Communication during and following an emergency presents a variety of challenges. So, crafting an employee safety and communication plan that works is absolutely essential. The specifics will vary widely from company to company, but your emergency safety and communication plan must address the following:
- How the company will ensure employees are safe during a disaster event
- How it will communicate essential information to employees following the event
The first part will depend heavily on the nature and location of your business. Safety planning for a large manufacturing facility will obviously be very different than for a small real estate office, for example. Because of this, it’s very difficult to provide specific best practices for this part of your BC/DR plan. However, the key is to match your safety plan to the specific needs of your organization.
For the second part, you will need to first gather a variety of information and make sure that it is well documented, easily accessible and stored in a number of secure locations. This should include up-to-date employee contact information (email, mobile and home phone numbers, emergency contact information, etc.). It should also include a methodology for contacting employees.
Obviously, email is the easiest way to reach a large group of employees, but if your company’s email server is down, you are out of luck. Some businesses employ redundant Exchange servers or cloud-based services to ensure email access. Of course, if you are without Internet access entirely, you’ll need an alternative.
A call tree, sometimes referred to a phone tree, call list, phone chain or text chain, is another popular method for distributing important information to employees during and following an event. Here’s how it works. A predetermined employee initiates the call chain with a call to the next person on the chain. That employee contacts the next person on the list and the chain continues until everyone on the call tree ha s been reached. Other companies may automate emergency calls with purpose-built communications software/services.
Regardless of the methods you use to distribute information to your employees, your emergency communications plan should provide enough detail that it can be carried out if the plan’s creator is not available following the event (e.g. due to injury or impassable roads). Your plan should also be flexible enough to accommodate for a variety of potential emergency situations. The response to a fire in your facility during working hours will be very different from communications following the widespread distribution of a defective product, for example. Emergency communications should be brief and as accurate as possible. Depending on the structure of your organization, you may want to keep managers updated, allowing them to pass on information to direct reports on a “need-to-know” basis. Again, the specifics of your business will dictate the correct approach.
Finally, it is essential to test and update the communications plan periodically.
Testing will identify gaps in the plan such as out-of-date employee lists or contact information.