It’s easy for communication plans to fall to the bottom of the priority list when busy schedules, unplanned events, and other situations occur on a day-to-day basis. Without the proper evaluation processes in place, you often won’t realize changes are needed until it’s too late.
For example, confusion surrounding the 2016 terror alerts in NYC prompted the FCC to expand the text limit on wireless emergency alerts from 90 characters to 360 characters. The FCC also added a new class of alerts called Public Safety Messages, as well as hyperlinks and phone numbers. For emergency notification plans using existing message templates, not evaluating and updating those templates to meet new character limits meant missing out on more effective communication options.
Critical communication plans are molded by the known threats to your agency and regular updates give your agency more options when actions are required.
For 2018, here are some of the best ways to update your plans:
The unimaginable sometimes happens, so a good place to start in improving your emergency notification plan is to reassess existing threats and research new ones.
Existing threats can often evolve or lead to cascading events. Before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, for example, the FAA allowed knives with blades less than four inches long on passenger flights. After evidence suggested terrorists used knives to take control of the planes, the agency banned blades of all types. Before the attacks, these tools were not seen as a significant threat, but once it became apparent that terrorists and other extremists were capable of causing so much damage with that type of weapon, it was time to reevaluate what was allowed on aircrafts. Not only does this illustrate the need to reassess threats, but to be on the lookout for new ones as well.
Emergencies take their heaviest toll on property and life when there aren’t effective communications across all audiences. The federal government released its strategic plan for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) in 2010. All government agencies can use the system for public messages in emergencies. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), IPAWS allows authorities to send alerts over multiple communications devices. Users can even target specific groups based on location.
While qualified government entities can use IPAWS, they must first get accredited. To start, select an origination software provider that has an IPAWS Developer Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). OnSolve’s CodeRED solution is one such provider. As well as connecting to IPAWS, CodeRED can launch alerts to employees and residents through voice, text, email, RSS feeds, website widgets, social media, the CodeRED Mobile Alert App and more, all from one interface.
Review your emergency notification system to make sure it is keeping up with changes in your agency and changes in technology. Check to confirm your system can deliver weather warnings as the National Weather Service issues them. Make sure the system can use multiple notification methods, including newer types like website widgets and social media. Also confirm that you can define area-specific notifications so you only alert people affected by the emergency or weather event. And, so you can communicate in real time with employees and staff, confirm your emergency notification system has two-way messaging.
Finally, don’t overlook the backbone of your system—the database. If it’s not regularly updated and purged of inaccurate contact information, your system is far less effective. Your emergency notification system should also include fault-tolerant testing, synchronization and imports, and should be capable of backing up and encrypting your data.
For more best practices, check out our recent article “Top Six Tactics for Improving Your 2018 Emergency Notification Plan.”
Emergency notification plans become out of date very quickly. With communities facing threats from severe weather to active shooters, it is clear that plans needs to be regularly evaluated and updated. When was the last time you evaluated your emergency response plan?Download The Article