Emergency Notification, Mass Communication & Crisis Management Blog

Five Steps to Ensure Your Emergency Mass Notification System (EMNS) is Ready for the Next Emergency

Posted by ERMS Corporation on Mon, May 06, 2013

From May 26th through June 1st is Hurricane Preparedness Week in the United States.  This is an important week as they help educate citizens about the importance of preparing for emergency situations as well as how to prepare for them. beHurricanePrepared

But, it should also serve as a reminder to those responsible for organizational business continuity, disaster recovery, and emergency response to create, check, update, and test their plans. And those plans should include our emergency mass notification system (EMNS).

Reviewing, updating, and testing your emergency notification data and system will help ensure (when an emergency or crisis occurs) the right message is sent to, and received by, the right audience. The following are five steps you can take to be sure your emergency notification data and system is ready.

1. Update your stakeholder data
There are many things you can do, or check, to be confident you have up-to-date and correct stakeholder data. These include:

  • Create a self-registration web page for stakeholders who are not currently in your system.
  • Schedule email reminders periodically throughout the year to request stakeholders review and update their profile (make sure the email includes a link that makes it easy for them to login).
  • Integrate your emergency notification system with another corporate system (like an ERP) that is usually the system with the most up-to-date employee/stakeholder contact information. That way when a change is made it’s automatically pushed to your EMNS.
  • Make sure you have the right fields populated in your stakeholder profiles. Do you have information for all the devices you plan to use (home phone, office phone, email, and mobile phone, etc.)? 
  • Verify the relevant stakeholders have successfully opted-in to receive SMS notifications.
  • Confirm you have the correct back-up stakeholder contact information.
  • Poll stakeholders (especially external stakeholders to find out what their preferred device order is).
  • If you need to send bilingual campaigns, poll your stakeholders to ask them what their preferred language is (or remind them to enter their selection when they update their profile).
2. Review and update your groups and divisions
A quick check of your groups and divisions should be done to ensure you’re able to direct the correct notifications to your stakeholders. The group and divisional settings you created when you first implemented your EMNS may not be what you need now.
  • Double check your standard groups. Have all the groups you require been set up? Are all the appropriate stakeholders included?
  • Do you have dynamic groups (groups that are created automatically based on almost any field in the stakeholder profile)? If you do, is the criteria used to create the group still relevant? If you do not, should you create them?
  • If you’re using divisional branding, have there been any changes to the divisions? Are the divisional level administrators and agents still with the organization?

3. Review and update your templates
Templates make sending notification to the right people very quick and easy to do. Here’s a list of things you can check to make sure your available templates are good to go:

  • Update the message in the existing templates that are still applicable. Create device specific messages for each template (or “apply to all”). An email message will likely be too long if sent via SMS.
  • Are the right groups assigned to each template? 
  • Are your templates appropriately named, do they have the right Template ID number, and are they accessible via phone? Double checking this means your templates will be easy to recognize and access and send via web-browser or phone.
  • Are there any templates assigned to agents who are no longer with the organization?
  • Do you have any “personal” templates that should be made available to all Administrators and/or Agents? And the opposite, are there templates that should become personal?
  • Do you have scenarios in your business continuity and disaster recovery plans that do not have coordinating templates? If so, create them.
  • Preview the audio on-demand wherever text-to-speech is used. Does it sound clear? Is there a word, number, or acronym that doesn’t sound right? Update the lexicon (also on-demand wherever text-to-speech is used).

4. Educate your stakeholders
Promote your EMNS to your stakeholders to remind them it exists, how you plan to use it, and what they should do when they receive a notification.

  • Create an awareness campaign that is appropriate for each different audience type you have (internal vs. external stakeholders) and include ways you can promote your EMNS with your EMNS, as well as outside of the system.
  • Educate and remind stakeholders about your Roll Call procedures, and when they should call into the system to report their status after an evacuation or emergency.

5. Test, test, test
To be confident that all the “i’s” are dotted, and the “t’s” are crossed you need to test the system. Tests should be conducted periodically throughout the year.

  • Let stakeholders know you’ll be conducting tests of the system. But don’t over test to all stakeholders; you don’t want them to ignore the system when there really is an emergency. Many tests can be sent to just a few individuals (agents and administrators) while others (less frequently) should be sent to larger stakeholders groups.
  • Test different devices (email, phone, SMS, beacons, desktop interruption alerts, and more).
  • Testing is also practice for administrators and agents. Test your: templates, global message board, HotLine messages, conference bridging, and inbound access number. Test sending notification via web-browser and phone.
  • Use your tests as a way to promote the appropriate emergency preparedness week to your stakeholders—so they can keep their loved ones safe when there’s an emergency.

Will your emergency notification system be ready to go when the next crisis, emergency, or business interruption happens? If you want to know more about the ERMS Advantage emergency notification system, request a demo, request new administrator/agent training, contact us.

For more information on the different Emergency Preparedness Weeks see the links below:

Canada
May 5-11, 2013 | Emergency Preparedness Week (Canada)
http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/ep-wk/index-eng.aspx

The United States
March 3-9, 2013 | Severe Weather Preparedness Week (USA)
March 18-22, 2013 | Flood Awareness Week (USA)
March 24-30, 2013 | Tsunami Awareness Week (USA)
May 26 - June 1, 2013 | Hurricane Preparedness Week (USA)
http://www.ready.gov/
http://www.nws.noaa.gov