Organizations today need to plan for the unexpected. You might face man-made threats like cyber-hacks, chemical spills, or personnel injuries. You might face natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods.
When a disaster unfolds, your organization’s response plans can mean the difference between minimal disturbance and total chaos. Traditionally, organizations could plan for disaster by predicting vague scenarios, appointing expert personnel, and hoping for the best.
Today, technology has taken crisis planning to a new level. At any time, organizations can reach key personnel, disseminate information in real-time, and immediately understand a situation as it unfolds. One important factor makes all of this possible, and that is cloud computing.
The cloud is an integral part of the best crisis planning. It allows equipment, infrastructure, and technology to integrate with communication capabilities. Following are some of the benefits of the cloud when you’re managing an emergency.
The first step of managing a crisis is often accounting for who and what is affected. Are your staff members onsite or off, and are they available for assignments or do their duties need to be reallocated? Using a cloud-based crisis communications platform, you can often get answers to these questions based on the phones in your team’s pockets. Software-based solutions can tabulate this location information as data, which can be analyzed later to provide proper instructions and response scoping. Supervisors can reallocate tasks accordingly when they have access to more sophisticated data.
Traditional emergency equipment like radios, PA networks, and strobe systems can be of limited use when supervisors and staff are unaccounted for. Many cloud-based software platforms, like AtHoc Account, can be used on any phone or personal device. It uses GIS-based outreach through GPS-based geofencing to issue communications or response requests inside or outside a designated area. Successful execution of a disaster response plan depends on communication. Accountability is much harder to measure and achieve without it.
When a disaster is occurring, the situation can change abruptly. For example, if there is an oil spill onsite at your facility, the situation on the ground might change from minute-to-minute. There could be emergency response teams coming in and out, or certain employees attempting to mitigate the damage. If there are injuries occurring or key personnel called away to another area of the facility, you’ll want to know about it in real-time.
While traditional crisis communications might have relied on manual inputs, cloud-computing allows for automated updates and immediate information syncing with the rest of the network. You don’t have to worry about manual error or data entry delays. Networked crisis communications platforms enable real-time updates.
Cloud-based systems can utilize two-way communications. Alerts and updates are usually sent through a variety of channels, including VoIP, SMS, emails, calls, and text alerts. These notifications can be automated so that they’re continually sent out through these channels until the intended recipient responds to them.
Traditional communications systems may have been effective at issuing alerts and statements, but not as effective at eliciting a response. The cloud enables organizations to reliably send secure messages to bespoke groups of people and receive quick updates within minutes. This capability provides quicker access to the bigger picture that’s unfolding.
Standardized Templates and Language
The cloud allows for simplified, secure messaging based on best practices that remove confusion and ambiguity during emergencies. Templates may even be as simple as directing users to press number 1 to represent that they’re okay and pressing the number 2 to indicate that they need help. Since messages and responses are pre-programmed, supervisors and staff can respond quickly to achieve specific feedback.
This centralized outreach and response model generates consistent data across the organization, which in turn drives post-event analysis for measuring accountability and improving future response.
Organizations need to have realistic, practical crisis response plans. A plan that looks great on paper may be difficult to carry out in practice. But by tapping into the devices that most personnel will have on them - their smartphones, computers, and tablets - you can maximize the probability of an effective crisis response that protects your employees and sets you up to rebuild as soon as possible.