Don’t be Caught Unprepared
An emergency is defined as “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.” The key word here is “unexpected.” An emergency is an emergency because it is not predictable – but it can be planned for if you understand your most likely threats.
As we are in the heart of hurricane season and have witnessed perhaps two of the worst hurricanes on record, we can all agree Harvey and Irma presented urgent situations. The good news about hurricanes, however, is that they are rarely unexpected. Thanks to modern technology, we have time to plan. We may not know what to expect, we do have certain steps we can take to ensure we come out of it alive, if not well.
The same goes for organizations designing their emergency response strategy. Not every situation can be predicted, but it’s wise to assess your current risks and make plans on how you would respond.
Get Ahead of the Emergency
Hopefully, by now, you have an – some type of mass communications system to alert your employees near and far of impending danger, and the plans to keep them safe and informed. What’s important in an emergency is that you have a way of activating your plan quickly and efficiently.
In a crisis, if you are having to custom-craft each message and build segmented employee lists, you’re losing precious time trying to reach your employees. These things can and should be done well before an emergency. Being that emergencies are unpredictable, you must design these systems now so they can be deployed immediately. Being proactive is always better than reactive.
Does your emergency alert system offer notification templates you can leverage? Using templates saves time and ensures the messaging is consistent. The last thing you want to do is send mixed messages that confuse an already chaotic situation.
What types of templates should you use and create? Here are four you will want to have at hand when the threats you assessed become a reality.
1. Evacuation Procedures
It’s not enough to post an evacuation route on the back of a hotel door. What if your emergency prevents employees from leaving their office via a doorway, hallway, or stairwell? You must have specific evacuation procedures in place for various risks. This includes, but is not limited to, fire, active shooter, and flooding.
By developing individual evacuation templates per crisis, you can quickly select the appropriate template and simply click to send to the affected employees. No sorting, no writing, no wondering if you’ve missed anyone.
2. Inclement Weather
Weather comes in all shapes and sizes, varying depending on your geographic location. Whether you live in a coastal area, the mountains, or the plains, you should have a specific plan in place should the worst nature has to offer comes your way.
Use a pre-built template to guide your emergency plan. If you have employees in various locations, working remotely, or frequently on the road, be sure you consider potential weather conditions in their immediate areas. You can use the templates to build your messaging and then utilize audience segmentation to group employees based on those locations. Tailor the warning messages to be relevant and let the template ensure they are received in a timely manner.
3. Building Operations or Maintenance
While building maintenance isn’t typically an emergency, sometimes emergencies can require building maintenance. Other times, maintenance may be scheduled and very predictable. In either case, your employees will need to know what’s happening in their building, particularly if it may impact their ability to do their job, where they may need to park or enter the building, or where they may need to perform their work.
Anything from broken air conditioners to downed servers can require a mass notification. Use templates to set up messages for different scenarios so when the AC goes out, you just have to click a button to let employees know things may get a bit uncomfortable but workers are rapidly working to fix the problem.
4. Office Closures
Weather, fires, floods, and holidays are among reasons why an office might close. Do you want to spend time writing up messaging or do you want to click a button and know the message was sent to the right people?
Using templates gives you the ability to customize your messaging ahead of events so they are ready to go when the time comes. You can also use the templates to design messaging around when the office will be reopened. I am thinking about the businesses that are shut down in Houston and Miami. While many of their employees are in the throes of recovering their homes, they need a paycheck. Keep them in the loop and let them know when offices will reopen or what they can do until they do reopen.
The Key to it all? How the Message is Sent
Templates give users the ability to pre-craft messages ahead of a crisis so they are ready to go when the emergency hits. The messages, however well-written they are, have no value if they don’t reach their intended audience or are never opened, such as with emails or voicemails.
It is critical to have an emergency notification system that can cross channels to ensure every employee receives the message. This means you must have a multi-modal capability to include voice, email, text, push notifications, custom alerts. SMS messages have an open rate of 99 percent, while the open rates for emails are at 28%.
Consider every employee, not only the ones sitting on a computer in the office. Many employees are mobile. Ensure your messages, especially those that are emergent, can travel across all possible channels simultaneously to reduce the risk of being missed.