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Phone Trees and Emergency Alerts: Not a Good Combination

Anton Vdovin - Sep 21, 2017 4:31:58 PM

Do you use phone trees in your organization? Phone trees work by spreading a message by calling a group of people who have their respective lists of people to call. Though it is an old method of information dissemination, a number of companies still use phone trees or call trees to spread an idea, or to get a message across.

Do call trees work?

Call trees originated from the need to share information to a big number of people as quickly as possible, especially in times of crisis. For example, if a snowstorm has made it impossible for vehicles to pass the road to the office, you would want to send your staff emergency alerts and tell them not to go to work anymore, saving them the inconvenience of going to work. Plus, you do not want them to get trapped in the storm, so you start putting your phone tree to work: you call a list of people, say your department heads, who have their own respective lists – members of their department, individuals who have their own lists as well. If you are lucky, you would be able to get through to all the people on your list, and all the people you call would be able to contact everyone on their list, and so on. 

While this can work for a small number of people, it is not worth the trouble of using it during times of crisis, and here are four reasons why:

1. Not everyone is on his or her phone, expecting your call. What if one of the people on your list is in the shower, is sleeping, or has his or her phone off? What if they do not have phone signal due to the inclement weather? If you are going to depend on call trees to inform people about emergency situations, call trees will only work to some extent.

2. The call chain breaks. Supposing you are able to call three of the five people from your list. What about the other two you cannot get a hold of? How will these two people get the information you so desperately need them to get, and how will the people from their own lists be informed? The inability to call just one person can spell disaster, especially if the matter you are trying to communicate is urgent.

3. The process of calling people is time-consuming. Unless your employees are on call, they would not answer their phone in the first ring, if they would answer at all. But you need to reach them, so you try again and again to get through. Just thinking of the scenario can give you headaches: how many minutes will it take you to get through say, all the ten people in your list? If you cannot get through, your last resort is to leave a voicemail Again, there is no guarantee that the receivers of your voicemail would listen to it in time. Plus, how will you know that they did receive the information? Do they call you back? Remember that the people in your list have their own groups of people to call. How sure are you that the information reaches all these other people?

4. The verbal message can be distorted. Assuming that everyone on your list gets to call everyone on their own lists and so on, how sure are you that the last people to get the message got the RIGHT message? Information passed verbally is prone to a lot of misinterpretation, and if you are using verbal messages as emergency alerts, they can get blown out of proportion.

Call trees may look simple enough to work, but why risk your business and your employees? Instead of depending on call trees, you must invest in a mass notification solution that will allow you to send quick and effective emergency alerts that will ensure your employees’ safety while protecting your business operations.

Topics: Corporate Communication

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