Emergency notification systems through email and phone have become an integral part of instant messaging. Colleges send out text messages warning students of serious incidents on campus, local authorities send out severe weather alerts, and police often send messages to those who have signed up to receive information during community emergencies. While the number of businesses and individuals using these types of notification systems are increasing, there are, unfortunately, cases in which messages have been inaccurate and caused confusion during a crisis situation. “Communication is Key” is starting to sound like a broken record. However, effective communication should be the key to communicating in a crisis situation.
Vague email and phone messages can be problematic in several different ways. Not sending complete and accurate information can hinder employee safety by creating confusion regarding exactly what is happening. An incorrect address or the wrong description of a suspect can leave many employees vulnerable during a crisis situation. Wrong information can also cause people not to take alerts as seriously in the future. Before an emergency situation takes place it is important to carry out periodic tests on whatever emergency system is being used. An employee messaging system will ensure that everyone gets the correct message.
It is critical for each employee to be familiar with the emergency system that is in place and feel comfortable with the interface. Inaccurate messages may be sent because employees simply do not understand the system being used. Not only is it important to send accurate messages but they must arrive in a timely manner as well. High priority employee messaging is essential when sending emergency messages. A system must be in place that will bump high priority messages to the front of every call queue. In situations in which a busy signal is received, persistent redials should take place until the message has gotten through. Don’t label every incident as an “emergency” unless it really is one. All important employee alerts are not necessarily emergencies. Knowing the difference and how to properly classify each message is important when handling true emergencies in a credible manner. Don’t allow very many individuals to be able to issue employee alerts. Determine ahead of time who has the authority to decide what qualifies as an emergency situation. Finally, don’t rely on just one mode of communication.
Information released in an emergency employee notification should be as brief and easy to understand as possible. The information should include the type of incident and the time it is taking place. It should also include any action that needs to be taken. A system needs to be in place to proofread and check messages before they are sent out. A process that checks, and then double checks messages will only take a matter of seconds and may make all the difference regarding the accuracy and effectiveness of a message. Finally, a follow-up message should be sent to either update the current situation or relate that the situation is no longer a threat.