Emergency Preparedness: 6 Best Practices for Building an Emergency Communications Plan

By August 5, 2016 Emergency Management

Being adequately prepared for an emergency requires a strong crisis communications plan. As an organization, if a critical event arises, you must be able to respond immediately with confidence, and having a plan is the only way to do so without creating additional chaos.

Emergency events can range from terrorist attacks and shooter-on-site threats to fires, snow storms, and severe weather or IT power outages and network cyberattacks. Your emergency communications plan should describe how your organization will respond to a critical event and it should be detailed and clear, yet broad enough to apply to array of potential incidents or threats. 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.

Here are a few best practices to help you develop a powerful, rapid-response emergency communications plan:

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 and planning, incident response, emergency communications, and after-event briefing and analysis. If your organization is small, assign someone specifically to emergency communications. If your organization is large, make sure that someone who is a part of a broader incident management team is dedicated to planning and carrying out emergency communications.  Additionally, your emergency communications plan should include templated press statements for media outlets and coordination with PR to combat any media inquiries.

2. Incorporate emergency notifications
In order to keep your organization and employees safe, you will need to incorporate a mass notification plan into your emergency communications strategy. Mass notification enables you to efficiently distribute important information to any parties involved or affected by the event and informed and connected all the way through to the resolution. 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 and anyone responsible for the safety and continuity of your organization and well-being of your people. Get plans approved by incident management or seek help from a business continuity consultant. 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 requires the reliable 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 at any location over any channel: text, email, voice call, social media, and custom channels. 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, and a custom communications plan for all parties should be defined and addressed in your plan. 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 organizational structure. This means you will have quick access to notifying the affected audience at the correct time if an incidents arises.

6. Script messages for various incidents
Crafting effective emergency notifications play a large role in your communications planning. Think through how you should be communicating particular incidents to specific audiences over the different communication mediums: text message alert, email, your website, a recording at your emergency call-in line, etc. Each incident would affect certain personal in a different way and it’s important to take that into consideration when putting together your scripts. Keep them short, clear, and easy to understand. Focus your message content on relevant content and cater it to each audience.

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

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