A crisis can slow down or stop an organization and cause significant financial, security, safety, and reputational damage. However, an organization that understands crisis risks can take the necessary steps to manage the entire lifecycle of an incident, regardless of its severity.
According to communications expert Dr. Robert Chandler, there are six stages in every crisis: (1) Warning; (2) Risk Assessment; (3) Response; (4) Management; (5) Resolution; and (6) Recovery. In the response stage, an organization focuses on containing the crisis. All communication that requires immediate response takes place during this phase, and effective communication can also facilitate coordination efforts between local, county, state, and federal agencies.
In the response stage, the type and extent of notification is determined by the scope, size, and emergency. Response stage notifications include:
• Activation of an Emergency Operations Center
• Directions for first responders
• Evacuation and shelter-in-place instructions
• Safety warnings
• Reminders of emergency response guidelines
Emergency notification should include communication with the crisis team, first responders, people at risk, key personnel and executives, local law enforcement and other responding agencies, and applicable audiences, including citizens, students, and employees. Focus of the notifications should be geared toward making contacts aware of the incident, providing instructions, and seeking confirmation of a response.
In a crisis, there are several emergency notification factors to consider, including:
1. The best ways to communicate – How will you notify large groups of people? While many organizations rely on traditional contact paths like phone calls and emails, you can also leverage push notifications, SMS, text messages, and other methods to reach your target audience.
2. What to communicate – What do you want people to know? Consider the message and how an audience might react to it in advance. Use the right wording, and leave no room for misinterpretations.
3. The importance of meta-messages – Dr. Chandler emphasizes a 3-3-30 rule for mapping messages. If every message includes 3 sentences, 3 main points, and can be delivered in less than 30 seconds, your organization can deliver clear, concise, and direct updates.
4. How events can change rapidly – A crisis can change instantly; therefore, information may not be accurate depending on when it’s delivered. Use Twitter to get up-to-the-minute information.
5. How to prepare – Emergency preparedness is key. Use drills and exercises to fully understand how to respond to a crisis.
Effective crisis response helps an organization limit damage and speed up recovery. To learn more about the response stage of a crisis, check out this white paper.