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Prepare for emerging threats in 2024: Strategies for enabling business continuity

Conduct scenario-based testing with an emergency notification system

Tell, Teach, Involve

Training and Learning Techniques for Emergency Notification and Incident Notification Personnel


“Tell me and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin


Scenario-based testing helps you plan for a wide variety of situations. Whether it’s an earthquake, flash flood, power outage, utility failure, or another life-threatening situation, scenario-based testing with an emergency notification system allows you to prepare for any problems that may arise in a crisis.


In the case study, “Developing and Testing an Emergency Notification System for a County Emergency Management Agency” by David Edwards and Danny Peterson from Arizona State University and Holly Cuthbertson, California Department of Public Health, 150 scenarios with over 1,000 contacts were loaded into their emergency notification system. The scenarios involved categories of notifications or groups to be notified. Dam breaks, floods, severe weather, blackouts, and energy-related incidents were loaded into the system.


Besides the types of scenarios, it’s vital to load accurate contact information and conduct tests to be sure contacts can be reached. This could be complicated by the multiple ways that may be needed to reach a contact, multiple addresses a contact may be concerned about, multiple scenarios that require very different contact lists, and who gets notified and in what order (e.g. Emergency Operations Center management, then first responders, then public officials, etc.).


Of even greater concern is how to maintain the accuracy of the contact database. Being able to send a notification and confirm receipt is an excellent way to be sure your contact list is accurate and up to date.


“Thus, without dedicated personnel, it may be difficult for many moderately sized to large organizations to adequately maintain an ENS database of contact information over time. Possible reasons for requiring modifications of contact information may include changes in phone numbers and email addresses, particularly as contacts move, change office positions, or travel.“ (Edwards, Cuthbertson, and Peterson, 2011).


Be sure your ENS has a way to maintain, update, and test contact information. Organizations should investigate all available options and look for solutions that can be blended to meet specific needs. In many organizations, several options are used in tandem:


Individual edits: Allow HR to add/remove recipients in the platform and collect pertinent contact information through an employee onboarding/exit process.


Bulk management: Enables clients to transfer data from internal client systems to the notification platform at any frequency desired, centralizing and automating data management.


Profile management portal: Enables clients to collect personal contact information for notification purposes that may not be maintained within internal systems (i.e. personal cell, personal email, personal SMS).


Scheduled notifications can also be used to regularly remind individuals on updating contact information as well as defining “What’s in it for me?” for the target recipients.


Plan ahead – use scenario-based testing to get ready for a critical situation.

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