6 Best Practices for Building an Emergency Preparedness Communications Plan

By January 31, 2019 September 10th, 2019 Emergency Management
emergency preparedness communications

Everyone knows the old saying: failing to plan is planning to fail. Although it may be overused, when it comes to emergency preparedness, that quote is spot on. Having an emergency preparedness communications plan is critical if you want to keep your employees safe. As an organization, if a critical event arises, you must be able to respond immediately with confidence. You need a plan that puts you in a position to do that.

Emergency events can range from terrorist attacks to fires, snowstorms to power outages, network cyber-attacks to tornadoes. You need an emergency communications plan that is versatile enough to apply to a wide variety of potential threats, while remaining detailed and clear. A well-thought-out, simple, step-by-step emergency communications plan—with room for flexibility—is a key asset in incident response and business resiliency management.

1. Form an emergency communications team

Depending on the size or your organization, you’ll want to make sure you have someone, or a team of people, dedicated to managing emergency preparedness, incident response, emergency communications, and after-event briefing and analysis. If your organization is small, assign someone specifically to emergency preparedness communications. If your organization is large, make sure that someone who is part of a broader incident management team is dedicated to planning and carrying out emergency communications.

2. Incorporate mass notifications

In order to keep your organization and employees safe, you will need to incorporate an emergency mass notification plan into your strategy. Mass notification enables you to efficiently distribute important information to any parties involved or affected by the event. Make sure that your emergency communication system supports two-way messaging—so that your employees can respond to any messages you send, indicating if they need further assistance. Your emergency notification plan is key to coordinating a thorough emergency communications plan.

3. Coordinate your emergency notification plan

Coordinate your mass notification plan with everyone who needs to be involved. This includes management, as well as anyone responsible for the safety and continuity of your organization. Get plans approved by incident management or seek help from a business continuity consultant. Every individual that will be involved needs to know what their role is and what will be expected of them. Similarly, it’s important that the people involved in implementing the plan know what to expect—plans should be reviewed, updated frequently, and executed in regular drills.

4. Reach your people over all communication channels

To deploy fast, secure notifications in mass, your organization needs modern technology to do so. An emergency notification system empowers your organization to keep everyone connected during critical events. From anywhere and on any device, you can access the system and reach your people over any channel: text, email, voice call, social media, and even custom channels. Above all, your system must be flexible so that your team has the ability to adapt and respond to events as they change—using the technology to keep your people updated as events unfold and get resolved.

5. Understand your audience

Know your stakeholders. Communicating relevant, correct information before, during, and after an incident to the applicable stakeholders is paramount in emergency preparedness communications. In an emergency, different people need different messages. One-size-fits-all messaging simply doesn’t cut it in a crisis situation. Instead, you need custom communication for your security team, remote employees, C-level executives—as well as your company at large. In addition, you can use your emergency notification system to create hierarchies and group people based on role, department, location, and any other criteria that matters to your organization. This means you will have quick access to notifying the affected audience at the correct time if an incident arises.

6. Script messages for various incidents

Crafting effective emergency templates should play a key role in your emergency preparedness communications planning. Think through how you should be communicating particular incidents to specific audiences over the different communication mediums: text, email, voice, etc. For instance, each incident will affect your personnel in different ways, so it’s important to take that into consideration when putting together your scripts. Above all, keep them short, clear, and easy to understand. Focus your message on relevant content and cater it to each audience. To get started, take a look at the emergency communication templates we’ve prepared for wildfires, hurricanes, and winter weather.

In conclusion, building and coordinating a strong emergency communications plan and partnering with the proper mass notification partner will prepare your organization to communicate effectively during any incident.

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