For several years, Campus Safety magazine has been compiling a list of best practices recommended by campus protection professionals, emergency notification system manufacturers and other subject matter experts. Below are the 12 best practices that apply to the corporate world.
While these best practices are numbered, the creation of an effective mass notification program is not a linear process. These recommendations should be considered as a whole when adopting new systems, revising emergency notification plans and updating policies and procedures.
1. Conduct a risk analysis for your overall emergency plan
Determine where your mass notification systems fits into the plan.
2. Use several modes of communication; no one method of communication will reach everyone
SMS is the most reliable means of communication; it will often work even when voice circuits are overloaded.
3. Determine ahead of time who has the authority to issue alerts
Make sure their rights are setup properly by an administrator. Many systems will allow you to restrict which templates a person has access to.
4. Determine ahead of time the situations when you will activate your mass notification system
Create templates with the messages, recipients, poll choices and automation rules. Then, when an alert is needed, you can send it with just a few clicks of a mouse.
5. Create clear, concise audible and written messages
Some systems allow you to craft different messages for each communication channel in the same alert. This is a good best practice, as each channel has its own limitations. Insist on a system that allows you to record voice alerts (rely on text-to-speech only when you have to).
6. Use and test the system often but not too often
Get people used to how messages will arrive. Use polls to gather acknowledgements so you can determine the success of the test alert.
7. Create groups of first responders and decision makers who can receive messages more frequently
Many systems will allow you to create dynamic groups based on roles. When personnel change, you don’t have to modify the members of the group; they will be automatically populated.
8. Market your mass notification program, and educate employees on how the system is used, what to expect and what to do during an emergency
Help employees understand how the system will benefit them. If it will primarily be used for emergencies, play up a safety angle. If it is primarily used for operational alerts, emphasize efficiency and how it will benefit their job.
9. Choose the delivery methods most appropriate for the situation. Don’t use the all-or-nothing approach to issuing alerts.
Often, the best practice is to first send SMS and email alerts. After a period of time, if someone has now acknowledged receipt, a voice message is sent.
10. Make tests realistic and conduct them at busy times
Doing this will be inconvenient for employees, so educate them on the need for real-world testing. Don’t overdo this type of test; your staff will learn to ignore the “annoying” alerts.
11. Regularly train staff on how to issue alerts
Even when a system is very easy to use, alert invokers will forget how to fully use all the features of the system. Conduct mock drills by sending alerts to a small number of people.
12. Adopt a change-management procedure so that everything is documented and everyone knows about system changes/improvements
This is particularly important when personnel are changed. Without such a procedure, it will be difficult to determine why the system is setup the way it is.
MissionMode’s smarter mass notification and incident management applications enable organizations to take control of crises, and reduce the time and cost of the response. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a demonstration.