Study: Many Businesses Have Not Put In Place An Effective Emergency Notification System That Can Reach Recipients

Despite the fact that disasters and unplanned business interruptions have made it absolutely critical for organizations to quickly and accurately communicate with all stakeholders during such an event, many businesses have not put in place an effective emergency notification system that can actually reach recipients, according to an annual study conducted by Varolii Corp.

According to the report, three quarters of respondents reported they have a formalized emergency notification process (either automated or manual) in place, but only 24 percent have integrated it with an enterprise application. Of these, only 34 percent (8 percent overall) have integrated with an HR system of record, and only 9 percent (2 percent overall) have integrated with a CRM system, making it extremely difficult to access up-to-date contact information and, therefore, highly unlikely an emergency notification will reach all internal and external stakeholders in a short period of time.

For the fourth year overall and second year in a row, Varolii Corp. surveyed corporate executives and business continuity professionals nationwide to glean their insights on the direction of business continuity (BC) and crisis communications. This year, Varolii partnered with The Disaster Resource GUIDE to conduct the survey and make it more broadly available.

Other key findings from the 2008-09 Varolii/DRG Business Continuity and Crisis Communications Study include:

  • Even in challenging economic times, business continuity is a priority. While most organizations’ business continuity/disaster recovery groups remain relatively small (less than 25 employees), 31 percent increased the size of their group in the last year, and 57 percent kept them the same size. Only 6 percent reported a decrease in group size, despite the challenging economic climate in 2008.
  • Companies are increasingly concerned about societal infrastructure failures. In past years, respondents listed data security and IT failures as top concerns in business continuity, and 2008 was no exception. However, in 2008 more companies listed societal infrastructure failures such as power outages and telecom failures among their top concerns. Thirty-one percent listed these as significant threats, and 18 percent listed them as “extreme” threats.
  • The human side of business continuity is becoming more important. Compared to previous years, more corporate executives, human resource professionals and other non-IT managers were involved in BC. The percentage of executive management involved with BC planning grew from 2 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2008. This year’s results also showed a significant increase in those who listed “employee training and preparedness” as a primary BC function (75 percent said it was a key function.)
  • Organizations are starting to recognize the need for multiple ways to reach stakeholders. Signaling that emergency notification systems are becoming more sophisticated with cross-channel communications capabilities, the vast majority of respondents (ranging between 85 and 92 percent) indicated their critical communications systems could contact recipients via landline, mobile phone, or e-mail in a crisis. More than 55 percent have incorporated text messaging as well.
  • Customers and other external stakeholders are demanding more information. Nearly half of respondents said their customers have demonstrated an increased interest in their BC plans, and 64 percent noted there has been a corresponding increase in BC planning requirements in RFP/RFI/RFQs issued to their companies. The vast majority (80 percent) of companies surveyed reported they communicate critical incidents to their customers and other external stakeholders as a formalized part of their BC policy.

“During a crisis, organizations need to immediately connect with different groups of people, including employees, vendors, emergency responders, customers and other key stakeholders to ensure the right decisions are made to minimize operational, financial and employee impact,” said Steve Zirkel, general manager of business continuity for Varolii Corp.. “There is a direct relationship between the effectiveness of organizational communication and that company’s ability to recover from a crisis. Failure to quickly communicate the right information to the right people at the right time can lead to an information vacuum that becomes

The complete study can be found

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