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.
Internal communications during the COVID-19 pandemic
For many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to update or upgrade emergency employee communications systems. 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 to other emergency situations in this sense.
Important steps to take when delivering emergency information for staff
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.
Choosing an effective system to communicate quickly in an emergency
When you analyze your emergency communications processes, you may very well find that you lack effective tools 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 desk tops and can be used to send emergency alert notifications.
- 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.
- A much more reliable medium than email when every second counts and it is a matter of life and death.
- Generally accessed by 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.
However 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 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.
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.
Why the DeskAlerts emergency notification app can help
There are times, however, where you may not be in the office or at your desk when an emergency happens. Sending emergency notifications from a mobile phone app can be extremely useful in a crisis situation.
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 mobile 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 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.
Ways to use the app include:
- 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 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 to 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 mobile app 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.
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.
Whatch this video and learn more about how DeskAlerts can help in an emergency situation.