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Workplace Violence: Communication Counts In a Crisis

In the first segment of our four-part blog on workplace violence, we detailed the financial cost to Virginia Tech following the campus massacre which killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in 2007. What we didn’t mention? The determination by a state panel following the shooting that had an alert been issued earlier or classes canceled following the first two shootings, the death toll might have been contained. Not only that, but the messages the school did send failed to convey the full extent of the situation as it unfolded, according to the report.

The takeaway for organizations facing the reality that an act of violence might occur within their workplaces? Communication counts. It’s fitting, therefore, that in this blog we’re focusing on the vital role communication plays as part of an emergency action plan.

Have a Plan. Write it Down.

In the third part of this blog series, we discussed the importance not only of having an emergency action plan, but also in writing it down. The same applies to crisis communication plan, which is only as effective as it is applied. What should this plan include? Everything from identifying your crisis communication team and training spokespersons to establishing comprehensive notification and monitoring systems.

A documented plan is an invaluable resource which ensures that operational responses will stay on track during a workplace shooting, terrorist act, or other type of workplace violence. A written plan also boosts stakeholder confidence while simultaneously doing damage control against future liability.

Expand Your Reach

Two decades ago, reaching someone quickly meant picking up the phone. Today, however, there are not only multiple modalities through which to reach your team members, but their effectiveness is highly individualized. So while the power is within your grasp to reach people quickly, doing so depends on how well your organization is able to leverage the available technology.

Enter emergency notification systems, which can serve as highly valuable tools for responding to workplace violence incidents. In times when a general evacuation alert, such as fire alarms or strobe, might place your team members in the path of the threat, multimodal emergency notifications systems allow for useful incident-specific instructions.

Emergency Notification System Advantages

What other features make emergency notification systems particularly suitable for keeping employees safe during workplace violence scenarios?

Text-based notifications: During active crisis situations, ringing phones may identify employees’ hiding locations and increase the odds of being targeted.

Two-way functionality: Allowing message recipients to respond lets employers assess team members’ whereabouts and statuses during and after an event.

Recorded voice messages: In coordination with law enforcement, the ability to notify family members using the recorded voice functionality—as opposed to text-to-speech or other text-oriented methods—delivered by a high-level company officer offers assurance and builds trust.

Inbound message retrieval: In addition to outbound messaging capabilities, a dial-in number for alert retrieval ensures that your crisis outreach plan and other essential communications are within easy reach of team members.

There’s no denying that active shooter events, terrorist acts, and other forms of workplace violence are devastating. But they’re also surmountable—particularly with the right tools in place. Understanding the threats, forming a crisis management team, devising and sharing an emergency action plan, and implementing a robust commuI’m: nications strategy are all crucial components in helping your employees—and your organization—survive tragedy.