If you work in crisis management in 2022, there’s one question you have probably considered at some point recently: when will it end?

An increase in workplace violence, severe weather, public health crises, and ongoing supply chain challenges are just a few things crisis management teams have faced this year alone. These worrisome trends also happen to be just a few of the factors contributing to a rapidly evolving and more costly threat landscape. 

Virtually every study reaches the same conclusion – emergencies are growing in frequency, impact, and cost leaving organizations wrestling with a wide range of threats to both their people and businesses. It’s likely to get worse before it gets better.  

For example, a recently published climate report predicted a megastorm that could bring disastrous floods to California. Others forecast an extreme heat belt that will bring 125-degree days to more than 100 million Americans in the next 30 years. We continue to experience the significant impacts of a hurricane season that is coming earlier each decade. 

For many business leaders, the answer is “organizational resilience” – building the ability to navigate any crisis while mitigating risks to both employees and the bottom line. However, this involves a highly sophisticated, multifaceted, all-hazards approach to ensure the business is ready to handle – and quickly overcome – any unforeseen situation. 

From threat identification to risk mitigation to disaster response, tactics must be updated and streamlined to ensure emergency response plans are detailed and communications are timely, accurate, and fluid in the event of a critical incident. 

Here are a few actions that safety, security, and business continuity leaders can take now to prepare for new challenges they may face this year and beyond. 

Heightened focus on preparedness

With the increase in volume, frequency, severity, and uncertainty of threats facing businesses today, crisis management teams are turning their focus on preparedness and vigilance more now than ever. In order to minimize loss when a disaster strikes or ongoing situations worsen, emergency preparedness plans must go far beyond standard drills and basic protocol sheets. 

To start, in-depth threat assessments should identify all potential threats to a business and assess the likelihood and impact of each. For example, external threats may include severe weather events, transportation challenges, violent crimes, or civil unrest, while internal threats may include cyber risks, hazardous materials, gas leaks, potential utility outages, or theft. 

Once threat assessments are complete, robust crisis response plans and ongoing training are crucial for seamless execution in the event of an emergency. A dependable, easy-to-use emergency communication system should be the fundamental underpinning of any crisis management strategy. Modern emergency communication systems should offer multichannel and two-way capabilities, which will allow for the efficient flow of information – from leadership to affected locations – and dispatch of resources to employees and facilities where it’s needed.  

However, an organization can complete the most thorough threat assessment, have the best team trained in crisis response, and implement the best communication system possible, but if nobody’s aware of an imminent threat or has the wrong information, no other system works effectively.

Overcoming information overload  

A functional threat assessment and emergency communication plan requires modern technology to support it. With thousands of data sources and information streams to monitor – inundated with misinformation and false alarms – business operations and crisis management teams often struggle to identify a true impending threat and verify it for escalation. 

The challenges with information overload, unreliable resources, and delayed intelligence verification and delivery are exacerbated for organizations with remote employees, multiple office locations, traveling employees, disbursed supply routes, and more. By the time impacted employees and crisis management teams know what’s going on, it may be too late to effectively execute a crisis response plan. 

But just as threats don’t discriminate when it comes to industries and locations, threat monitoring doesn’t have to be overwhelming for any organization.  

Real-time, analyst-verified threat intelligence enables business operations and crisis management teams to easily monitor potential threats and notify employees when they may be affected. Technology today offers the ability to filter threats and view only those that are relevant to a specific organization – further reducing unnecessary information. Additionally, some systems allow for geofencing and grouping, which allows crisis management teams to send location-based notifications and immediately reach relevant decision-makers when a crisis is unfolding. 

Reliable and concise threat intelligence is vital for the best possible outcome when a business faces a dangerous or impactful circumstance. 

The need for human connection  

Even equipped with modern threat intelligence tools, recent events – such as those mentioned at the beginning of this article – have emphasized the importance of human connection during potentially life altering situations. This includes the ability for employees to reach crisis management personnel when in harm’s way as well as the ability for crisis management personnel to connect with threat intelligence experts – or collaborate with professionals at other organizations facing the same crisis – in order to make the best possible decisions for employees and for the business. 

To address the latter, crisis response experts may want additional context or clarity on an event as it’s unfolding to confirm they’re providing the most accurate and helpful information for everyone involved. Newer threat intelligence systems now offer the ability to contact seasoned threat analysts to gather additional information so that crisis response leaders are confident in the information they’re escalating to stakeholders and impacted areas of the organization. 

As it relates to employee safety, two-way communication systems can be the difference between lives saved and tragic loss. Some communication systems offer the ability to send wellness surveys to quickly evaluate which employees are safe and which need immediate assistance. For employees who request assistance, crisis management and safety teams can quickly alert first responders and confirm when help is on the way. Additionally, the ability for employees to share real-time information from the scene of an incident can profoundly impact real-time direction from leadership that could further minimize loss. This level of information quality and timely emergency response can also help companies address challenges with employee wellbeing and increased turnover rates. In fact, a recent report showed that information quality is the single most influential thing businesses can do to establish trust with employees. 

Today’s evolving physical threat landscape is a concern for businesses in all industries when it comes to keeping their employees safe and operations flowing. As employers evaluate their safety, security, and business continuity strategies to ensure resiliency long-term, it’s crucial to look at technology and tools that enable situational awareness for all employees, in all situations, no matter their location.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Steinfeld

Peter Steinfeld is the senior vice president of safety solutions at AlertMedia and host of The Employee Safety Podcast, where each week he interviews safety, security, business continuity, and disaster recovery experts from all over the world. Steinfeld also leads AlertMedia’s sales organization, ensuring his team has the right information and resources to successfully bring in new customers and prospects. Prior to AlertMedia, Steinfeld held sales leadership roles at Symantec and Dell, among several other enterprise software companies. He has been involved in the emergency communications industry for nearly 20 years, advising organizations of all sizes on matters related to employee safety, and is passionate about helping organizations protect their most valuable assets: their people. Steinfeld is a graduate of Middlebury College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He also earned his MBA from the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University.

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