7 Best Practices for Building an Emergency Preparedness Communications Plan
Preparing for an emergency requires a strong emergency communications plan. If a critical event arises, you must respond with confidence.
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.
Emergencies and critical events can range from terrorist attacks to fires, snowstorms to power outages, network cyber-attacks to fast-spreading pandemics. You need an emergency communications plan that is versatile enough to apply to a wide variety of potential threats while remaining detailed and easy to use. A well-thought-out, simple, step-by-step emergency communications plan—with room for flexibility—is a key asset in incident response and business continuity.
How to Build an Emergency Preparedness Communications Plan
1. Form an emergency communications team
Depending on the size of 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 and 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. Invest in emergency communication technology
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 all 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, allowing you to account for your people during and after an emergency. Your emergency notification plan is key to coordinating a thorough emergency communications plan.
3. Implement a threat monitoring system
The ability to monitor a threat as it emerges is critical to creating an effective emergency communication plan. It also allows your organization to take a proactive approach to employee safety. A threat monitoring system, like AlertMedia’s, uses real-time data from thousands of trusted sources and analysts around the globe to provide you relevant information on all different types of current threats—from hurricanes and wildfires to political upheaval and transportation disruptions. Best of all, a threat monitoring system will proactively warn you if a threat emerges that could impact your people or locations.
4. Coordinate your emergency notification plan
Coordinate with everyone who needs to be involved in your mass notification plan. This includes management, as well as anyone responsible for the safety and continuity of your organization’s operations. Review plans with 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. This will not only ensure that your organization is prepared for an emergency, but also that your employee contact data is accurate.
5. 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 like Slack. Above all, your system must be flexible so that your team has the ability to adapt and respond to events as they evolve—using the technology to keep your people updated as events unfold and get resolved. It’s also important to remember that all businesses are unique—an emergency for one business will not be considered so at another organization. Be sure to establish guidelines for what constitutes an emergency for your organization and when to execute your emergency communication plan.
6. 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. For example, following a network cyber attack, you should provide your cybersecurity team with specific information about the attack. This will help them mitigate the risk of data loss and get your network back up and running quickly.
In addition, you can use your emergency notification system to create hierarchies and group people based on role, department, location, employee shift, 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.
7. 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. 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.
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.