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What triggers emergency comms?

Yesterday was the launch morning for the Business Continuity Institute’s annual emergency communications report, in London WC1. As befits the international spread of the BCI, so was the report, in terms of where respondents came from, the size of their organisations, and sectors.

As for what actually triggers the emergency communications plan, the most common reasons are natural disasters and adverse weather – such as floods and storms, and bush fires – and IT or telecom outages. As a flood or hurricane may cause comms to fall down, and naturally an IT failure may jeopardise your comms, as the report authors at the BCI said in the 56-page report, it’s vital that you have procedures to activate plans, even in the event of a technology failure; as other reasons for activating the plan included interruption to utility supply, and a cyber breach. Yet whatever the sort of incident – an act of workplace violence, or cyber security incident – email was reported to be the number one method of communicating with outsiders such as customers or the media; and likewise email was number one method for internal comms, no matter what the cause. But as the event heard, there could still be a place if only as a back-up for manual call trees, and land-line telephones. Plenty of respondents said that they still use manual lists of staff contacts; but are they kept up to date?

Far from all respondents to the BCI survey said that they ensure they keep mobile contact details of employees up to date. Nor do all respondents collaborate with the emergency services, or with their neighbours. The event heard that it may be important for a business continuity or related manager to send a staff representative to a local business forum. Rachael Elliott, pictured, head of thought leadership at the BCI, who took the audience through the report, said that there are hyper-local weather apps, that can tell you to the second when rain will fall. But as she added, in that case (and more generally) there is the risk of getting too much information, when meaning can be lost.

As for the Internet of Things (IoT), such sensors can give advance warning – such as automated alerts on a public address system. A majority of respondents do not plan to embed IoT, at all, whether for fear of IoT being hacked or other reasons.

She summed up:

– more are using specialist tools or software. The sponsor of the report was one such vendor, Munich-based F24.
– organisations are getting faster at activating their emergency comms. Never mind the ‘golden hour’, many are able to activate instantly, or within five minutes; certainly within half an hour or an hour.
– the main cause of plan failure is people – such as inaccurate information given, and on that basis the plan is triggered or not – rather than technology.
– the main causes of a plan being activated, natural disasters and the weather, and IT and telecoms outages, do not change much year on year, the surveys show.

More details

You can download the report at the BCI website. The BCI plans a webinar on the report on February 3. The BCI has a new out of London venue for its annual conference and exhibition; BCI World 2020 runs on November 5 and 6 at the ICC Birmingham.


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