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August 18, 2009

Beyond Mass Notification

Written by  Christel Mes, Director of Corporate Marketing for AlarmPoint Systems
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Transforming Business Continuity Capabilities by Targeting Actionable Information to Thousands

This article will discuss best practices around emergency notification as well as list the requirements an organization should demand before choosing an effective business continuity planning (BCP) or emergency notification system. It covers the downfalls of mass notification which excludes the ability to target actionable information through role-specific information delivery. Additionally, the article addresses how an organization can recover from disasters faster and in a more organized manner saving the organization time, resources and reputation as well as ensuring the safety of personnel.

fotolia_7891533_xs.jpgToday’s real-time enterprise requires instant, actionable information in times of crisis to accelerate decision making, inform and update personnel and customers, and minimize the impact of a business impacting event. Traditionally, businesses using manual notification, call trees or mass notification services which provide the same message to a large population of recipients. The assumption of many organizations is that each person needs the same message – but this assumption does not reflect the business requirements. In the event of a disaster, recipients need access to information appropriate to their role within the context of the incident, accelerating their ability to act. This need has created a new challenge for organizations – requiring them to evolve beyond traditional solutions.

Targeted Actionable Information, Delivered to Thousands
A targeted communication platform is the only way for businesses to evolve from mass and manual notification to the automated, targeted alerts required by today’s global business environment. An enterprise-wide commitment to delivering targeted Information is necessary to ensure the continuity of business by:

  • Ensuring business impacting events are detected and notified on
  • Guaranteeing the delivery of actionable information through any communication channel
  • Enabling instant smartphone access to systems and documents
  • Providing the speed and scale of mass notification with the quality of targeted, actionable information
  • Ensuring updates are delivered and escalations occur automatically
  • Delivering granular, two way logging for post-event analysis and continuous process improvement

Role Specific Requirements
Any crisis – whether newsworthy or from an internal outage -- must be resolved as quickly as possible, especially if it creates business impact or puts individuals in harm’s way. While sending the same voice or text message to thousands of recipients may raise initial awareness, it does not accelerate an organization’s ability to take action. A targeted communication platform moves beyond mass notification to deliver instant, role-specific information.

Role-specific information allows different people within the organization to receive different information based on their skill set, physical location, ability to assist in a critical event, etc. By collecting and storing role-specific attributes, the BCP administrator will be able to notify people that can help assist or resolve a situation. This ability to provide personalized information eliminates confusion and increases the chances of each person making appropriate, real-time decisions.

Two Way Communication
Generally, organizations can send simple messages out to personnel to alert them to an issue, however, two-way mobile communication is today’s requirement. Can the person acknowledge the alert or better yet, review the disaster procedures on their iPhone or BlackBerry? Through remote action enablement, organizations can better handle mass notification for emergencies and provide action capabilities.

In addition, the communication platform must have robust two-way capabilities, allowing the affected personnel to declare their status, whether it is pressing “1” if they are safe or pressing “2” if they need help. The ability to communicate with the crisis manager allows the team to take immediate action and learn more about a critical situation, shaping their action.

Requirements for Effective, Targeted Communication

In the past, organizations have had very informal communication methods during an outage or crisis, sending mass messages out to personnel just to alert them to an issue, however, in the real-time business culture, organizations must provide instant, mobile access with targeted, personalized information. Events such as natural disasters, security breaches, power outages and terrorist attacks are forcing organizations to adopt more effective, targeted two-way communication. Two-way messages enable multiple people with different skills to receive direction as to how they can help in a time of crisis, providing mobile responses and access to policies and procedures from any location. This ability to automate communications to a group in real-time with 100 percent assurance that it will reach the intended recipient is invaluable.

In addition, dynamic or pre-determined scenarios initiated from the web or a phone allows administrators to quickly initiate alerts. Most importantly, intelligently targeting information to people and groups that can help remedy the situation provides details to each person as to how they can assist. This two-way communication to all personnel involved in the crisis enables faster recovery, minimizes loss, and helps maintain confidence in the organization.

Key Benefits of an Effective, Targeted Two-Way Disaster Recovery Communication platform:

  • Targeted, Two-Way Communication: With two-way messaging capabilities, recipients can respond to a voice, e-mail, SMS or text message, providing crucial information such as location and status in the event of a crisis
  • Ease of Use: With an intuitive web-based user interface and mobile application access, personnel can use the service with assurance and precision in the times of emergency
  • Instant Conference Bridge: The ability to initiate a conference bridge and “push” conference calls out to critical personnel saves time in a crisis situation, enabling faster resolution
  • Audit Trail: By auditing responses, escalations and actions, organizations satisfy compliance requirements

Conclusion
In a crisis, the most effective strategy is enterprise-wide information delivery. The business drivers related to the concept of “business availability” have increased the importance and exposure of the BCP and disaster recovery functions. The ways of the past (i.e. mass notification, manual processes, one way notification, etc.) are not acceptable in the current business environment.

The demands of today’s enterprise require more than just mass notification. Instead of sending a mass bulletin hoping it reaches the intended recipients, an enterprise must utilize targeted, actionable information to a large group informing them of the issue and minimizing business impact. Real-time enterprises focused on targeting individual alerts to the appropriate personnel will not only minimize casualties and decrease economic hardships in the time of a crisis, but they will also experience a higher return on investment, faster response and recovery times, higher message delivery success rates and overall consistency across the enterprise.

 

Christel Mes is Director of Corporate Marketing for AlarmPoint Systems - The Leader Alert Management and Mobility Solutions.



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