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Efficient Communication is Crucial in a Crisis

David-Wiseman.jpgWhen there is a crisis, what do you do? That is a bit of a trick question because I did not provide any details. What is the nature of the crisis? What—or who—is involved? What are the potential repercussions that might need to be mitigated?

In a crisis, clear and efficient communication is crucial because you cannot make effective decisions about the steps to take without a full picture of what is going on. And you need to be able to convey critical information or instructions to affected teams and individuals.

If you were woken up in the middle of the night with news that a water main break had flooded the streets surrounding your office, or a construction mishap knocked out your company’s Internet connection and crucial systems were offline, how would you communicate that information to warn people and get key stakeholders engaged to ensure business continuity?

Even though it is 2021, and most companies have a multitude of technologies at their disposal, the reality is that many still rely on old-fashioned call-tree lists to disseminate information. The idea of contact all employees in the middle of the night through daisy-chained phone calls is incredibly inefficient and prone to fail. What if people do not answer their phones?

Emergency Mass Notification System

Companies and institutions need to implement an emergency mass notification system (EMNS) to ensure they can communicate warnings and instructions efficiently during an event or crisis. Instead of relying on one method of communication, an EMNS can deliver information simultaneously through various formats, media, and platforms for broad exposure—and better odds of reaching everyone who needs to see the information.

There are eight criteria to consider when selecting an EMNS solution:

  • Risk assessment findings. Consider the risks and scenarios that may disrupt business or pose a safety or security concern.

  • Ease of use. It is imperative that the EMNS solution be simple to use when needed.

  • Fit for multiple use cases. Ensure the solution will work for the scenarios you consider likely to occur and that two-way communication is possible—where necessary.

  • Interoperability and integration. How well does the EMNS solution integrate with other systems to ensure your ability to collaborate and communicate with public safety and law enforcement agencies?

  • Platform security. The EMNS solution itself must incorporate robust security to ensure it does not become a weak link during a crisis. It should include resiliency and recovery capabilities.

  • Auditability. You should be able to see what happened and how you responded.

  • Customer service and support. It is important to have access to support when you need it. If a question or issue arises during a crisis, you need to be able to contact and communicate with the EMNS vendor immediately.

  • Solution pricing. Safety and security come first, but budget is always an issue. Once you have considered all the above criteria, you should be able to select the least expensive solution that provides the features and capabilities you need.

Plan Now—Because You Cannot Plan Once a Crisis Starts

Efficient communication is crucial during a crisis, but it does not just happen by accident. It requires preparation at each stage of the incident lifecycle.

  • Pre-Incident. Have pre-populated plans or run-books in place for the most likely incidents; conduct regular drills with users when possible.

  • During. Alert stakeholders through maintained group lists with up-to-date contact information. Respond by identifying and monitoring for the most critical recipient response options, e.g., “I am in danger.” And recover by associating critical event-types with the most appropriate response. A compromised server, for example, would require notifying and targeting the team responsible for it—not the whole department or organization.

  • Post-Incident. Post-mortems and incident response analysis can help you identify any additional resources needed, opportunities for automation, and ultimately avoid future occurrences of similar incidents. Key metrics to evaluate include time to initiate notification process, message delivery and response times, percentage of responses achieved by communication channel along with accuracy and completeness of audience targeting.

Invest the time now to consider the risks you face and ensure you have the tools and procedures in place to respond effectively.

David Wiseman is vice president of secure communications at BlackBerry.