The recent Brussels bombings once again showed that emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere. The Belgian capital was rocked by multiple terrorist attacks during a typical busy morning in the city, and many citizens were caught unaware of the assaults.
This latest unfortunate incident also illustrates the urgency for companies to prepare an emergency communications plan that will describe how everyone in the organization will respond to an accident.
An emergency communications plan is a comprehensive blueprint on how a company will alert its employees during an emergency situation, evacuate them out of the building and relocate them at assigned assembly points. It will also determine how the employees will be notified when it is safe to return to work.
On the external communications side, emergency communication templates will outline how family members will be informed of an employee’s death or injury, and how the disaster will be discussed with the media.
Support from management
Support from the leadership is important for any crisis communication program to be instituted. Without the support of the board and management, there’s no way for the human resource department, property and service department, or any other unit in the company to come up with an emergency communication blueprint.
After all, crisis preparation would cost a company expenses in terms of equipment and other resources. Moreover, full support of the leadership will give concerned departments the time and resources to conduct training and coordinate with the rest of the organization.
The crisis communication plan should also outline how the staff will be contacted immediately in the event of a serious incident. The company should put in place various internal communications channels like public address system, desk alerts, and SMS alerts.
The email isn’t recommended as a communication channel during a crisis because employees may not be able to read an urgent message. Moreover, not all employees are in front of their computers. Thus PA system, desk alerts which are urgent messages relayed directly to the computer screens of employees, and SMS alerts are considered the best communication tools during an emergency.
The company should also be able to deliver clear and succinct messages. Pre-prepared emergency communication templates for staff announcements should be readied, given that the communications team may not have enough time to draft an announcement during a storm or a terrorist attack. The structure, tone of voice, and methods of relaying the information are some of the other necessary details that should be determined.
The crisis communication plan should also identify how clients and other external stakeholders can be given updates regarding the situation, or simply provide them a reassurance. Aside from clients, other external stakeholders that should be involved are major shareholders, regulators, neighboring businesses, suppliers, and utility companies.
The company should also be ready to communicate with the media during crisis. The designation of a company spokesperson during an emergency can ensure that all information relayed to the media is accurate and appropriate to the situation. The spokesperson can also spearhead the drafting of a succinct, factual formal statement that will clarify what has happened and what is being done about it.
Families and friends of employees of the company may also be concerned about the safety of their loved ones. It is thus recommended that a hotline be set up in conjunction with emergency services.
There are many emergency communication templates that corporate communicators and HR personnel can refer to in outlining their emergency communications plans.
Most of these emergency communications templates underline the need for the support of senior management in crafting and implementing the program. These templates also call for the designation of a company spokesperson who will issue company statements to the media, and procedures on how the company communicates with employee families and the local community.
With an emergency communication plan in place, a business will be able to respond accurately and promptly during an emergency and even in the days that follow.