Weathering the Storm with Business-Critical Communication Strategies

posted: Friday, Jun 8, 2018

Natural disasters know no boundaries, striking at any time…anywhere. The sheer unpredictability of these events contributes to a staggering amount of injuries, deaths and billions of dollars in damages and lost revenue each year. The cascading effects of long-term disruptions to transportation, utility, and communication systems leave many businesses struggling to overcome the obstacle of operating in a modern society with primitive tools. When tragedy cuts off communications to employees, customers, sites and information systems: continuity borders impossible. Unforeseen damages to critical infrastructure can expose weaknesses and open the door to cyber attacks and data breaches. Internal and external losses run parallel. Both bear devastating consequences.

However, with a robust communications plan, companies can mitigate the damage. Unlike earthquakes or tornadoes, hurricanes come with the opportunity to brace. Yet every year, corporations fail to implement actionable strategies for collaborating and staying connected in a crisis. In the wake of 2017’s devastating storm season, it’s imperative we learn from past mistakes by taking swift precautions before the next storm crashes onto the coast. With the 2018 hurricane season heating up, here are some steps you can take to safeguard your employees, protect your assets and preserve your equipment, your facilities, and your reputation.

Developing a Comprehensive Communication Plan

Begin laying the groundwork for critical communications well ahead of the incident. Identify crisis management and response teams; establishing a leadership hierarchy. Define clear roles and expectations for all team members. Who initiates the alert? What wording will they use? When will recipients receive updates? How will internal management collaborate with authorities? The answers may seem obvious. However, when every second counts these items are easy to overlook. Plan your tactics for the worst-case scenarios. Remember, it’s easier to scale back than to scale up. Do not forget to outline parameters. System managers must classify what constitutes an event and how much time your organization needs to mobilize an efficient response. Set event triggers and timelines for enacting incident specific communications. Taking a decisive stance from the beginning will eliminate misconceptions and redundancies. Realize communication strategies are evolutionary. Make a point to involve your staff when testing and updating crisis response policies. Solicit employee feedback and ideas. Keeping everyone engaged is the foundation of successful communications.

As the Hurricane Approaches

First, management should assess what sites will be impacted and begin sending location-based alerts to individuals within the danger zone. Critical communications must be swift, clear and relevant to the recipient. Using an emergency notification network allows for mass distribution across multiple channels—text, voice, app push, and email—guarantees the right messages are routed, received and understood by staff members within minutes.

Considering that we live in a global society, messages should translate into a language the recipient can understand, and feature response capabilities so individuals can confirm their receipt from any mobile device.

Those affected will be seeking guidance, empathy, and reassurance. Keeping everyone updated and informed alleviates panic and allows for a controlled unified response. Within 48 hours prior to landfall, set up your emergency operations center. Make plans to gather remotely if meeting in person is impractical. You’ll want to conference in decision makers as well as representatives from departments such as human resources, public relations, legal and logistics. Designate spokespeople from each department to handle inquiries and release approved statements to staff members, customers, vendors, and investors. Remember, even if you are still gathering details, it’s essential to manage your external communications. If you don’t stay ahead of the story, stakeholders will be tempted to fill in the blanks through social media or other unregulated channels.

During the Storm

Crisis managers must set clear tasks, coordinate response teams, and monitor progress. Establishing a secure, dedicated way for team leaders to communicate with responders is vital to the assessment process. When responders relay information back to collaborators, photos and live stream videos will present decision makers with an accurate depiction of the scene throughout the storm’s duration. In turn, site plans and procedures should be readily accessible to deploy team members from their mobile device, whether or not they have an internet connection. Response teams need up to the minute information from reliable sources. Reconnaissance and remediation is a dangerous job. Conditions in the field will be hazardous and everchanging. It’s essential to equip crew members with the power to activate one-touch distress signals from their position before tragedy strikes. After the Threat Passes Take inventory of the hardest hit areas and enact plans to aid those in need with ongoing support. Make it a priority to check on your employees and advise them if they will be expected to report for work in an alternate location. Once recovery teams finish surveying the damages, reach out to your customers, vendors, and investors. Assure them operations will resume as quickly as possible and provide them with a point of contact to field questions or concerns. Finally, encourage all parties involved to participate in debriefing sessions. Not only will these meetings foster the healing process, but they will also help the entire organization evaluate and learn from the challenges and triumphs.

Moving Forward

After the dust settles and the waters recede, it’s important to reflect on ways to strengthen your communications systems. While hurricanes represent a small percentage of natural disasters, they are not the only threat to your staff and your facilities. We live in an uncertain world, and while it’s impossible to prepare for every emergency, the best defense utilizes a combination of proactive and reactive collaboration to preserve lives and productivity. Technology has given us the ability to transmit information at light speeds, and until nature catches up, there is no greater asset than unified communications. By leveraging the power of connectivity; KONEXUS keeps users plugged into the latest information. Enhancing communications, so individuals and organizations remain vigilant and resilient through storm conditions and beyond. KONEXUS provides a world-class alerting, crisis management and collaboration platform. This platform not only empowers organizations, government, and enterprises alike to alert their citizens or employees of a crisis or emergency but also streamlines crisis response by providing efficient communication and collaboration tools. Our clients rely on us to keep millions of employees, partners and citizens informed and protected in more than 100 countries.