Often, the time it takes to recover from a disaster has a direct correlation with how long a disaster lasts. The sooner an incident can be resolved, the sooner normal operations can resume and recovery plans can take over. This may sound simple in theory, but in practice, many organizations aren’t even aware of the issues they have created for themselves.

Creating a safety plan requires time and resources, but so much effort can be spent creating a plan, that organizations can lose sight of what they actually want a plan to accomplish. It all boils down to one simple idea: an effective safety plan gets people to take action. So much thought goes into understanding what organizations need people to do during an emergency, but few take the steps necessary to test and see the plan actually works the way it is intended to until an emergency takes place. By then it is often too late to realize the issues with the processes, procedures, and tools that are proving more of a hindrance than a help when a plan is put into action.

These issues usually arise with the tools used to carry out a plan rather than a plan itself. Too many organizations rely on a single communication tool share information during a crisis. While it may check a box of reaching everyone with a mass SMS text message or email, those methods on their own rarely communicate the urgency necessary during critical events. This can mean emails sit in inboxes unopened, or text messages get sent to phones that are on silent, putting the onus on the recipient to see the message. This means it takes longer to alert people about a problem, and as a result, can put people and operations at risk, elongating the time it takes for normal operations to resume.

Some organizations have worked to resolve this challenge by implementing additional tools to fill gaps, but this strategy can also lead to unforeseen problems. Multiple siloed tools can also be ineffective in a crisis. The more tools an organization has, the more people need to manage and activate them. Amid an emergency this is less than ideal, especially if one specific person needs to be in a specific location to start the chain of events within a safety plan. Using a single tool which can connect to many different devices and systems can prove much more efficient.

That’s why many organizations rely on a mass notification system to help deliver alerts. Mass notification systems can connect to many of the devices organizations already have in place, including desk phones, mobile phones, desktop computers, digital signage, and overhead paging and speaker systems. Alerts can be delivered as text and audio simultaneously, creating a powerful and cohesive method for notifying everyone about an emergency. Using audio in addition to text allows organizations to interrupt ongoing activities which communicates the seriousness of the message and helps keep messaging consistent across all platforms. Being able to deliver clear, informative messages helps recipients understand the actions they are supposed to take and begin taking them as soon as a message is delivered.

This means no matter what kind of incident is occurring, an organization is able to quickly alert people who can in turn begin taking the proper precautions. This could include halting activities, locking doors, evacuating buildings, stopping production, or other necessary steps that will keep people out of harm’s way. A mass notification system can assist with many of these steps by tying into the Internet of Things. At the same time messages are being delivered, IoT devices can turn lights on or off, activate electronic door locks, cut off power to production lines, and more to help automate safety plans as much as possible. This minimizes the risk of missing crucial steps and allows organizations to have more time to actively manage an incident rather than trying to check every box on a to do list.

When it comes to managing an incident, mass notification systems can continue to play a crucial role. In addition to initial alerts about an event, mass notification systems can send invites for key safety team members to join virtual collaboration spaces via a conference call or tools like Webex, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. This helps bring together the right people with minimal effort to begin assessing the situation and deploying a response. Help can then be directed to those who need assistance, and other issues can be addressed speedily to reduce downtime. Follow up messages can also be sent out to keep people informed about the status of the event and when they can expect normal operations to resume.

When it is determined an incident has been resolved, mass notifications can then be used to get operations back up and running. Confusion and uncertainty can often be detrimental an organization quickly resuming the status quo. This is because word of mouth and social media rumors can create noise that dilutes the accurate information from being shared, received and understood. Time can be wasted responding to unnecessary questions and getting people back inside a building. With a mass notification system, organizations can create a source of truth for people to turn to when they need to receive reliable information about a situation. This then cuts through the other noise which may be created during an emergency to speed up the return to normal.

When an incident has ended, it’s time to determine how effective an organization’s response was. Analyzing reports from a mass notification system can provide much needed insight into which areas of a safety plan work well and which need improvement. Looking at the success rate of deliver as well as whether or not people actually as they were instructed and how quickly they did it can help determine where revisions are needed. Part of this can be accomplished in the midst of an incident by sending out a notification that asks for a response. For example, “Have you evacuated the building?” The responses an safety receives can be used to assist those who are unable to evacuate, but can also be used to see if everyone did as instructed in an after action report.

Creating an easy to activate and actionable safety plan can take a lot of work, but the long term benefits are invaluable. Organizations that invest the time and resources in the right tools to help them execute their plans will be providing a safer environment for their people and reducing the overall impact a disaster can have on their operations. The faster information can be sent out and received by the right people who can then immediately react to the information be shared, the less time organization leaders need to worry about making sure everyone is aware of what is happening. This means they can devote more of their time and energy to resolving an incident and minimizing the impact downtime may cause. With a mass notification system, organizations can accomplish all of this with a push of a button to achieve successful outcomes that keep them well prepared to face any crisis they may encounter.


Paul Shain

Paul Shain is the president and CEO of Singlewire Software, developers of InformaCast.

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