You Have an Emergency Notification System…OK, Then What?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Katie Weaver-Johnson

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I recently came across a blog in Emergency Management Magazine discussing the need to use multiple forms of emergency notifications.  Lessons learned and recent studies reveal that the public won’t likely take action unless they receive their directions from at least two trusted sources.  A study on evacuations during the San Diego wildfires found that residents generally wouldn’t leave their homes until they had received confirmation from a second source (like the news or a personal contact). 

Thankfully, in today’s networked environment, people have information coming at them from all sides (friends, media, online news, social networking sites, etc.) and will most likely be able to verify a threat if they receive initial notification.   However, there is always that risk that an employee, friend, neighbor, student, etc. was not notified.  Or their source was not credible or trusted?  How can you ensure all individuals have received and verified an emergency notification?

And, once an individual does understand there is a threat (violence, natural disaster, etc.), then what?  Where should they go?  What do they need to do?  Should they notify others?    

Emergency mass notification systems are only effective if each and every individual sending and receiving the alert is fully aware of specific policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities – people must understand what they HAVE TO DO and NEED TO DO if an incident occurs.

Lessons learned have shown that many safety and security programs do not put enough emphasis on the implementation of crisis management plans, emergency plans, code of conduct manuals, staff procedures manuals, SOPs and other processes after organizations have spent time and money performing assessments, performing general training, purchasing mass notification technologies and developing their plans, procedures and policies.

It is critical for organizations to implement Lessons Learned at the individual-level to prevent and prepare for future incidents.   Organizations need to ensure that all procedures, plans, guidelines, etc. have been assigned to all appropriate personnel (faculty, students, employees, law enforcement, board members, vendors, contractors, third-parties, etc.) and that all personnel have acknowledged and understand their roles and responsibilities before, during and after an incident occurs.

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Michael Fisher Hi Katie:

What I know is that there are many issues with the emergency response system. One of the key issues seems to be who has access to send out notifications and who among first responders have access o the information. It all boils down to how secure the network is and assuring the public that what they are hearing is accurate and not an exaggeration or blown out of proportion. We get municipalities who are told the big one is coming so often that people don't isten often until it is too late.
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