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

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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, emergency management director 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 using social media and a spokesperson to transmit 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 essential 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 Bernardino that their mass notification system will recognize and 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 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 challenging to know how frequently to send updates throughout your organization. Send too few, and it may seem like the security team is failing to share critical information adequately. Send too many, and organizations can risk 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 allows the university to be upfront with its audience about the situation. The amount of updates also depends on the type of situation. Updates can be sent less frequently for something like a power outage, but for something that poses an immediate danger, like an active shooter, regular updates every 5-10 minutes are encouraged.

For San Bernadino, it also depends on the situation. They try at least to 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 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 and how and when to utilize a spokesperson to communicate with people outside of an organization in an official capacity.

 

 

 

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