Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” His words could easily apply to preparing for violent weather and superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, which are occurring with greater frequency. But, by identifying vulnerabilities and studying emergency notification and critical communication best practices, enterprises and municipalities can develop strategies to better ensure employee and public safety, while safeguarding property and essential corporate resources like IT data centers.
Violent weather can be expensive
The fact is, the human and economic costs of hurricanes and other violent weather incidents are sobering. According to data from WDT, leaders in global weather analytics, nearly 90% of all presidentially declared disasters are weather-related, leading to approximately 500 deaths per year and an average of $14 billion in damage. Hurricane Sandy alone was the second-costliest hurricane in US history, causing 285 fatalities, forcing more than eight million to lose power, and resulting in $25 billion in property damage and lost business. Moreover, due to its unique geography, the US has more tornadoes than any other country, averaging around 1,200 a year. We’ve already seen a number of deadly tornadoes in the Midwest in recent weeks.
Prepare to reduce the cost and risk
Fortunately, it is not too late to start preparing this year. The US is only now heading into the official start of severe weather season. In advance of that, the National Weather Service has earmarked May 25th through May 31st as National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014. This week is an opportunity for organizations and municipalities to learn the best practices and strategies that will help them prepare for the potential of a disaster.
All this combines to make it essential for organizations to learn how to communicate during weather-driven crisis situations. With its SMART Weather Alerting system, Everbridge helps companies do precisely this, leveraging meteorological resources to enhance and optimize more than 150 severe weather alerts such as lightning, tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail, ice, snow, extreme temperatures, high winds, flash floods, and flooding.
Given Everbridge’s expertise in severe weather, critical communications, GIS targeting and “smart” alerts, this time of year is an opportunity to share some best practices and strategies that companies and municipalities can implement to better prepare for crisis situations. Here goes:
Don’t trust a single device
Every organization should have multiple contact paths for each individual to decrease reliance on any one device. Moreover, the demographic of the community should be assessed when determining the optimal contact paths for each group. During Hurricane Sandy, some universities sent 17% of their messages by phone, 37% by text, and 46% by email. In contrast, during Sandy, a sample of corporations shows 60% of its messages were sent by phone, and only 9% by text and 19% by email.
Organizations must plan to manage the entire lifecycle of any critical event. Dr. Robert C. Chandler, crisis communication expert, suggests creating a crisis plan that addresses each of the six stages of a crisis: Warning, Risk Assessment, Response, Management, Resolution and Recovery. Identify and plan for each stage and the specific needs that the stage represents.
Social media has dramatically changed the public’s expectations around communications. Twitter, for example, should be monitored for real-time, location-specific impact to individuals and communities to deliver situational intelligence to emergency response teams as quickly as possible. Using Mobile Member, your team can get information and pictures from first responders at key locations. Weather alerts can provide up-to-the-minute information on watch, warning, and advisory updates for the weather situation.
Regular system and staff testing and preparation procedures should be followed, including system testing for effectiveness and data accuracy. Staff should be trained to operate the critical communication system from both desktop and mobile devices to achieve an aptitude with the system, ensuring more consistent results during high anxiety situations. Use the training resources you have in Everbridge University and custom training to keep your members sharp. Plan exercises and review the reports to see where your team hit or missed the mark.
Message construction is key to getting your target audience to read your message and follow its instructions. Dr. Chandler recommends that message maps consist of three short sentences that convey three key messages in 30 or fewer words and audio/video needs to convey its message in the first 9 seconds. SMS messages should be no longer than 120 characters. Build a library of messages that have been reviewed and can be used as templates to speed your notifications.
Now is the time
Now is the time for businesses and municipalities to prepare to protect lives and property so we won’t fail during a weather-related crisis. Being informed about evolving critical communication best practices is the first step to keeping employees, residents, and other key stakeholders informed and safe. Moreover, your organization should be prepared with the right location-based weather alerts and notifications to put them in the right hands at the right time.
Stay tuned for more from Everbridge throughout the season and during National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014.