When emergencies arise, one of the most difficult aspects of crisis management is accessing the most accurate and timely information available to drive effective response planning and decision making. Whether the incident is happening across campus or across the globe, it’s unlikely that all of the people needed to determine next steps are on-site with a first-hand view of the situation. Real-time, interactive field communications are a key success driver.
Common Field Communication Challenges
MissionMode supports hundreds of organizations across a wide variety of industries many of which encounter frequent field-based situations that need rapid management. Very often, the people on the spot when a situation arises don’t include all those who need to be involved in determining response. Some common customer examples we see include:
- Regional utility has field crews to assess and manage major storm damage
- Airport authority must be prepared to handle equipment failures, weather delays and accidents
- Multi-location healthcare provider needs to be prepared for facilities evacuation and wide-spread scheduling changes
- Manufacturer must prepare for on-site accidents and environmental impacts
- University must manage campus shooting incidents or student unrest
Without proper procedures and tools in place, it can be very difficult to collect and share needed information to address these and similar types of incidents across multiple locations.
Top field communications challenges organizations face:
- Simultaneously sharing information with all that need to see it
- Vetting multiple reports to separate facts from fiction
- Social media and rumor control
- Quickly sharing rich media such as photos and video to best understand a situation
- Speedy assembly of all players to create a response plan
Anatomy of a Field Incident
To understand the complexities of field-based crisis management, let’s review the following example. Ace Manufacturing, a Fortune 500 company based in New Jersey, experiences an explosion with injuries in their Iowa plant. Some short-term implications might include:
- Immediate protection of employees on site
- Containing damage from the explosion
- Assessing overall employee safety
- Evaluating cause/scope of damage
- Understanding environmental impacts
- Managing internal and external communications
- Determine recovery timeline
- Notifying employees/customers/suppliers of impacts
- Repairing damage from explosion
- Resuming normal operations
How quickly information is shared in the early stages of a field event can have a big impact on employee safety, response effectiveness and business reputation. In short, effective field communications can eliminate chaos resulting from an unplanned incident.
Emergency Field Communications Best Practices
Sticking with our Ace example, how can the Iowa team best manage the crisis at the plant while also keeping senior management informed and involved? In any emergency where employee or customer safety is at risk, Ace’s duty of care responsibilities dictate that the most important aspect of the response is to contain the immediate danger and take all necessary steps to provide medical care to injured employees while evacuating the rest.
Once those wheels are in motion, they need to activate their business continuity plans to manage the incident with an end-to-end approach. With their incident management system in place, an Ace crisis or business continuity manager can create an event and invite all relevant team members to participate. Using smart phones and/or tablets, responders can share video footage and first-hand accounts of the scene with management and operations personnel in other locations, so they can begin their evaluation of the situation. Accessing a centralized dashboard, each team member can view reports as they soon as they are available on employee injuries and plant damage. This timely access to critical information is essential to helping the team craft messaging and response strategies. It helps to streamline communications to the media, employees, customers and suppliers and to avoid sharing of misinformation.
Having a centralized platform for timely information sharing and task management is critical when managing disruptions across multiple geographies. How incidents are managed in the immediate aftermath can have a major impact on company reputation. Key success factors include:
- Creation and testing of business continuity plans involving both local and non-local team members
- Population of the plans, team contacts and templates into a cloud-based incident management system accessible to all
- Ability to upload rich media files with critical information about the incident
- One-touch invitation to conference call
- Detailed documentation of approved messaging for internal and external audiences
- Operational log of all messages and actions taken in response to the incident for regulatory and performance evaluation purposes
With an increasingly distributed workforce, being able to effectively collaborate across geographies to manage an incident is critical. Make sure your team has the tools, test plans and training to address emergency field communications when needed.