Prepare Your Business For a Disaster With Emergency Notifications

Power outages. Earthquakes. Chemical spills. Workplace violence. Disasters come in many forms – not all of which are possible to avoid or anticipate. But you can prepare your business to minimize the impact of any kind of emergency situation and recover quickly. One indispensable tool in any  disaster is an emergency notification system.

The Cost of Disasters Without Smart Emergency Notifications

When a fire in a PG&E utility substation caused 90,000 San Franciscans to lose power, organizations without sufficient emergency notification systems paid the price.Many businesses’ physical plants and locations were impacted. In some cases, employee keycards didn’t work and elevators stopped functioning. 

Remote operations didn’t fare much better, as the effect wasn’t limited to employees located in the immediate area, since the outage knocked out servers and other systems that workers in other locations depended on. Whether they were in workplaces, in the field or at home, tens of thousands of workers couldn’t access the resources they needed to do their jobs. It all added up to wasted time, sunk expenses and missed opportunities. One industry professional estimated his company lost millions of dollars in the span of a few hours.

Emergency Notifications Could Have Mitigated the Impact

To be clear, there was nothing that businesses in San Francisco could have done to prevent the outage. Disasters happen. No company, no matter its industry or where its facilities are located, can ensure 100% uptime 24/7.

However, the right emergency notification software could have saved those organizations five, six or even seven figures. Employees affected by the outage could have been informed about its scope and geography much more quickly, allowing them to use the downtime efficiently, find workarounds and get back to normal operations as quickly as possible. Non-impacted personnel could have filled in the gaps in safety- and time-sensitive functions. Deliveries could have been rerouted. Key accounts wouldn’t have been left in the dark. 

With emergency notifications, the local and remote workforce – as well as customers, clients, vendors and other stakeholders – would have known:

  • What was happening
  • Where to go – i.e., whether to go home or remain at work
  • When power was expected to be restored
  • Measures to take to assist vital operations and maintain business continuity
  • What to do when the organization was back online
  • Who to contact with questions and issues

An emergency notification system can make the difference between minimizing chaos and creating more of it. Without such a system in place, an emergency situation can become much worse than it needs to be. 

Learn how mass messaging sustains business continuity during a crisis.

Does Your Organization Have the Emergency Notification Tools You Need in Place? 9 Questions to Ask

Does your organization have the mass notification capabilities you need to blunt the impacts of a disaster? Can you manage business continuity during any unexpected event? See if you can answer the following 9 questions – every “no” answer indicates significant risk.

1. Can your emergency notification system reach everyone at a moment’s notice? 

The key ingredient is speed. Fast communication is the foundation of a business continuity strategy. During an emergency, people need to be informed to keep critical operations going, stay safe and remain productive.

2. Does your emergency notification system have two-way communication capability?

Basic, one-way alerting systems can inform your team about disasters, but provide no way for people to respond – to confirm that they got the message,  report their status, or provide essential information to ensure safety and coordinate a response. That’s why two-way alerting systems are a must-have. They allow recipients to acknowledge receipt, confirm whether they’re safe or need help, answer questions and provide essential information. 

3. Will your emergency mass notifications reach people on the devices they actually use?

Organizations that are well-prepared for emergencies know that reaching people means contacting them via the channels and devices they’re likely to be using at the time. Text is often the ideal first choice for an emergency notification channel. Consider the fact that 95% of Americans have a mobile phone – and 95% of texts are responded to in 3 minutes or less. But remember that you need to also account for the other 5%.

You need to be ready to send emergency communications through text messages, mobile push notifications, email, phone, social media – whichever channel (or sequence or combination of channels) is best for the audience and situation at hand. In some cases, for example, it’s best to try one channel first and then auto-escalate to another if people haven’t acknowledged receipt within a specified interval of time, as described below.

4. Can you specify who receives emergency notification messages? 

An effective alerting system allows administrators to ensure that the right people have useful information when they need it, and, conversely, that people aren’t bombarded by irrelevant notifications. Not everyone needs to know about every situation, and indiscriminately broadcasting alerts can sow confusion, waste time and cause alert fatigue.

Notification systems therefore need the ability to easily target specific groups, such as particular teams, roles, departments or locations. Ideally, the system should enable you to define those groups in advance, saving precious time when an emergency strikes.

The system should also provide geofencing capabilities, which allow administrators to designate recipients by outlining their location (or multiple locations) on a map. This allows you to flexibly and rapidly target people in specific areas, even when you don’t have an existing group for that area.  Thinking back to the San Francisco outage, companies with offices in the city could have used geofencing technology to send alerts only to those in the blackout area, rather than blasting the message to everyone in every location.

5. Do you have a hotline and conference bridge for emergencies?

While two-ay alerts are great for short notifications and responses, employees often need a place to get more detailed guidance, ask questions and confer with colleagues. Some alerting systems enable you to set up and connect employees to hotlines and/or conference bridges.

6. Is your emergency notification software hosted securely off-site?

If not, it will go down when your servers go down. You can’t use the same systems that are out of service or compromised by a security threat to manage alerts. Obvious as that may sound, many organizations don’t realize they’ve overlooked this crucial aspect of emergency planning until it’s too late. To avoid this scenario, your emergency notification software should be hosted on secure, redundant and resilient off-site infrastructure that remains up and running in any scenario.

7. Is your contact database completely accurate and up to date?

You can have a solution and plan in place for effective mass notifications, but it won’t do you any good if employee contact information is missing or out of date. Make sure your system includes the correct phone numbers, email addresses and other necessary contact info for employees and other stakeholders you need to communicate with. 

Unfortunately, this is a weak link in many emergency notification systems. Most organizations have accurate mobile numbers for less than 50% of their employees. Did you know AlertFind is the only notification provider that can automatically find and fix missing contact information? Learn how AlertFind SmartContact™ ensures 100% database accuracy.

8. Can your mass notification system automatically escalate alerts if people don’t respond?

Like database accuracy, auto-escalation helps ensure the technology does what it’s built to do. When someone doesn’t respond, the emergency notification system should be able to quickly resend the alert or move on to a different channel or team member. Depending on your organization, that interval can range from a few minutes to an hour or more, which is why an effective system allows administrators to configure the auto-escalation path and interval. Note that auto-escalation requires that the system has the ability to detect receipt of the message, which requires two-way capability.

9. Have you tested your notification system recently?

Don’t wait until an emergency tests it for you. Make sure you know how – and how well – the system works and address any issues or gaps before disaster strikes.You may not be able to avoid a disaster, but you can minimize its impact on your organization and stakeholders. Don’t simply hope for the best. Use the best tools available to ensure continuity while protecting your people and your bottom line.

Discover why organizations of all kinds consider AlertFind the #1 choice for emergency notifications. 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.