Think about how different things were for your business (and the world) earlier this year—before COVID-19 became a household name. Face masks were worn only by medical practitioners, “social distancing” was more likely to be the name of an obscure punk band than a mainstream phenomenon, and sports stadiums were packed with cheering fans. As recently as October 2019, a survey found that 44% of businesses did not allow remote work at all. Of course, then most employees weren’t juggling work schedules at the same time as overseeing distance learning and coping with concerns about their personal safety and health. Needless to say, 2020 has necessitated more than its fair share of change and adaptation.
Unfortunately, too many businesses were caught unprepared to communicate urgent information quickly and reliably with employees when the pandemic hit. And while we can’t necessarily predict when critical events will happen, emergencies are a reality for which every business needs to be ready.
The best time to prepare for an emergency is well before one occurs, and effective communication should be at the core of your emergency preparedness plan. Taking a proactive approach to emergency response planning will help you ensure the best possible outcomes for your people and business.
In this blog post, we’ll explore three steps every organization should take to ensure they’re prepared to communicate effectively with employees during any emergency or business interruption that may arise.
Step 1: Determine what types of events you may need to communicate about.
The first step to designing an emergency response plan is to identify the types of events you may need to communicate about. Employees should be informed of potential emergencies that may occur near where employees live or work, or other events that risk interrupting or halting business operations—as well as any actions employees should take.
While specific threats vary by location, sector, and company, emergency events you may need to plan for include:
- Natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, etc.)
- Severe weather (winter storms, high winds, extreme heatwaves, floods, etc.)
- Pandemics and infectious diseases (COVID-19, influenza, etc.)
- Facility emergencies (structure fires, hazardous leaks or spills, etc.)
- Acts of violence (active shooters, bomb threats, political violence, terrorist attacks, etc.)
- Civil disturbances (protests, demonstrations, riots, strikes, etc.)
In addition to these traditional emergencies, there are a number of more common events your business will encounter where accurate, timely communication is just as important. And any event in which a large number of employees need information quickly should be accounted for in your emergency communication plan.
From IT to Operations to HR, events that are non-threatening but critical to the success of the business may include:
- IT (Unplanned outages, planned downtime or maintenance, system testing, cyber attacks or security breaches, helpdesk escalations, etc.)
- Operations (Logistics coordination, power outages, equipment malfunctions, office closures, travel advisories, safety alerts, shift and overtime scheduling, etc.)
- HR (Open enrollment deadlines, compliance training notifications, benefits or payroll changes, major company news, policy updates, etc.)
Step 2: Decide how communication will occur between employees and the business.
Perhaps the most important part of any emergency response plan is how you will communicate. When developing your plan, it is essential to consider how employees will be notified of a critical event, how the information will be delivered and received, and how effective the channels of communication will be at reaching every employee in harm’s way.
During critical events, phone calls and emails are no longer enough. Manual phone trees are prone to misinformation and long delays, and there are many reasons why an email alert system just doesn’t cut it for emergency communication.
Research suggests that only 65 percent of employees ever open internal emails. For knowledge workers constantly inundated with messages, internal emails just don’t create the sense of urgency that is needed when communicating time-sensitive information. Hourly and frontline employees—such as retail associates and distribution center workers—often do not have a company email address at all or, if they do, do not have access to it from their personal phone outside of business hours. And if phone lines are down or email is inaccessible—as can often be the case in emergency situations—your employees may never receive the message. If an organization is hit with an IT virus, for example, relying on email as the only communication channel would be useless and perhaps even counterproductive.
Step 3: Assess how technology can be leveraged to facilitate effective communication.
Today’s workforce is more distributed than ever before, especially now that many of us are working remotely for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19. This makes emergency communication increasingly important—but also more challenging.
A modern emergency notification system enables the fast, reliable delivery of mass notifications to any size audience, on any device, over any communication channel. And every organization—regardless of size, industry, or location—will face unexpected events that can be managed more effectively with the help of emergency communication software.
When evaluating mass notification solutions, it may be easy to fall into the trap of thinking a standalone text messaging tool is sufficient. But a simple text blaster simply doesn’t have the functionality needed to reliably communicate with your people during critical events. When the health and safety of your people are at stake, only an enterprise-grade emergency communication system can offer the speed, reliability, and user experience you need.
A mass notification system with multi-channel delivery, two-way messaging, and global threat monitoring can help protect your people and your business. With a modern emergency communication system, you can rapidly send and receive messages across multiple channels and ensure everyone gets the messages they need, when they need them. By automatically syncing with your HRIS or Active Directory, you’ll also never have to worry about inaccurate employee contact information—critical to safeguarding message deliverability.
Designing a Modern Emergency Response Plan
Every business needs a solid plan in place for how they will communicate with employees during emergencies and other business-critical events. During critical events, minutes can mean the difference between a minor incident and a major disaster. The heat of a crisis is not the time to figure out what you need to do to effectively communicate with and ensure the safety of impacted employees. Timely, effective communication is the foundation of any emergency response or business continuity plan.
AlertMedia’s mass notification system has many practical applications, helping facilitate communication during any event in which employees need information fast. With AlertMedia, organizations can rapidly and easily interact with their people to improve employee safety and well-being—while also ensuring business continuity and protecting the bottom line.