Emergencies and disasters can strike at any time, often when you least expect them. In most circumstances you will have no warning at all that an emergency situation is about to unfold.
As an employer, you have a duty of care to keep your employees safe and this includes during emergency situations that your business could find itself in the midst of.
Building fires, man-made disasters, terror attacks, active shooters, gas leaks, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pandemics (such as COVID-19) and even the flu season are just some of the situations that could befall your organization. And when any of these events take place, you need to act very quickly to save lives and prevent injuries.
A critical aspect of employee safety during an emergency situation is communication. It’s important that your employees have access to reliable information about the situation as it develops as well as clear instructions about any steps they need to take to be safe. After all, in an emergency, every second counts. One of the fastest ways to inform employees is using an app for emergency alerts.
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How to alert employees in an emergency: steps to take
Your organization’s emergency response will vary depending on the type of emergency, the work your organization is involved in and workplace demographics. For example, if your employees are working in a traditional office, a factory, in the field, remotely from home or a combination of all of these.
In general, however, these are factors you should consider when you are sending emergency information to your employees:
1. Ensure your employees understand your emergency plans
Before your organization is even affected by an emergency, it is important that you review the emergency information that you provide to your employees, and also ensure that they are familiar with your emergency response plans and requirements. This includes making sure they understand evacuation or shelter-in-place response plan, the locations of emergency exits or shelters, updating emergency maps, updating emergency communications templates, signage and any other necessary information.
2. Review your emergency communication processes
Evaluate the way you currently provide - or plan to provide - emergency communication information to your employees. Is it going to be effective in an emergency situation, or do you need to implement a new system and new processes?
Can you quickly and easily reach all your employees in an emergency? Are you making the most of modern technology? Survey your employees to determine if they think your systems are adequate.
3. Prepare material in advance
Writing templates to use in an emergency can save lots of time when you are dealing with the real thing. Your templates should cover off the most likely scenarios that your workplace could experience (for example, a building fire or a gas leak). Outline what has happened and what employees need to do. You can fill in the blanks quickly and easily during an emergency event.
10 most useful emergency messages for the staff
Download free message templates to use in case of emergency.
4. Keep contact lists up-to-date
It’s important that your employee contact details are regularly updated. This includes ensuring that all employees are included in distribution lists for how you plan on sending emergency communication (eg: DeskAlerts, SMS etc). It can also help you to follow up with employees who are unaccounted for in an emergency.
How to alert employees in an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic
For many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to update or upgrade emergency communication systems and the usefulness of an app for emergency alerts. COVID-19 has been posing many challenges for employers with their employees working remotely, working in volatile environments where they could be exposed to the virus, or even transitioning back to the workplace.
With so many potential safety issues that need to be relayed to employees, it’s important that organizations are prepared so that they can quickly address any emerging situation and provide the right advice to employees to keep informed.
This could include:
- Alerting employees to any shelter-in-place or stay-at-home restrictions that are imposed by the government and what that means for them and the company.
- Alerting employees if there have been positive cases of COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Important health and safety advice about hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks and face coverings.
Being prepared for the situation to change without much warning is essential, and COVID-19 internal communications should be no different from other emergency situations in this sense.
What is an emergency alert app?
An emergency alert app is a specific type of software application that is used to broadcast emergency notifications to defined lists of contacts. These emergency apps are primarily run on devices like smartphones and tablets. This means that people can receive information about emergency situations regardless of their location.
Sometimes an emergency alert app comes as part of an overall emergency communications system, and other times it might be a standalone product that works by itself or alongside other systems.
Who are the users of emergency alert apps?
There are generally two kinds of users of emergency alert apps: administrators and recipients.
Alerts are sent to devices by an administrator to let people know about an emergency situation. In some cases, alerts might also be triggered by other systems they are integrated with, such as alarms.
Recipients of the emergency alerts can then act on the information that they have been sent. Sometimes the alert gives advance warning (for example, a tropical cyclone is due to make landfall in two hours – recipients have a little bit of time to prepare) Other times the alert will be about something that is happening immediately (for example, there is a fast moving wildfire in the area and people need to shelter in place immediately.)
Choosing an effective emergency communication app
When you analyze your emergency communications processes, you may very well find that you lack effective tools, such as workplace safety apps for iPhone or Android to reach your entire workforce quickly and reliably.
DeskAlerts is an internal communications software solution used by many large organizations around the world to keep their employees safe in an emergency.
The system primarily works by sending pop-up notifications straight to employees’ computer desktops and can be used to send emergency alerts.
We know that different employees within an organization use different phones. You don’t need to worry about investing in an emergency alert app for android as well as an emergency alert app for iPhone: our app is accessible across all devices, as well as Windows and Mac OSX computers. All your employees need to do is download our iPhone or Android emergency alerts app and once configured they can receive messages.
