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Ensuring Business Continuity with an Emergency Mass Notification System

By Daniel Graff-Radford:

Businesses today, whether they are Fortune 100 companies with geographically dispersed workforces or small and midsize businesses whose workforces are always on the move, are challenged to communicate in real-time with employees and customers when emergencies and other events occur. This is becoming more challenging amidst an increasingly complex global threat environment. Whether it’s severe weather, terrorist and active shooter threats, travel issues or even cybersecurity attacks, business leaders need to find ways to notify employees in real-time.

Not only is personal safety critically important, maintaining business continuity is also a top priority: Statista estimates, the global economic loss from natural disaster events in 2017 alone was $353 billion. Add in the costs and business impact of man-made emergency events and it is little surprise that business continuity professionals are turning to Emergency Mass Notification Systems (EMNS). EMNS are not only ways for organizations to keep employees safe, but they also ensure reliable risk management and business continuity of operations. This includes crisis management, IT service management, corporate communications or any area that needs reliable two-way notification for groups from one to many thousands.

How to Effectively Deploy and Manage an EMNS

Preparedness is one of the key ways an organization can stay on track in the wake of an emergency. Understanding possible threats and developing procedures to minimize downtime is critical to ensuring business continuity. If an emergency occurs and an EMNS is already in place, an organization has a better chance of preserving its operations, systems, data and brand.

Organizations should ensure that they know who they are including on notification lists and when and where these individuals will receive alerts based on pre-defined scenarios. It is also important to clarify who has the authority to create or launch notifications and what level of detail needs to be in the message. This can mean the difference between a seamless response to an emergency and scrambling during the event to determine if the right people are being notified by those authorized to distribute alerts.

No matter how simple you think the plan is, it’s always a good idea to train the message initiators, not just once, but repeatedly. Because this is (hopefully) not something that they will use every day, it may not come naturally. This is the time to determine who is authorized to create and sent alerts, and what the approval workflow should look like. Training should not be targeted to just initiators; training recipients as well will result in much higher response rates to notifications.

After an EMNS is put in place, it’s important to test it. Testing systems on a quarterly basis may be enough to ensure that users are comfortable with receiving and responding to notifications. Varying the send times and targeting different devices is key in determining the optimal way to reach your audience.

Automation also plays a key role in a successful implementation. Manually-intensive mass notification systems that place a heavy burden on users to configure and manage will result in diminished benefits. Automation greatly shortens the time period between the occurrence of an event and response. The key to effective use of automated notifications is the ability to tailor the automation based on appropriate recipient groups, the nature of the event, and other rules your organization may construct to ensure the right individuals get the right message at the right time.

About the Author: Daniel Graff-Radford is the Chief Product Officer for OnSolve, an industry provider of emergency mass notification and alert systems.


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