A Step-by-Step Guide for Emergency Situation Management (Part 3 of 3)


Informing Everyone and Coordinating a Response

In our first two blog posts, we discussed highlights from our emergency situation management webinar featuring guest speakers Bill Curtis, director of emergency management at UW-Madison police department; and Chris Grant, emergency manager and San Bernardino Community College District. In the first post, we shared their insights into setting up good relationships with local law enforcement and how to initiate the process of managing an emergency situation. In the second, we shared their thoughts on how to use social media and a spokesperson to share messages.

In our final installment, we’ll examine how to engage with different groups and determine the right frequency for providing emergency updates.


Knowing Who to Involve

When events are underway and the management process has begun, it’s important to know what groups to involve. Both experts stressed the need to have strong communication channels between departments.

At San Bernadino, their resources are limited, so they rely on their relationships with outside agencies to manage situations. They create specific message groups for different types of incidents so they reach the right people who can assist. The communication stream goes both ways, as those outside agencies can also send messages to San Berndino which their mass notification system will recognize and in turn trigger messages to everyone that needs to be informed.

While UW-Madison does not have the same type of teams designated as San Bernadino, they still have tools in place to help them reach out to the right people and include them in the crisis management process.

Finding the Right Frequency

When an event is ongoing it can be difficult to know how frequently to send updates throughout your organization. Send too few, and it may seem like the security team is failing to do an adequate job sharing critical information. Send too many, and organizations can run the risk of having people ignore or unsubscribe from updates.

At UW-Madison, they try and include information about when another update will be sent out in their mass notifications. There isn’t always new information to share, but it gives the university the ability to be upfront with its audience about the situation. The amount of updates also depends on the type of situation. For something like a power outage, updates can be sent less frequently, but for something that poses and immediate danger, like an active shooter, regular updates every 5-10 minutes are encouraged.

For San Bernadino, it also depends on situation. They try to at least report an update at the top of every hour, even if there is now new information to communicate. The goal is to combat misinformation by providing regular updates. They also send updates just to let their population know they are aware of an incident, such as an earthquake, even if that event has already been resolved or there is no immediate action for people to take.

Both stressed the importance of not overloading people with messages, which can lead to people unsubscribing from receiving updates, and missing out on crucial information in the future. They also highlighted sending an “all clear” message a means to signal the issue has been resolved.

Discover more strategies in our clear communication whitepaper

This is part three of a three-part series. Part one looked at working with local law enforcement and how to begin managing an emergency. Part two looked at how to leverage social media for monitoring and communication purposes, as well as how and when to utilize a spokesperson to communicate with people outside of an organization in an official capacity.



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