September is National Preparedness Month, and the perfect time to evaluate your organization’s ability to handle critical events, both expected and unexpected.
Wondering why an expected issue would be classified as a critical event? What starts as a minor problem can quickly escalate into a major incident without the right plan in place.
Fundamentally, critical event management (CEM) has to address two basic categories of emergencies – routine and crisis. Both are potential operational disruptors, and both have increased in frequency and severity in recent years:
- Events as commonplace as power outages have doubled over the past two decades across the U.S.
- It seems like every week the news reports another building collapse in major cities around the world.
- Severe weather events marked 2021 as a year for the books with tornadoes reaching historic highs.
- Cybercrime has cost $18.7 billion over the past five years, including a record $6.9 billion in 2021 alone.
To prevail in this active threat landscape, thorough preparedness is a must for every organization, regardless of size, location or industry.
What Does Preparedness Mean?
The unpredictable nature of crisis makes it a unique challenge relative to practical preparation. Experts in this field — military, first responders in police and fire, FEMA managers, international relief workers, corporate and facility resilience managers — all share one common narrative created by lived experience: They know achieving better outcomes requires having the right information with easy-to-use capabilities, in addition to regular and realistic practice.
So how do you translate their lesson to your organization? Everyone from the top-down needs to familiarize themselves with two facets of your CEM plan: Their individual actions/responsibilities and the corresponding technology they’ll use during an event. To bring this about, all staff should use one unified system to:
- Conduct updated training throughout the year.
- Practice using your emergency systems on a regular basis.
- Brainstorm potential crisis scenarios that include a variety of dynamic conditions.
- Run drills and exercises to simulate critical events.
- Review and analyze performance in order to improve.
- Update response plans and training.
What Does It Look Like in Real Life?
Ensuring these pieces are in place is the first step to achieving a consistent and effective response to critical events. Seasoned organizational leaders have seen this truth borne out time and again.
In one single year, FPL Group, Inc. (one of the nation’s largest providers of electricity-related services) and its subsidiaries’ communities were hit by the Iowa Floods, Hurricane Gustav, Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Ike. Thanks to technology that was fast, reliable and easy-to-use in stressful circumstances, they were able to instantaneously deliver thousands of alerts over a period of several days. This enabled FPL to meet their commitment to maintaining a comprehensive infrastructure and delivering quality service.
So…What If You Don’t Prepare?
While your organization itself may not be hit by every possible critical event, at some point you will experience an emergency. And when people are unprepared, they tend to panic, which can result in dangerous conditions, increased damages and even loss of life.
In addition to your employees, lack of preparation puts all your other stakeholders at risk. Without practice, the quality of communications tends to suffer, which can result in a failure to keep everyone in the loop. This includes your supply chain, customers, investors and even the media, depending on the scope of the critical event.
The consequences of inadequate communications can include:
- Overall confusion and frustration
- Delayed deliveries
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Reduced sales
- Fewer investment dollars
- Damage to brand reputation
- Compounding reductions in profit margins
By contrast, crisis management rehearsal is never a waste of time because it’s an opportunity to address process gaps. Remember – these issues may not be readily apparent when things are running smoothly. Testing your organization’s ability to function in a crisis has a two-fold benefit.
Not only will you cultivate organizational resilience, but by running emergency drills you can also proactively troubleshoot your communications process. This may even help leaders discover better methods to incorporate into existing day-to-day operations.
How Can Technology Boost Preparedness?
The right solution will provide significant advantages when it’s time to enact your CEM strategy during a real critical event. Although each organization will have different needs, when considering how to find the right critical communications and risk intelligence provider, certain capabilities combined with industry experience are a must.
A qualified vendor will have a proven history of longevity. When discussing features, ask for real-world examples of how their technology has facilitated critical communications and delivered actionable risk intelligence to help clients achieve a more informed decision-making process. It’s vital all features are user-friendly even under stress, so the process is intuitive for users at all levels of technological proficiency.
When every minute counts, your technology has to get the right information to the right people at the right time. In today’s ever-changing environment, it takes cutting-edge AI to deliver real-time, accurate data. And in an international economy spanning every time zone, it’s paramount to confirm 24/7 intel gathering with a global scope and granular coverage.
By leveraging the speed and agility of machine learning in combination with human-validated data sources, your organization can address risk from every angle. Highly sensitive filters, searching and mapping software are all part and parcel of a modern system for critical event management.
When it comes to protecting your people, places and property there’s no such thing as being too prepared. September is all about putting this into practice. So ask yourself – is your organization ready? Are you sure? Now’s the time to let technology lend a hand so you can get a leg up on proactive critical event management.
For expert tips and real-world use cases, watch our on-demand webinar: National Preparedness Month: Expert Panel Shares Tips for Readiness in 2023.