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The Business Continuity Institute (BCI), in partnership with F24, has released the 5th edition of the BCI Emergency Communications Report. This annual publication provides insight into how organizations communicate in an emergency, the key communication challenges organizations face and how technology is helping to assist in communications processes.

State-of-the-Art Technology Enables Faster Communications
This year’s report found an increase in organizations using emergency notification and/or crisis management tools – 67% compared to 59.3% in 2019. This rise in popularity of using specialist emergency notification and crisis management tools/software suggests many of the organizations have decided to switch to specialist tools rather than rely on the free options available in the market. The companies using a software/tool are significantly faster in communications than those without.

The report also found that an increasing number of organizations prefer using software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions rather than on-premise software solutions. Nearly two-thirds of organizations (65.9%) are electing to use a SaaS solution, whilst under a fifth (19.5%) are using on-premise installed software. A SaaS solution can help to deliver a seamless emergency communications solution across multiple devices and can also help surpass the problem of adopting a new solution on legacy systems, an issue highlighted as a barrier to adoption by over half (51.2%) of respondents in the BCI 2019 Disruptive Technologies Report.

Lack of budget is the most cited reason for not employing an emergency communications tool, with over a third (36.4%) reporting they had no budget was defined for emergency communications tools or software. Just under a fifth of respondents (19.1%) felt that their organization was too small for such a tool to be adopted.

In terms of activation timing for emergency communications plans, the report found out that companies are faster than last year: Under a third of respondents confirmed that they can activate their plan within five minutes, compared to a fifth in 2019. Furthermore, a small but significant minority (1.6%) claimed activation took zero time due to an automated response based on an IT event/rule. Only 1% of organizations reported that it took over 12 hours to activate their emergency communications plan, down from 2.4% in 2019.

The Human Factor in Crucial for Successful Communications
The report also analysed some of the key communication challenges and found that people rather than technology which is the primary challenge for ensuring effective execution of an emergency communication plan. Gathering, validating and sharing accurate information is the greatest challenge to organizations during an emergency response, with communicating with staff at second place.

Human error is also the primary cause for plan failure, with lack of accurate staff information and lack of understanding the top causes for failure. Over half of organizations (54.2%) cite communicating with staff as a key challenge during an emergency. At the same time, however, under two-thirds of organizations (61.7%) seek to ensure that employees’ contact information is kept up to date.

Email Remains One of the Favoured Method of Communication in a Crisis Situation
In terms of channels, email remains the preferred method of communication for all scenarios, whether internal or external. However, an alternative means of communication should be considered in the case of a network or system outage, particularly as cyber-attacks are a frequent cause for triggering an emergency communications plan.

Other report findings include:

  • Higher levels of investments in technology and training means 73.1% of organizations are achieving their expected response levels.
  • Nearly half of organizations (41.4%) now have a secure messaging app integrated into their emergency communications plan.
  • The number of organizations who have activated their emergency communications plan over the past year has risen marginally to 71.6% (2019: 71%) and organizations are increasingly using these real-life activations to improve process and procedure.
  • Adverse weather/natural disaster and IT/telecoms outage are the most frequent reasons for emergency communications plans being activated in the past year.
  • The importance of the external communications/PR department is crucial to the effectiveness of an emergency communications plan, particularly for larger organizations who could see significant customer or share price impact if incorrect or false news is spread.
  • IoT devices are currently being used by less than a quarter of organizations, with over a half not having any plans to implement them. However, the number of organizations who are employing IoT technology or plan to do so has risen by 5% this year to 38.3% (2018: 33.0%).
  • Despite increased international travel, preparations for staff travelling abroad is surprisingly low: only just over a third (39.7%) have a comprehensive travel risk management plan in place and under half (48.2%) ensure reliable contact information is collected for staff travelling abroad.

Read the full announcement here.

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