Emergency Notification: Lessons Learned from Critical Events

6 Minute Read

We may be living in the “Connected Age,” but certain situations, particularly large-scale natural disasters, have the potential to limit or inhibit our ability to communicate.

Take, for example, 9/11, when phone networks became so congested, not a single call could be made–not even to 9-1-1. Or, Hurricane Katrina, which completely destroyed the City of New Orleans, including its massive communications infrastructure. Or, more recently, Hurricane Sandy, which rendered up to 25 percent of cell towers, network providers and TV stations throughout the Northeast powerless for extended periods of time.

As a business continuity professional, you must often think worst-case, taking into consideration the many things that can adversely impact the flow of information. Landlines may be down, or circuits overloaded. Communication servers may be out of commission and wireless carriers may have widespread outages. There may even be restrictions imposed by the Federal government.

To increase the chances of your critical message(s) getting through, consider the use of an emergency notification service like that provided by Send Word Now. The multimodal communication capabilities of such systems allows you to use many different methods, e.g., phones, SMS and email, to quickly push information out and into the hands of those who need it most. Just as important, it helps you to get the feedback needed to account for employees and maintain some level of operations in the worst of circumstances.

Consider these lessons learned from prior critical events:
– The situation may dictate which method(s) of communication are available (and permissible). Take the lack of SMS/MMS after India banned its use in anticipation of the Ayodhya Supreme Court verdict in 2010. Or, the Virginia Tech Massacre, during which some students did not receive email and text notifications until long after the initial shootings as their cell phones were turned off during class.

– You may be surprised by which modalities work and don’t work. Consider the Tohoku Earthquake in Japan in 2011, after which email and some landlines were considered the most reliable means of communication. (Who would have thought?)

– You could be your own worst enemy. Limiting your data to single points of contact limits the power of mass communication. Ask your employees to provide as many phone numbers (landline and wireless), and email addresses as possible so you have a better chance of getting and staying in touch in emergencies.

– Integration is key. By integrating your emergency notification system with other business continuity applications and alerting tools (e.g., digital signage and alerting beacons), you can potentially reach a much larger audience even faster. Make sure your service provider offers an Application Programming Interface (API).

– Emergency notification is not a panacea, but can make a huge difference. If no communication channels are available, your message(s) may be delayed or even go undelivered. It’s the nature of the beast. However, the more modalities you employ, the greater the odds of your message getting through to recipients.

No two situations are the same. But, as evidenced by past experience, emergency notification technology can alert people faster and more efficiently than manual or single modal methods, especially during large-scale situations. _