Improve Government Crisis Response With A Smart Emergency Notification System

Governments Need Emergency Notifications To Sustain Business Continuity During Emergencies Big And Small.

At the risk of stating the obvious, all of us rely on services provided by state and local governments. To sustain those services uninterrupted, agencies have to be ready for any contingency. That includes outright disasters like wildfires, extreme weather, cyber attacks and mass shootings. And it includes less dramatic, but far more common, incidents like network failures, facilities problems, road closures and power outages. All of these can create hardship for government employees and citizens, and all of them demand immediate, effective government crisis response. Does your emergency management plan prepare you to respond quickly, and put the right personnel and equipment in place for quick resolution?

Despite their importance, Federal guidelines for the installation and deployment of mass notifications systems are often focused on specific requirements such as employee safety or fire protection, not business continuity. FEMA recommends actively communicating with staff about continuity planning and considers two-way communication vital during government crisis response, but explicit guidelines focus on public disaster alerts or protocols for specific types of installation.

With confusing guidance and community demands increasing for a tech-savvy incident response, state and local governments often find themselves deploying an emergency notification system (ENS) first and reviewing its effectiveness later, after it's operational. That's going at things the wrong way.

Evaluate Your Mass Notification Needs Before Evaluating Features

To deploy and maintain an effective communication system, you need to match its capabilities to your needs. Every state and local government entity has unique requirements. Depending on size, location and other factors, each has varying levels of responsibility for public safety, technology infrastructure and incident response.

Identify who on your team needs to be contacted, and when. Map your operations processes, infrastructure and human capacity to identify specific business continuity challenges and opportunities. Government crisis response often requires help from external stakeholders (such as contractors and partner agencies in other jurisdictions), so who outside of your team needs to be involved in your emergency management? For example, if there’s an issue with the city’s water supply, how do you interface with the regional water district and who on your team reaches out to local retailers to ensure they’re stocked up on bottled water?

Every situation is different, so your mass notification system will need to be able to communicate with the proper personnel in any scenario. Notifications should be limited to those affected by or responding to an incident. This will help you avoid alert fatigue and keep your mass notifications targeted to the issue at hand.

In addition to figuring out who will receive messages and when, you’ll need to ascertain how to best contact each asset. Field or remote personnel will probably need to receive texts while the office staff may be more effectively engaged by an email, phone call or a pop-up on their computer monitor.

Be sure your ENS will work seamlessly with your standard operating guidelines and procedures around messaging. This means integrating checklists, call-down rosters, resource listings, maps and even blueprints. Specific departments or agencies may have their own guidelines about how to notify staff, obtain and use equipment and best to communicate with staff.

Two-way communication with staff is critical for determining the next resource in the queue in the event the first one is not available. Consider how your system will help you manage the content, frequency and redundancy of alerts as you engage mission-critical staff, both internal and external.

Future-Proofing Your Government ENS

Aligning needs with mass notification system features is critical to adopting the right communications solution, but it’s important to remember that technology, stakeholder relationships and – most importantly – contact information for key personnel will constantly evolve.

Your ENS should always have accurate and up-to-date contact information. The best way to ensure this is by syncing with the systems of record that contain the latest, most accurate personnel information – systems such as your current employee directory, payroll system or other HR systems. Ideally, your ENS solution should integrate with these systems and sync contact lists automatically on an ongoing basis, so everything stays up to the minute.

Government Crisis Response Happens in the Spotlight. Your ENS Should be Ready for the Stage.

All types of government agencies are under close scrutiny from elected officials, the public, the press, regulatory agencies and watchdog groups. Failure to effectively respond adequately to a natural disaster or emergency undermines trust in government and makes a lasting negative impression on the public. Local or state government agencies are often the scapegoat when crisis response is viewed as a failure.

Public sector budgets are always under intense pressure. Even though everyone expects a crackerjack response when the server at the DMV crashes, no one is waving their arms and yelling for a doubling of their IT budget. To be consistently effective, your mass notification system should be highly reliable, always available and easy to maintain and operate. Costs should be predictable year over year

The implementation of a mass notification system will provide multiple benefits, including better business continuity, increased responsiveness, improved community safety and increased public confidence. Your use of labor will also be more efficient, and your staff will appreciate being in the loop and having their skills used effectively.

AlertFind empowers local and state governments to efficiently prepare for emergencies of every type and ensure business continuity. Our software allows you to implement a robust mass notification system quickly, with powerful targeting, data synchronization and security features. Get a demo.

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.