When the Memorial Day torrential rains hit southeast Texas, smartphones equipped with Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) services were buzzing! WEAs of flash flood alert warnings were sent out by the National Weather Service to thousands of individuals in the affected areas through their smartphones. The idea of instantaneous communication for emergency management alerts is now a reality. However, in order to be effective for companies, corporate emergency management communications must lead to heightened awareness and/or action at the employee or responder level.
“Modern technology has brought us the greatest level of warning dissemination in our lifetime, but even with all that said there’s always going to be that situation where people may not be aware of what’s going on around them,” says Walt Zaleski, the warning coordinator at the National Weather Service’s southern region headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
While WEA technology adds another layer of resiliency to the suite of communication tools, companies must establish and train employees on their specific workplace emergency communications protocols. When employees are aware of corporate communication procedures and the roles that they play in each scenario, necessary responses can be effectively played out. If a widespread incident were to occur in your area, do you have effective communication procedures in place to communicate with employees and/or initiate a response?
If and when an emergency occurs, clear communication is crucial to establish response expectations, which can protect lives, the environment, and the surrounding community. Effective corporate emergency communications should:
- Result from accurate data collection
- Be timely and current
- Remain concise to accurately define the “next step” or necessary tasks
- Clarify initial emergency response initiatives, if applicable
- Include time parameters and follow up procedures
- Be strategic in how tasks should be accomplished
An effective emergency communications strategy must be developed with a commitment from corporate leadership. In the event of an emergency scenario or incident, consistently accurate messages by company representatives alleviate potential anxiety, safeguard employees, and provide a level of credibility. This commitment must include, but is not limited to:
- Utilizing advanced contact verification procedures: Contact lists should be verified on a regular basis to ensure all information is accurate. If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for notification verification system with email or text message capability that enables the contact to verify their own information through hyperlinks.
- Establishing a communications strategic framework: Verify necessary checklists and response criteria that will guide the communications decision-making process for a variety of emergency scenarios and incidents.
- Optimizing notification procedures: Establish a proven communications methods that will relay information to both internal and external individuals and/or organizations.
- Testing emergency communications: Ensure communication among site managers and all business units is effective and initiates the required responses.
Successful corporate emergency communications are those that are taken seriously and responded to in a timely and effective manner. Communication procedure training should be included as part of the corporate and site emergency response plans. It may be necessary to cross-train response team members in order to provide extended knowledge in case primary team members are not available. Each team member should have a clear understanding of the procedures for receiving and disseminating information. In case of communication disruption, companies should provide employees training in primary and established secondary communication methods.
Because traditional and social media outlets can disseminate information quickly, public relations personnel should be included in emergency planning and associated exercises. Establishing and committing to communications and public relations efforts define lines of communications with employees and all partners, enables leaders to communicate response efforts and requirements, and ensures that public affairs staff has the training and the tools to be successful to maintain company reputation and client relationships.