.

Enables Geo-Targeted Messaging

Global retailers like Foot Locker need an alert system that allows them to send targeted messages to specific groups of employees. Staff members based in California don’t need to receive alerts about a hurricane hitting the East Coast, and messages that might be relevant to those working out of the corporate headquarters don’t need to be sent to retail locations around the world.

Geo-targeted messaging enables the Foot Locker security team to pinpoint staff in specific regions, even down to a precise office building or floor, who are going to be impacted by an emergency. Foot Locker team members regularly travel around the world, and it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everyone’s location at all times. But with geo-location, anyone in an affected area will receive the alert and be able to take appropriate action.

Maintains Reliable Communication Channels Before and During Crises 

Not all emergencies are last-minute. It pays to be proactive when it comes to bracing for things like hurricanes, wildfires or pandemics. A critical communications system can enable your organization to inform employees of impending threats and either advise them to evacuate the area or notify them the office is closed and they should work from home or an alternative workspace.  

Sending clear, concise and accurate messages before and during a crisis will establish trust with employees and help ensure they will not seek out possibly inaccurate information elsewhere. Your lines of communication need to be able to withstand any crisis, and if one channel goes down, you should have several backups, such as an emergency hotline or online information board that staff can refer to for the latest updates. If you’re working with a reliable vendor, they should be able to support your organization during any crisis.   

Keeps Stakeholder Contact Information Up to Date

If you don’t have accurate and up-to-date contact information for all of your employees, your emergency management system will be useless during a crisis. A critical communications product enables organizations to sync HR databases with emergency communication software, ensuring all contact information is as accurate as possible. And because people often move or change their phone number or email address, ideally, your system will allow staff to securely log in and update their information at any time.

Every organization should test their alert system prior to a real-life emergency to make sure everyone is receiving the alerts. Make sure employees understand the importance of updating their contact information and responding to messages. Every minute the security team spends checking on someone who didn’t bother to respond to a message is a minute they could have spent helping someone who was actually impacted by a disaster.  

Having a critical communications system in place for unexpected events not only protects your employees from potentially dangerous scenarios, but it can also give your staff peace of mind that they’ll be properly notified with directions on what to do in an emergency.