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Law firm’s ground-breaking Emergency Communications App

Farrer & Co are an independent law firm based in London, uniquely known as the “Queen’s Lawyers” owing to the privilege of counting the House of Windsor among their client-base. Having been in business for over three centuries and steeped in the rich tradition of the British legal system, this historic law firm is embracing the latest mobile app technology dedicated to keeping employees safe.

April 2015 saw an underground electrical fire significant enough to make the national news, just 100 yards from the law firm’s building, at Holborn tube station. Causing a vast amount of chaos to the local area, the fire destroyed power cables and burned through Internet networks. A large part of central London was plunged into darkness and thousands of businesses, including Farrer & Co, found themselves suddenly without any power or communications. 

Neil Davison, Head of IT at Farrer & Co said that the outbreak of the fire revealed inherent weaknesses in their business continuity plans “Initially there was lots of confusion. We were without power, without mobile signals and were unable to locate a large number of staff. The crisis management team was quickly assembled and we needed to dig out and dust off our business continuity and disaster recovery plans.” But they couldn’t. Why? Because the systems were down. And to access the emergency plan – the systems need to be running. The only disaster recovery plan was to send everyone home – but this just did not make sense. Not only in terms of the business, such as lost man-hours of work, risks to corporate social responsibility and risks to the firm’s reputation, but most crucially, the duty of care the practice had towards all their employees in maintaining their safety. 

One of the major issues was the safety of staff – around 100 people – and the ability to mass communicate when all channels are down. Neil immediately recognized a new solution was required.  He explains: “This incident made us realize how inadequate our existing business continuity plan and disaster recovery process actually were, and we could never put the firm and employees at such risk again.”

Farrer & Co was already working with YUDU, and knew they developed intelligent apps for businesses. The firm approached the team about creating a communications app to help improve business continuity, risk management and employee safety. 

YUDU built Farrer & Co. a custom Emergency Communications app designed to keeping people informed and safe in an emergency. Unlike other existing Emergency Communications systems, this app was built “first for mobile,” rather than mobile being a later development appended on to a desktop-first design. The app design is simple, people centric and easy to use – simplicity is key in a disaster situation. Users can both email and call people from the app, register if they are safe or in danger and send mass messages out to all employees – in under 2 minutes. It also includes access to an Employee Directory module with contact numbers, email details, information and even pictures of employees, as well as other useful numbers in case of emergency. 

The Document Center module, leveraged from an existing app architecture, gives employees the ability to download key documents like the Business Continuity Plan directly from the app to make them available offline, so even when the power is down, vital guidelines remain available and management can rest assured that staff are in receipt of all the necessary information for such an eventuality. 

However, the center-piece of the app is the Messaging Center module. This messaging center allowed Farrer’s management to directly communicate with their employees through the app. The center-piece of this new development was a roll-call system which organized employees on a “traffic light” basis, putting those who weren’t accounted for in the event of an incident first. 

Though initially just developed to accommodate in-app messaging. The Emergency Communications App now allows administrators to broadcast using SMS and e-mail too, allowing for multiple redundancies in the event of examples like a power-outage or a local wi-fi network being taken down. Concludes Neil: “We are yet to use the App for an emergency, but it is reassuring to have such a sound solution in place. If anything happens again, we know the BCP plan and contact numbers will be immediately available.” Neil went on to discuss the unforeseen productivity boost that the Employee Directory stating that Farrer & Co “make day-to-day use of the app with its Employee Directory primarily”, as it lists each employee, some information about their role in the company and contact details, allowing staff to call virtually anyone within the practice within a couple of clicks. 

Neil adds, “The Emergency Communications app was developed specifically for Farrer & Co to meet our actual needs following a serious incident, however, as it’s based on a real emergency and is so comprehensive, it’s now being used by many other businesses. The App is constantly updating and developing the app so users are confident they have access to the latest solution. 

App Features
  • On device library of critical documents and procedures stored within the mobile document center
  • One way and two-way messaging systems
  • Status update
  • Track and locate staff via multiple-redundancy roll-call functionality
  • Send messages via SMS, email or in app
  • Employee Directory

Download the 5 ways Emergency Communication Apps keep employees safe inforgaphic here.

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