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Employers urged to set up emergency communications plan

More organisations are recognising the need for an emergency communications plan in order to initiate secure and reliable communications to geographically dispersed staff during a crisis.

More organisations are recognising the need for an emergency communications plan in order to initiate secure and reliable communications to geographically dispersed staff during a crisis.

In our globally connected world, most organisations have staff that travel overseas, making it more important than ever for those organisations to have an effective emergency communications plan in place in order to contact geographically dispersed staff during a crisis. This is especially important given that the latest Emergency Communication Report, published by the Business Continuity Institute, revealed that one out of three organisations (32 percent) report their employees travel to ‘high risk’ countries.

The Emergency Communications Report, supported by Everbridge, did however deliver the encouraging news that most organisations (84 percent) do have some form of plan in place, although it did highlight that for those that don’t, two thirds (64 percent) felt that only a business-affecting event would incentivise them to develop one – most people would consider this too late.

With increasing physical security challenges experienced by organisations due to rising levels of concern surrounding workplace violence and acts of terrorism, as identified in the BCI’s latest Horizon Scan Report, being able to communicate effectively with staff may have the added advantage of increasing safety.

Further findings from the report include: One third of organisations (32 percent) report that at least 100 employees travel internationally; The top reasons for triggering emergency communications are: unplanned IT and telecommunications outages (42 percent), power outages (40 percent), adverse weather (39 percent), facilities management incidents (23 percent), cyber security incidents (22 percent), and natural disasters (22 percent); The top processes used for emergency communications are: internal emails (79 percent), text messaging (70 percent), manual call trees (56 percent), emergency communication software (50 percent), and website announcements (46 percent).

More than half of organisations (55 percent) use 3 or more emergency communications processes; Around 3 out of 10 organisations (29 percent) do not have training and education programmes; Around 7 out of 10 organisations (69 percent) stated that their emergency communications plan had been activated during the last year, other than during an exercise

A tenth of organisations (10 percent) take more than 60 minutes to activate their emergency communications plan; More than 6 out of 10 organisations (62 percent) are not confident about their preparedness for a location-specific security incident (e.g. workplace violence, act of terrorism); More than a tenth of organisations (11 percent) do not feel they have top management support when it comes to developing emergency communications plans

Patrick Alcantara DBCI, Senior Research Associate at the BCI and author of the report, commented: “A robust emergency communications capability is a crucial, often life-saving, component of incident response. This becomes more important considering ever changing threats which often impact on the physical safety and well-being of employees and customers. This timely study affirms how organisations strive to improve their emergency communications capability, as well as look at opportunities to ensure reliable messaging and response.”

Imad Mouline, Chief Technology Officer at Everbridge, commented: “This year’s findings indicate that global businesses are increasingly aware that true resiliency is a company-wide initiative that involves taking accountability for the safety of all staff—whether they are located in the office, at home or on the road. While it’s not surprising to see shared interest in emergency communications across business continuity, IT, security, facilities and other disciplines, it’s clear that organisations are still seeking solutions to optimise their response plans for a mobile workforce, and for the growing frequency and complexity of critical events and security incidents.”

Training, education and exercising are good ways to improve emergency communications plans, yet many organisations still have gaps in their training and education programmes related to emergency communications plans which serve as a barrier to embedding this capability. There are also gaps in exercising these plans. The human element of emergency communications has a significant role in its success. Lack of understanding from recipients is the top reason in failing to deliver effective emergency communications. There is a need for organisations to plan their messages and deliver these in a concise and sustained way in order to raise response levels and direct recipients to perform required actions that may save lives during an incident.

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