You could be relying on a vintage mass alert system, without even realizing it.
If you haven’t paid attention to the business of mass communication, you might have missed some important recent changes. With every natural disaster, cybersecurity attack, or threat of terror, organizations have been learning. Crisis communications are evolving, and what’s possible has changed.
So is your crisis communication system more of a “before” or an “after”? If the former, you may want to consider an upgrade. Check out this diagnostic breakdown to see where you fall.
Before: One Message, One Channel
To reach users on a mobile phone, you had to call their number. To reach users by email, you had to send them an email. To reach users through PA system, you had to make an announcement. In times of crisis, people scatter everywhere. With traditional alerting, you had to spend time repeating your message through every communication channel, in hopes that it would reach your intended audience.
After: Unified Multimodal Messaging
Today, you can use end-to-end emergency notifications that unify all communication modalities with one click. You don’t have to run through your database manually, making separate calls, sending emails, texting, and posting on social media. You can consolidate those efforts. From a single web-based device, send messages to any device with real-time speed, teleconferencing, and geo-location targeting. The next generation of mass notification is unified, with better scale and flexibility.
Before: Manual Messaging and Updating
Traditionally, emergency managers had to wait until a crisis was occurring to compose emergency messages. There was still quite a bit of guesswork and on-the-fly thinking, which isn’t ideal for a crisis. If your database of contacts wasn’t up-to-date, you had no way of knowing.
After: Automated Messaging and Updating
You don’t need to wait until a crisis strikes to prepare your messages and update your contacts. You can expedite the process by a lot of the work in advance, when you have a calm day to compose careful, informative messages. Ahead of time, you can perform valuable time-saving efforts like:
- Pre-selecting groups of people who can receive your responses
- Customizing messages for each group using preconfigured templates to avoid confusion
- Customizing alert target fields that will help your operations
- Attaching evacuation routes and other relevant information to your messages
- Automatically updating your contact list through cloud-based information
Before: Guesswork on the Ground
Traditional alerting involved a lot of guesswork. You had to wait until your designated contact updated you on an unfolding situation. It was difficult to reach first responders, external agencies, and your own personnel, unless they had functional, responsive mobile phones at the time of the emergency.
You had to take your best guess about events or observations in the field, as you collected piecemeal information. Photo and mapping capabilities were limited, and routing messages to certain teams was a highly manual process. The picture that emerged was often fuzzy, inaccurate, or just plain wrong.
After: Comprehensive Situational Awareness
Today, you can leave the guesswork behind. You have all the information you need to make better decisions. That’s because instead of going through only select channels, you can enable your entire field personnel to be your boots on the ground. Not only can do you this for your internal team, but you can orchestrate a multi-organization response, soliciting information to the best of each organization’s capability.
Maybe first responders have a better glimpse of a situation than your operations team in their office. Maybe your team member sends a duress alert directly to your operations center. Maybe a different agency has a larger operation on the ground. Through connected systems like AtHoc Collect, you can receive and send geotagged media reports, photos, maps, and emergent incident details as they happen. You can activate location tracking so if someone doesn’t respond, you’ll know why, and you can widely share with your operations center. Modern alerting means getting the big picture, in record time.
Before: Data Vulnerability and Regulatory Gaps
A crisis can throw existing security operations into disorder. Whether there’s a security breach or a natural disaster that knocks out physical infrastructure, traditional crisis communications were at the mercy of being able to maintain “business-as-usual.” Traditionally, legacy systems and paper documentation meant that data was only kept in one place. If those physical assets were destroyed, that data was lost forever.
In addition, the complexities of changing regulatory environments meant that entire legal and compliance teams needed to be in touch with IT and data security personnel to implement changes. Organizations could be penalized for not staying up-to-date with regulatory minutiae, or they could miss out on important upgrades and standards.
After: Secure Data and Regulatory Compliance
Technology today has enabled enterprise-grade security practices. Instant, transparent connections don’t have to mean vulnerability. With complex authentication and encryption, digitally-signed emails, and smart card / PIV logins for operators, there’s a multi-tiered authentication process that protects your data, even when everything else is topsy-turvy. You can deploy an entire crisis communication system behind a firewall, which allows you to leverage secure integration with internal and external data and networks.
BlackBerry AtHoc is the most secure solution you can find on the market, with security chops like:
- Certification for use by the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the US Air Force
- Designation as a Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technology (SAFETY) Act system, against rigorous standards and the only supplier of crisis communication technology to receive the designation
- Recognition as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT)
- Federal Information Assurance regulation compliance, including FedRAMP certification
- Hosting in SSAE-16 SOC Type II and LEED Certified Data Centers
Before: One-Way Alerting
Traditionally, crisis alerting went one way. If you were at your operations center, you could send out messages and hope they were seen. You had no way of guaranteeing that an email was opened, a text was seen, or a task was accepted. Your alerts went out, and it was unclear whether they were getting where they needed to go. When people were on the move, you had to hope and pray that your message caught up with them.
After: Interactive Alerting
The next generation of mass alerts means you can account for all of your people in real-time. There’s no waiting around for emails, text messages, or wondering if an assigned task has been seen and accepted. Here’s how it works:
- Your operations center requests a status report from select groups or from your entire populace
- Personnel can report back, deliver status updates or simply check in
- Emergency management can provide a summary view of alerts, accounting for who has received them and who has responded
- You gain visibility into local needs and requirements at an individual level
- You can see which assigned tasks have been accepted, and which tasks have been automatically shunted to the next qualified individual to maximize timeliness and efficiency
The next generation of mass notification alerts is unified, flexible, secure, and informative. So where does your organization fall? Are you staying up-to-date with the innovations that are bringing in a new generation of alerting networks?