The features of the DeskAlerts App
DeskAlerts has many different features that enable you to share critical and urgent information quickly with your employees when there is an emergency, disaster or other crisis situation.
The system is designed to be deliberately disruptive and cuts through the communications clutter of the modern workplace, appearing on user screens in a way that cannot be ignored, skipped or minimized. Messages appear even if computers are in screensaver or standby modes. It is a much more reliable medium than email when every second counts and it is a matter of life and death.
Features of the DeskAlerts safety alert app include:
- An easy-to-use interface hosted on your business’ server.
- Designed to be user-friendly and operated by people with the most basic of computer skills.
- Can send high priority alerts that will appear even if the computer is locked.
- Messages will appear on screens no matter what other software the employee is using at the time.
- The ability to send notifications that require acknowledgment of reading.
- Alerts that self destruct after closing.
- Autoclosing alerts that only appear on screen for a specified time period before disappearing.
- One-click alerts that can be sent without logging in to the system.
- Can send videos to give instructions about what to do.
- Can send corporate wallpapers, screensavers or digital signage to screens to instantly let people know about emergency exits.
- Can be sent to iOS and Android devices as well as Windows or OSX.
- Lets you target which audiences you want to send messages to – the entire organization or just specific groups.
- Integrates with your organization’s Active Directory.
- Gives you access to message statistics in real time.
Why the DeskAlerts app for emergency alerts can help
When there is an emergency, there might not be time to log in to the computer and create and send an emergency staff notification. There might only be, literally, seconds to get the message out.
Fortunately, DeskAlerts has a solution for this in the form of an emergency communication app and a “panic button” that allows you to send a pre-defined message to a pre-defined audience without the need to log in to the system at all. Sending emergency notifications from a mobile phone app can be extremely useful in a crisis situation.
This is how the panic button works:
- Alerts are sent directly from a special shortcut saved to an administrator’s computer desktop or from a separate iPhone or Android mobile phone app.
- In the DeskAlerts dashboard, you are able to create a virtual “panic button” that enables you to simply press send in order to send out emergency notifications about critical situations.
- Templates that are pre-prepared ahead of time let you quickly inform your employees about a threat or incident when it occurs, allowing you to save time in an emergency.
- Templates can be customized, including titles, colors and text, and even insert images or video files. For example, you can include maps that show emergency exits and assembly points, or videos that provide a walk-through of what to do.
Watch this video and learn how DeskAlerts can help in an emergency
There are a number of reasons why someone may not be able to get to their desk to send emergency notifications to other employees, for example if fire or explosion have made it impossible or the person sending the alert may come to the attention of an active shooter or terrorist if seen using their computer. The DeskAlerts app is installed on either an iPhone or Android and is literally then in that person’s pocket so they can easily send notifications to other staff.
The emergency alert app is installed on employees’ smartphones and tablets, allowing them to get push notifications about events such as an emergency straight to these devices. Even if they aren’t at their desks and are in meetings or offsite they can still be alerted to an emergency situation.
How to alert employees in an emergency with our app:
- Different levels of users have different access permissions. For example, admin is generally given to the people with the most technical expertise, such as your IT department, while the role of the publisher – someone who creates and sends the actual alerts – can be given to a wide range of staff who might need the access.
- Communications staff, human resources, IT help desk and facilities management employees may be identified as appropriate publishers of emergency notifications.
- Permissions can be allocated to employees who have designated emergency response roles within your organization such as fire wardens or floor wardens.
- Sending mock emergency notifications can form part of your fire drills and other emergency planning exercises and scenarios.
- You can continue to send alerts through the system as the situation develops or changes, keeping your employees up-to-date with the latest information about the threat.
Some emergency situations do come with a bit of warning such as hurricanes and severe weather events. You can still use the DeskAlerts emergency notification system to notify your staff in advance about these potential natural disasters and the expected impact it may have on your organization.
This can include:
- Providing detailed instructions about what measures your staff can take ahead of the disaster to protect your property and assets
- Advising employees to make alternative work arrangements and not attend your offices if it is too dangerous to do so.
- Any other protocols that are necessary.
When an emergency situation threatens your workplace and happens outside of regular work hours, the DeskAlerts app for emergency communication is very useful to keep your employees informed. For example, you may need to advise people not to attend the office the next day if there has been a fire or flood.
It also functions as a disaster alert app: you can also send alerts to employees who work in other offices and geographic locations letting them know that there has been a disaster at another one of your offices and that staff may be difficult to reach in the interim, and advise of what measures are in place while that office is out of commission.