Skip to content

You’re Doing It Wrong: How to communicate during an emergency?

Every day across the world, 205 billion emails are sent, 204 billion of those are probably meeting invites where the remaining 500 million are emails you’re Cc’d into. That’s about 74 trillion emails per year anyway. In the US alone, 6 billion mobile phone calls are made per day whereas facebook record a total number of 1.23 billion active users a day. It’s pretty clear that people are using technology to communicate in the 21st Century, there’s no doubt about that, so my question to you is how would you contact your colleagues, team or family during an emergency event? 

Communicating during an emergency

Your first response is probably by phone. Good answer. Only a mere 3 out of every 3500 professionals won’t have their phone on them at any given time during the 9 – 5 working period. That means that during a major Emergency Event at ‘peak’ period within Sydney’s CBD, 7,680 people every square kilometre have their phones on them. Emergency Services could expect a total of 25 calls every 10 seconds (that’s excluding the 610,000 visitors per day also carrying a mobile phone).

Not all these people are calling emergency services though. A large majority of them are calling loved ones. Once that’s been dealt with, they may begin to call their colleagues. Your Emergency Manager is now using his mobile phone to contact his Crisis Manager and Warden team who are only located two floors beneath him. If every major organisation in the CBD communicated that way, you can now add a whopping 44% more calls on top of the average hourly rate in the Sydney CBD alone.

So maybe calling someone isn’t the correct response?

Communicating during an emergency

Over the last few years, the bright sparks at facebook decided to add a check-in service during either a natural or man-made emergency event. This simple procedure allowed your phone to identify you as being in the ‘danger-zone’ through your location settings and would send you a notification or message asking if you were OK. Although just an automated robot, it sends some reassurance to those in need. This then sends out a worldwide notification to your network. Simple, quick, and easy. The main positive of this is that it meant people didn’t have to use their phone network to communicate, just some data or Wi-Fi (and facebook seems to be working on getting that everywhere too).

Obviously, there are loopholes here, having internet connection being the main. Sometimes it can be reliable as a phone network. The point is, you need a plan B.

At FirstAction, as part of our weekly training sessions with our clients, we talk about the idea of having a communication tool. Regardless of the response, we’ll talk more about the idea of a planned communication strategy rather than a physical object. How will your wardens communicate during an event? If you have a 20-story building or worse, a widespread campus where it takes longer to get to one another, what’s your process here? You would be shocked at how many staff, during an event, will decide to go home due to false information passed on by countless colleagues.

Whatever you decide to go with, it needs to be pre-planned and structured. Practice it during your drills, repeatedly. In the Army, when going through selection or training days – there is always one Drill Sergeant just waiting to make your day hell. He’s always there, watching, waiting to give you a hard time during an event, but that’s the point. In your Emergency drills, the phones will likely be working fine, there will be clear paths to evacuation points and the sun will probably be shining – but we all know that’s not how it works when it really matters. Make it realistic and identify the gaps.

Communicating during an emergency

On February 4th 2010, Christchurch, New Zealand went through its first major Earthquake at a magnitude of 7.1. It hit at 4:35 am – around the time everyone was well and truly in bed, asleep. John Key (New Zealand’s Prime Minister at the time) commented how lucky they were to receive such a large earthquake at the cities quietest period. “If this had hit during lunch within a week day, who knows how bad it could have gotten”. Then, on the 22nd of February 2011, at 12:51 pm on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, an even more violent EQ struck, killing 185 people. Expect the unexpected!

Communication underpins good business relations – the same principles apply to Emergency Management” – Scott Cresswell of FirstAction

Your organisation would have set up countless communication tools and procedures for its staff that it’s proud of, so why is this not being taking as seriously for Emergency procedures? We’ve identified some of the challenges already – everyone does have a mobile phone, so can’t you just use that? Maybe, but we’ve already identified the problems this could cause. Another is cost. You should be influencing and discussing this during or even before the development of your Emergency Response Plan. Set aside a budget or investment towards communications. Figure out what works and what you can afford.

Also, try using the idea of an ERP (Emergency Response Plan) as being a hub for everyone’s details. Encourage your staff to use it during your drills as a way to house all those phone numbers, emails or addresses.

Communicating during an emergency

FirstAction identified the need for a much easier to follow tool many years ago. We’re now successfully in our final stages of making this tool a reality with our Activate App being released on the 29th of March. This tool will help shape the way wardens and Crisis/Emergency teams communicate – by switching to digital. Designed to comply directly with the Australian Standard 3745:2010 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities, Activate is the missing link that we’ve all identified.

We’re proud of this software and proud of what it can help you achieve during any event. More so, we’re now offering, even more, options alongside giants like facebook to communicate and control an Emergency event. It’s about being confident in your wardens and your colleagues, having options to help with that process should always be considered before it’s too late.

Switch to digital | Emergency management | Activate
Categorized: How to?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.