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Three tips for evaluating 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

Evaluating an emergency notification system is an ongoing process. You’ll want to do everything you can to ensure your target audience receives the right message at the right time, every time. Therefore, emergency preparedness drills can help you understand how to effectively manage notifications in a critical situation.

There are many factors that should be considered when evaluating an emergency notification system. Utilizing an emergency notification system requires a comprehensive test plan, and the list below highlights some of the ways you can evaluate your ENS and ensure it will perform consistently.

1. Document the completed system implementation. Document the system components, users, input/output specs, and the required features to launch messages. Are permissions assigned to the correct assets? Can your team execute the functions you expect? You may have to adjust their permissions based on the role or roles they have to perform. Also, can an experienced ENS manager understand the system and workflow based on your documentation?

Obviously, be sure all promised functionality is identified and implemented. This should be the basis for what you will be testing, why you are testing a component, and the results you expect.

2. Review service-level agreements for access to the system and notification delivery. When a notification fails during an emergency, the assignment of blame becomes automatic. For example, the hard work by President Obama’s team to deliver on the promises of the Affordable Care Act was definitely hurt by the website failures. The first public reactions harmed the brand and sought out the scapegoat.

In the same way, due diligence requires determining what the promised service levels are and how they were and will be tested. Smoke and mirrors here may cause issues down the line. What has been the availability of the system for other sites, and what is the maximum number of confirmed messages that have been successfully sent and received? This can differ for SaaS and On-Premises systems.

3. Use written procedures for notifications and message mapping. Communications expert Dr. Robert Chandler has provided the critical reasons that the messages that are going to be used should be prepared before a crisis occurs. The Chandler method for message mapping provides a detailed blueprint for organizing your needs into simple actions and commands. Dr. Chandler explains in detail why this is necessary, but the short list is: mistakes occur during a crisis, no one is at their sharpest when they are under pressure, and messages must be reviewed to ensure that they are easily understood.

Evaluate your emergency notification system properly – take the necessary steps to ensure your ENS will perform in a minor or life-threatening situation.

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