EMERGENCY AND MASS NOTIFICATION DURING SEVERE WEATHER EVENTS

2018 is already shaping up to be a year of severe weather events – with extreme heat across Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales in January, Cyclone Gita affecting Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and parts of New Zealand in February, Tropical Cyclone Marcus affecting Darwin in March and already this month Tropical Cyclone Iris bringing waves and rain to parts of Queensland plus Storms bringing hurricane force winds to Auckland.

At OnSolve, our customers increasingly turn to our solutions in these situations.  For example, Send Word Now is a two-way mass notification solution that enables organisations to share information with their staff and stakeholders. It is used to send notifications about building closures and alternative working arrangements, as well as for activating incident response teams.

During August and September 2017, as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma crossed the US states of Texas and Florida, OnSolve’s customers sent more than 51 million messages using our Enterprise and Public Safety communication tools.

Even in severe weather situations where forecasts may provide early warning, circumstances can change rapidly and the unexpected can occur. So how can you prepare? Here are our tips:

  1. Decide in advance who the key individuals are for crisis response decisions and make sure you have a way to get them together quickly. Being able to initiate a phone call to get the team onto a conference call really helps here.
  2. Use as many different modes of communication as possible (such as email, voice calls to landlines, text messages, mobile apps) – since some means of communication may be inoperable.
  3. Make communications two-way and receive information back from recipients. By constructing a question with associated response options, these can be easily summarised. This helps to prioritise those who need assistance or seek confirmation that individuals have received and understood the message.
  4. Communicate based on location – by grouping recipients based on where individuals live or work, or using real time location information, you can notify only those within a specific impacted area.
  5. Make sure you have accurate contact information – many organisations are good at capturing contact information when new staff join, but rarely ask individuals to review this afterwards. Offering the ability to self-update contact data and conducting regular testing is very beneficial.
  6. Consider where your stakeholders can get up-to-date information themselves. Maintain a voice-mail message board (with a pre-communicated number) and Social Media accounts for this purpose.

Severe weather is a pervasive threat across ANZ and the globe. Add this to the myriad of hazards faced by organisations today, and it is easy to understand why rapid, accurate and secure communication is essential for effective response and recovery.