Emergency situations can range from criminal acts to fires, accidents, or extreme weather that has caused so much of the destructive flooding we’ve seen here in UK. The need to communicate in a timely way to the right people with the right messages is as important for local government and its agencies warning residents about incumbent weather conditions, as it is for a business needing to inform customers about a potentially dangerous product recall, as experienced by Dyson recently.

However, it can be a huge challenge to contact and alert hundreds and potentially thousands of geographically dispersed individuals in a rapid and efficient way, through multiple communication channels, while delivering updates and instructions. Communication failures have historically plagued organisations in their ability to respond to and minimise the human, operational and financial impact of critical events and emergencies.

This is why the interest in and the need for, critical communications solutions continues to grow among governments, operators of critical infrastructures and public and private enterprises of all sizes. Today, more than ever, crisis communications is becoming a best practice and for many organisations the way they communicate in an emergency situation can literally make or break them.

The impact of a crisis on an organisation is well-documented and on average 40% of businesses don’t open after a disaster with another 25% failing within one year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Although still a relatively new technology sector, the benefits of using critical communications solutions are beginning to be better understood. Their use ranges from emergency or crisis events where key stakeholders need to be contacted, to business operations notifications such as a workforce management roll call or even call-outs to parents for absentee students. The key benefits include:

  • People can be notified in minutes and be given critical information about an event.
  • Messages can be sent that are tailored to different target audiences, based on their role and position within a company.
  • An organisation’s management team can focus on critical decision-making instead of message handling.
  • Human error, misinformation, rumours, emotion and distraction, so often found in a crisis can be better managed and corrected.
  • A documented notification audit log can be provided for real-time and post-event management.

If you choose to adopt a critical communications solution into your business strategy here are some key considerations:

  • Look for a platform that targets the individual, not the device. By enabling the individual to select their preferred method of communication (eg SMS, email etc), it not only makes it more likely that message will be read, but it ensures that the system can be tailored to operate effectively throughout the world as it is customisable by country.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of two-way communication. In an emergency you should be able to engage in two-way communication with those affected to gather information and direct resources. It also enables those on the ground to become your eyes and ears at the scene at the scene as the situation develops.
  • Ensure it’s easy to use by even the least-technical person so anyone of your team can use it easily without adding to an already stressful situation.
  • Speed and reliability of communications is critical in an emergency so make sure you ask your provider about its infrastructure. Is it global? How many datacentres does it have? How reliable and secure is it? Are there guarantees that communications will go through rapidly and efficiently, wherever recipients are based in the world?
  • As your business grows and the number of employees increase, make sure that your provider has the flexibility to ensure that its communication capabilities grow with you.

In a world where reputation is one of the most important factors on a company’s balance sheet, the need to communicate effectively is critical. Selecting a mass communication solution is a major decision for your organisation that could affect it for years to come. By understanding the right questions to ask vendors, you can cut through the sales pitches and find a system that fulfils your critical communication needs.