I recently attended a webinar where one of the invited speakers had an all-too-common issue that many organizations face; a change in their leadership team affecting their crisis communication process. He had attributed the issue as a technical one, but we’ll see that this case is one where some pre-planning would save the day.
The timeline on this story reads like a textbook example of what not to do when planning for emergencies. The organization had only one person authorized to send messages, and when that person left their position, they left a gaping hole in the emergency plan that went unnoticed until the worst possible time: a crisis.
The login credentials for the Emergency Notification Service (ENS) were never shared during the transfer of leadership and, to compound the issue, the new personnel never contacted their vendor to review their communication plan.
The new leadership then attempted to contact support representatives, during an inclement weather event to establish messaging capabilities, and were denied access to the account, as per the vendor’s security measures.
The organization then faulted technology for the problem, but as we can see, it’s really a matter of communication before an emergency that determines how we respond during an event. Working with your ENS Vendor, you can avoid these pitfalls in your own emergency communication process.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your process as your team changes over time;
- Communicate with your vendor regularly; your vendor should have a dedicated point of contact for your questions or concerns, and you should utilize that often.
- Have more than one administrator with permission (and credentials) to send messages. A single-point of administration is not enough to ensure that you can get the word out in a crisis.
- Communicate and train with your crisis team regularly. Ensure your team understands the crisis communication procedures for your organization.
- Test your system regularly. Intermittent testing of the system will ensure procedures are functioning as intended.
- Understand your vendor’s security measures; they are in place to protect your purchase, your data, and to prevent potential abuse of the system.
It is unfortunate that, in this case, a single phone call before the crisis would have avoided a potentially dangerous delay in communication during an event.
In my experience, personnel in organizations can change abruptly, and do so quite often. Keeping a regular line of communication open with your ENS vendor, not only benefits you, but a great vendor can and should be a sounding board and second line of review in your crisis communication planning.