Building Business Resiliency

As workers return to the office, businesses must be prepared to protect their employees in any situation. From severe weather and medical emergencies to active assailants and cyberattacks, organizations must have resiliency plans in place.

However, as many as one-third of employees are unaware of or are unsure about their employer’s emergency plans for certain incidents, such as active shooter situations, cyberattacks and workplace violence, according to a recent survey. While these events are rare, ensuring that employees, along with other key stakeholders, are prepared to deal with them is essential to preparing for and managing critical incidents in the workplace.

For a business resiliency plan to be fool-proof, communication and collaboration strategies must be part of every phase of emergency management planning.

Having all the Tools
In the preparation stage of emergency management, organizations must ensure that they have all the tools, technologies and protocols in place to properly handle every kind of incident. This includes critical communication systems, such as a mass notification system, employee safety application, and/or a mobile panic button.

Making sure these systems and lines of communication are not only available but reliable should be part of every organization’s emergency preparedness checklist. Do these tools work consistently? When were they last tested? Do they meet the organization’s needs? When answering the last question, take into consideration the features needed to effectively communicate within the organization – for example, a large enterprise with multiple locations may require a platform with geo-targeting capabilities.

As part of this evaluation of systems, organizations should also take time to refresh procedures and emergency communication plans. This should not only include aligning on which channels will be used to communicate with whom (security staff, leadership, employees, facility managers, first responders, etc.), but also who is responsible for which emergency response activities related to each incident type. There should also be clear steps outlining protocols for notifying employees who work from home or other remote locations and ensuring that employee contact data is up-to-date.

The Response Stage
Should an emergency occur, organizations would then move into the response stage, where they act on their prepared plans. Onsite security and/or first responders are informed about the incident taking place and begin to respond. Those in charge of communicating with facility managers, corporate security and law enforcement must maintain open lines of communication to ensure everyone is on the same page.

This is where a software-based crisis management system can be a valuable tool in coordinating the emergency response across key stakeholders. These systems allow corporate security teams to automatically alert all individuals in a building or at a campus site as soon as an emergency situation is triggered. These platforms can provide guidance on emergency response protocols, share incident updates, increase situational awareness and deliver clear instructions to employees to inform and protect them from potential harm.

Crisis management systems also help streamline emergency response by allowing all types of safety entities – corporate security, police, fire, EMT and others – to coordinate efforts in real time. Authorized response teams can share data, responsibilities and plans to form a common operating picture to coordinate overall crisis management tasks.

The Recovery Stage
Once responders arrive on the scene, businesses must start the recovery stage – even though the incident might still be ongoing. This can include taking stock of which employees are in the area, getting medical attention to those who need it and sharing updates as they become available.

During this phase, two-way communication with employees – whether it be via an app, text or chat – is crucial to determining next steps and ensuring everyone is safe. Opening these lines of communication enables the emergency response team to quickly send out notifications and share relevant updates, as well as ensure all employees are accounted for during the incident. It likewise gives employees the ability to provide an update of their status and get the information they need to keep safe.

How it Plays Out
Once the incident has been resolved and safety has been restored, those in charge of emergency management must evaluate how the emergency response played out, note key learnings from the incident and update plans accordingly to be better prepared for the future.

In addition to leveraging analytics within current systems and platforms, the emergency management team should conduct an after-action review. Some questions to ask:

  • Did the technology and tools work like they were supposed to?
  • Did everyone who was supposed to receive emergency notifications get them?
  • Did employees feel as though they were receiving the latest information?
  • Were first responders and law enforcement well connected with key stakeholders, including facility management, company leadership and corporate security?
  • Were there any delays or disruptions in communicating information? Was data easily shared?

Answering these questions and making updates to templates, technologies and protocols can enhance emergency preparedness, streamline critical communications and improve operations in future incidents.

No business wants to experience an emergency incident while on the job, but it is best to be prepared. With the right tools, strategies and plans in place for critical communication and emergency response, businesses can set themselves up to be resilient in the face of adversity.

This article originally appeared in the May / June 2022 issue of Security Today.

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