Is It a Crisis?
All organizations are vulnerable
- By Jeffrey A. Slotnick
- Sep 01, 2016
The phrases critical communications and crisis communications
are used interchangeably. However, they are synergistic building
blocks. To understand both of these phrases, first take a look
at the business objectives behind crisis communications. After
doing this, there will be a scorecard for selecting a critical communication
system. The scorecard will address Intelligibility, Interoperability, and several
other “ilities” which should be considered.
All organizations are vulnerable to a crisis. Examples include Fukishima,
BP Deepwater Horizon, Jack in the Box, WikiLeaks, and most recently the
San Bernardino terrorist attack.
Trying to identify potential crisis situations is not easy and easily
avoided by the tyranny of the urgent. For example, in Max H. Bazerman
and Michael D. Watkins’ book “Predictable Surprises” they describe a
situation or circumstance in which avoidable crises are marginalized in
order to satisfy economic and social policies. They define a predictable
surprise as a problem that at least some people are aware of, is getting
worse over time, and is likely to explode into a crisis eventually. The best
way to prepare for a crisis situation is by conducting an all hazard risk,
threat and vulnerability assessment to identify potential risks which can
have a significant impact on the enterprise. If you do not prepare, you
will incur more damage. Without adequate internal and external communications
operational response will fail, stakeholders will react negatively,
management of the incident will be noticed as incompetent, and
the length of time to resolve the incident and return to normal will be of
greater duration and exponentially more expensive.
Having been involved in numerous post incident reviews, there always
seems to be one overarching issue that applies to critical communications
breakdowns. These breakdowns always start with one or more people who
needed to communicate something and, for one reason or another, were
not heard. This could be inbound or outbound communications.
Detection and reporting of critical incidents require robust inbound
communications. Inbound communications can come from local first responders,
weather notification services, emergency management services,
and most importantly from employees, visitors and other stakeholders.
These folks should never be more than a few steps away from being able
to report a problem. We cannot responsibly respond to a crisis situation if
we are unaware that a crisis situation exists. As a caution do not disregard
your employees and visitors as first responders. They have a vested interest
in their safety and security and when properly trained and provisioned can
be a force multiplier in rapid response and resolution to emerging events.
What they need from you is the means to communicate.
Outbound communications are the communications we use to instantly
notify, fire, police, crisis management teams, decision makers, employees,
visitors, and stakeholders. Further, outbound communications
facilitate cooperation for effective and efficient responses. Additionally,
outbound crisis communication permits your crisis management team
and first responders to organize an efficient response to contain the event
and control panic.
DEFINING THE SCORECARD FOR SYSTEMS SELECTION
So, what are the tools we need to put in the hands of the stakeholders?
Interoperability. Are you able to integrate voice and messaging into
your core security systems such as access control and video?
Do you have the systems or have you considered the systems which allow
for two-way integrated mass communications? These include computer
desktop technologies, mobile devices, public area devices which permit
rapid communications such as campus open areas, parking areas, and public
venues? Does your system leverage social media tools and applications?
Intelligibility. Do not install systems that cannot meet the need to hear,
be heard and be understood within any situation. Benchmark this across all
vendors. You will see a broad spectrum of audio capability. Many security
executives have rued the day they deployed based on a response to an RFP,
without testing this core capability.
There is nothing worse in a crisis situation than not being able to understand
someone who is trying to communicate critical information. Have
you considered the various factors which impact critical communications
such as background noise, reverberation, distance and stress (such as someone
who may be screaming)? Do your systems allow for intelligibility, clarity
Portability of Data. Data and data analytics are crucial to any crisis
event and should be considered in three contexts; before the crisis occurs,
during and after.
We all know what failure in crisis communication looks like. All you
have to do is tune in to any news outlet to quickly understand failure. We
also know what success looks like. During the recent terrorist attack in San
Bernardino 14 people were killed, however more than 3,000 were saved.
The success of the 3,000 was attributed to having a plan, communicating
the plan, training the plan, and having the multifaceted layers of communication
which facilitated an orderly and rapid evacuation while simultaneously
notifying emergency first responders.
At the end of the day, if you considered the various crises which can
impact your enterprise, planned and trained a response, and can clearly
and intelligibly communicate between people across platforms to ensure
the safety and security of your employees, visitors, and stakeholders while
assuring the continued success of your organization, then when I watch the
news will I see you as a success.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Security Today.