For most organizations, emergency management and alerting is daunting and the logistics are challenging. Planning for, and incorporating a few best practices can turn a potentially disastrous situation into an inconvenient one. We’ve put together a list of those practices every organization should implement before a crisis occurs.
The More Modalities the Merrier
“Modalities” are the different devices and communications channels available to notification managers. While it is possible in a widespread disaster some channels might be down or overloaded, sending alerts through as many channels/devices as possible increases the odds your message will get through, as it is highly unlikely all modalities will be unavailable at once.
Keep Your Contact Data Current
Don’t wait for an emergency to find out you have wrong information (e.g., phone numbers, email addresses, etc., for your intended audience). Your message may not get through, putting them and your organization at potentially greater risk.
Consider using a Self-Registration Portal through which people can add or update their own emergency contact information as often as desired. Send out notifications reminding people to update their information. Consider offering small incentives for people to provide data such as personal mobile phone numbers, home phone numbers, etc.
Make Use of Preplanned Scenarios
You already know who must be alerted, and potentially mobilized, in response to certain situations. You also likely have an idea of the typical critical situations to which you must respond. Combining these into saved, ready-to-launch scenarios will save considerable time and effort in an actual emergency.
Extend Notification Capabilities through Integration
By integrating your emergency notification service with other business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) applications and alerting tools, such as business continuity planning software, digital signage etc., you can streamline system operations and potentially reach a much larger audience even faster. Make sure your notification provider offers an Application Programming Interface (API) which allows for easy connection to third-party applications.
Make Status Updates Available
Emergencies are fluid. Make sure everyone has the latest details by sending follow-up messages or making status updates available at specified intervals. Otherwise, they may be acting upon old information, jeopardizing their own safety or hindering the response effort.
People Need Closure
Once the situation is resolved, activate your emergency notification service again to let people know everything is “all clear.” This simple act can help calm fears, enhance focus, improve people’s perception of the disaster management function and get your organization back on its feet even faster.
Test for Peace of Mind
If your organization has an emergency notification service in place, it’s already taken an important step toward communicating faster and more effectively in critical situations. But, if the solution is not routinely “touched,” or better yet, tested, you could still be at risk in an actual emergency. A full and repeatable test cycle will help ensure your organization’s alerting readiness.
Consider the following recommendations for testing and exercising your notification service and program:
Set a regular testing schedule and stick with it. It’s important to test your emergency notification service on a regular basis. Activate your system frequently (daily or at least weekly) with a small group of administrators or other participants. Conduct widespread exercises at least twice a year to ensure recipient familiarity with notifications and procedures.
Testing isn’t just for users. Allow your entire alerting population, i.e., management, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders, to experience a test alert. This way, you will not catch them off guard when and if an actual emergency notification is initiated.
Think “worst-case.” Large-scale events require immediate, high-volume alerting. Know your emergency notification service can support communications with your full alerting population through a full technical analysis. Be sure to “white list” IP addresses and domains, and utilize call throttling to avoid overloading your company’s internal telephony system.
Stand ready. Have personnel on-site to observe your alerting population during an activation, particularly the full system tests. Review all feedback and make any necessary modifications to pre-defined notification scenarios, contact data, etc.