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Emergency communications survey

The chances of a member of staff being caught in a terrorism incident are pretty low, for one person; but if you are an organisation with 100,000 staff, the chances are that someone will be affected by something, over a year, the launch morning for the Business Continuity Institute’s annual emergency communications report heard in central London.

The Institute’s head of thought leadership Rachael Elliott, went through the report, available to download on the BCI website. She is pictured right, with John Davison of the crisis communications product company F24 speaking; and BCI member Wael El Nemr, global business continuity manager for Vodafone Group.

On travel, the report noted that the more global an organisation, the more complex its emergency communications plan. Many global firms may centrally manage their emergency communications, while having local response teams who are better placed to deal with scenarios. As Rachael Elliott told the audience, geo-fencing (whereby users of a traveller or people tracking product draw an intangible ring around places, for example where there’s an incident) would be useful for such situations. “Some organisations we spoke to went a step further, and tracked where employees are going on holiday, and if there was an incident, they would communicate with that person abroad.”

The survey found that more organisations have staff travelling to what are regarded as ‘high risk’ destinations, which may not mean that employers are explicitly sending their workers to dangerous cities or countries, but that as Rachael Elliott said, fewer and fewer countries are perceived as low-risk. In this regard Venezuela and Hong Kong were mentioned.

The report did find that despite more international travel than ever, employer preparation for staff travelling abroad is ‘surprisingly low’. Rachael Elliott wondered if some complacency was seeping in, precisely because there is so much international travel. The assumption may be that everyone has a mobile device, and you will be able to communicate with that person; but what if roaming fails? Some respondents to the survey sue dual sims in mobiles. Intriguingly, the event head that while some staff don’t mind being tracked, board level people do not want to give up their right to privacy.

Who is responsible for managing emergency communications? Business continuity management; but some respondents also spoke of HR (keepers of staff address records – are they kept up to date? and if so, do other departments have the most up to date copy?), IT, security and even facilities management (because FM may be responsible for tannoys), and public relations, as PR may have input into messages externally during a crisis, whether an IT outage or a natural disaster or extreme weather – typically, although cases could include acts of violence, or sudden death of an executive.

More in the March 2020 print issue of Professional Security magazine.


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