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Crisis communications

Adam Enterkin, SVP, EMEA, BlackBerry, describes communications in an increasingly complex threat environment.

Between 1980 and 2010, the number of recorded natural disasters doubled from roughly 200 to 400 per year, averaging 380 annually this past decade. Then Covid-19 arrived, with a brutal impact on the world order that won’t be fully understood for years to come. In response to the chaos, organisations of all kinds shut their doors, and many allowed employees to work from home. Recognising an opportunity to exploit the crisis, cybercriminals quickly launched a massive phishing campaign targeting consumers and remote workers.

These events signal the emergence of a new kind of threat environment. The implications for businesses are likely to be profound and long-lasting. It will become increasingly difficult to anticipate how processes will be affected by external factors or how to approach critical events as discrete, isolated incidents. Organisations will need to manage natural disasters and other critical events against a backdrop of long-term threats to world stability – such as the pandemic, cyber-attacks, political divisions and economic and social disruptions.

To manage these evolving threats, organisations must have a crisis communications solution in place for all stages before, during, and after an emergency:

1. Delivering emergency notifications

Emergency notification systems that rely only on robocalls, speakers, sirens and email and test messages are no longer adequate to deal with today’s crisis realities. The increasingly complex threat environment requires increasingly complex notification systems, which enable emergency managers to effortlessly establish two-way communications with enterprise and community stakeholders using their preferred devices and communications media.

2. Maintaining situational awareness

In times of crisis, situational awareness is essential for streamlining response and recovery efforts. Products and solutions that collect live data empower field personnel to be the eyes and ears of the operations centre by submitting real-time updates and geotagged multimedia status reports. An important factor to bear in mind is to use a solution that’s secured by end-to-end encryption, to ensure security of all the data collected.

3. Meeting duty of care commitments

It’s a well-worn cliché that employees are an organisation’s greatest asset. Yet, all too often, organisations lack a formal process for monitoring the status of their personnel during and after an emergency event. A suitable crisis communications solution needs to help reduce pre- and post-emergency chaos by providing the tools organisations need to account for their employees efficiently, reliably and systematically.

4. Enabling secure, interoperable crisis communications

Mounting an effective, coordinated response to a crisis often requires seamless communications between diverse and geographically dispersed teams of internal and external stakeholders. The right products and solutions need to provide the real-time, interoperable communications organisations need to collaborate effectively with government, commercial, and essential service provider partners.

5. Streamlining the process

Although essential, a robust mass notification system infrastructure alone cannot guarantee an effective and timely response to a crisis. Organisations must develop, test, validate, and exercise detailed incident plans that are then executed flawlessly by response teams contending with extreme stress and chaotic, rapidly changing conditions on the ground. That’s why it’s also key to have a critical event management tool in place that enables organisations to manage the complete incident response lifecycle from initial planning to post-event auditing, analysis, and archiving.

A vision for the future

Every organisation has a moral imperative to learn from previous disruptive events and plan accordingly. However, organisations should also recognise the futility of believing it’s possible to anticipate every challenge they will face in the years to come. No one could have predicted in 2019 that we would end up in a pandemic that has decimated the global economy and taken more than two million lives.

Organisations can, however, adopt a holistic approach to crisis management that is robust, flexible and capable of managing every kind of critical event in a timely, efficient and responsible manner. To recover and emerge stronger from the current crisis, organisations will also need new approaches for balancing the risks and opportunities created by the mobile revolution, cloud computing as well as new technologies like artificial intelligence, to fuel their business transformation projects.

It is these long-term strategic requirements that crisis communications solutions need to meet to increase resilience, enhance agility and realise the goal of a future that is safe, secure, and productive for all.


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