When there is a disaster of any kind, one of the most important roles that property leaders have during these times is communicating with tenants, residents, staff, and clients to ensure everyone’s safety and security.
Communication with Staff, Tenants, and Clients
Automated Mass Notification
There are a variety of options available for providing immediate notification of a disaster or disruption, as well as updates on the response process. Mass notification solutions typically allow the company to identify multiple groups for notification—for example, onsite staff and at a corporate office, tenants or residents, and contractors or vendors. The user may also be able to develop event-specific messages to be sent to different groups if a fire, flood, tornado, etc. occurs. You may also choose to create messages as needed. System options for distribution will typically include text message, mobile phone, home phone, work or other phones, and e-mail.
Look for a notification system that provides a perpetual record of deliveries, with information that can include the date sent, to whom it was sent, how the message was delivered, confirmation or time of delivery, and the body or text of the message. It may also be advantageous to include the ability for a recipient to respond to the notice. Maintaining these records is important for determining the effectiveness of your communication system, and may be a factor in liability management.
Toll-Free Phone Numbers with Pre-Recorded Messages
Companies should consider utilizing multiple toll-free numbers to provide timely messaging for clients, staff, tenants, and families. During a disaster, existing primary business phone numbers
are often overwhelmed, or may be severed by the event. It is advisable to look for toll-free solutions that travel different trunk lines that can provide specific, timely information. Use one
phone line to provide information for staff, give directions, and update them with developments, such as where and when to report for work. Use a separate line for tenants and customers to ensure easy access for callers and easy updates for the company with information such as
access, hours, office relocation information, and new contact information.
Organizations must have multiple options for both e-mail and online notification in the event the primary source goes down. Clients and tenants will find it wholly unacceptable that they cannot
access you via e-mail. Obviously, e-mail provides the opportunity to distribute information to groups, as previously described. Social media and other online options also offer solutions. Information may be posted on the company website in a section identified for emergency
messages. The company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, or Google+ page can also be used. Alternatively, the company may choose to provide online, internal message boards as a method of communication for employees or suppliers. Twitter is a particularly effective tool for real time communication—explored by both nonprofits and government agencies, such as FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, in the event of an emergency.
In the event of regional disasters, wireless network systems may be out of service or overwhelmed by the volume of traffic, making their utility somewhat marginal at the onset of the event. However, text messaging and online connectivity may remain an effective option as it utilizes different bands for transmission.
In the aftermath of a major disaster, satellite phones provide a superior calling solution. Although this may have been an extremely expensive alternative in prior times, it is now a more
affordable method of communication. In the past, satellite phones required a significant upfront investment for the antenna, car adapters, and batteries, along with the calling plan. Today,
satellite phones may be rented and data plans purchased much like other wireless phone plans;
however, they can usually be turned on and off as needed.
Implementation of a Crisis Plan
Ultimately, the effectiveness of business continuity and emergency response plans relies upon communications at their core. A company’s ability to respond in a coherent, coordinated manner is dependent on its redundant methods of messaging. The implementation of a comprehensive, successful crisis communication plan will help gain control in response and recovery situations, while also protecting people, property, and profits.
Download a copy of this Crisis Communication.