High-Speed, Two-Way Communications
The most obvious advantage is these systems can contact thousands of individuals in a short time – up to 20,000 people per hour via phone, cell phone, e-mail, or pager. In the event of an emergency, these systems can be activated by phone, through BCP software, or via a secure Web site.
Let’s face it, call trees are only as strong as their weakest link. What happens if a key person on a call tree is unavailable to make additional calls? The whole process would break down and many employees could be left in the dark.
Emergency notification systems eliminate the need to rely on the availability or accessibility of individuals.
When contacted by an emergency notification system, call recipients are given the appropriate information such as the situation, tasks, and team assignments.
The systems also enable administrators to receive and record information from the people it contacts. They can be asked questions such as medical qualifications, transportation needs, estimated time to arrive on scene, and any other data that may be useful during the crisis
For example, they can receive information such as which employees are CPR certified, who can reach the office in 30 minutes, or who has a four-wheel drive vehicle. The administrator can view these responses in real time and make informed decisions based on the information he or she receives.
Safe, Secure, And Reliable
Emergency notification systems also offer safe, secure, and reliable crisis communications. Since the hardware, software, and phone lines for these systems are usually installed at a third-party vendor, the system will be available in the event of a disaster.
On Sept. 11 several companies learned the building housing the equipment for their employee 800 phone number was located in the World Trade Center complex. Their phone numbers were eventually rerouted, but their notifications were delayed.
Be sure to choose a vendor that also backs up the hardware and data at an off site, secure back-up facility. This will have two benefits. First, if the vendor is affected by the same disaster, users can automatically be switched to the backup location. Second, during normal operations, the backup server can be used to load balance communications, dramatically increasing the system’s call volume capabilities.
With emergency notification systems, individual organizations are given their own database to store contact information and their own Web site. From the
Web site, changes can be made to any of the information stored in the system by an administrator or the individual contact.
Some systems can even provide vital communications by functioning as a call-bridge, patching key personnel into conference calls. This is especially useful should the local telecommunications infrastructure be damaged or hindered during a disaster. If the recipient cannot get an outbound phone line, they can be transferred to a bridged conference call.
Flexibility Under Pressure
During a crisis, new information is constantly being processed. What happens if you inform all members of a damage assessment team to report to the office, only to learn later that the building has been severely contaminated? They would be heading right into the danger. Emergency notification systems offer unique technology that helps keep everyone thoroughly informed throughout a crisis.
After an individual has been contacted, they are asked if a new contact method should be used as time goes forward and what that method should be. For example, if the CIO is contacted via her home phone and is asked to report to the office immediately, the system will also ask what is the best way to maintain contact with her. The CIO can let it be known that while taking the 30-minute drive to the office, the best means of contact is via a cell phone. Then the system will automatically update the contact method prioritization for this individual. If an urgent need to contact the CIO arises, it can be done quickly and efficiently. This feature ensures that key personnel always remain in contact as a disaster unfolds.
In addition, these systems allow users to enter in an unlimited number of contact methods for each individual and to prioritize the contact methods based on the time of day, day of week, or any other chosen variable. The notification system will attempt to contact the individual based on the established order and preferences. If it does not reach the person using the first means of communication, it will continue through the list, based on the priorities established, escalating until the person is contacted.
Emergency notification systems have advanced a long way in the past few years.
The ability to ensure accurate, reliable, two-way communications during a crisis makes them a worthwhile investment. They can contact large volumes of employees, customers, and vendors in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional methods. And since the systems are housed off site, they are available when you need them most. Today’s emergency notification systems are flexible enough to perform under pressure and can integrate with BCP software.
With emergency notification systems, organizations will no longer waste time trying to contact key personnel – time that can be better spent recovering from a disaster.
Michael Jennings is the manager, consulting services for Strohl Systems, a global leader in the business continuity planning software and services market. He has more than 10 years experience in business continuity planning and has traveled extensively to work with consulting clients throughout North America and Asia. Jennings can be reached at email@example.com.