Taking a proactive approach to emergency situations and having the right notification processes in place can help keep employees informed and safe. During weather-related emergencies, pandemics like COVID-19 and other events, these systems can help protect workers by offering them up-to-date information.
How Do Emergency Alerting Systems Work?
Emergency notification systems push text or email alerts to employees through their phone to inform or update them on an emergency situation. According to OnSolve, these notifications increase workplace safety by updating employees in real time about emergencies as they happen and providing information on the severity and spread of an emergency. Notifications can be limited to specific teams or locations impacted by the emergency. Because notifications are sent through multiple channels, employees across a single facility or entire company can be updated instantly and reliably.
More advanced notification systems can use two-way alerts to not only push a message to employees but to also request a response. For example, in the aftermath of a fire or storm, a notification system can text or email questions such as, "Are you OK?" and employees can respond immediately to update facility management.
Mass notification systems can be particularly effective during large-scale emergencies and long-term events like COVID-19 to help keep employees aware of evolving policies and safety procedures. OSHA recommends making an emergency notification system a part of your emergency action plan, and that it include actions that help keep employees safe in the event of a pandemic or emergency.
Deploying an Alerting System
While the technology behind emergency notifications may be complex, a critical factor in determining the effectiveness of an alert is whether an employee actually received it. According to Ready.gov, emergency communications systems need up-to-date contact information, including home, office and cell phone numbers, as well as personal and business email addresses, for all employees. An employee with out-of-date contact information may not receive an alert, which puts them at risk.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, testing should be well planned and regular, and should mix scheduled and unscheduled messages through different channels and at different times to fully simulate a real emergency. Test messages should always indicate that a test is taking place with each message to avoid confusion.
Getting buy-in for the system’s adoption within the organization is also important. Official messages should be specific, error free and easy to understand so employees can react appropriately. Notifications should include the message source, the specific threat, the location of the threat and the action the employee should take. Overusing alerts or providing limited details can lead employees to tune out critical information, especially if federal, state or local governments send similar notifications, possibly causing confusion.
The Importance of Emergency Alerting
Emergency preparedness, including emergency alerting, can help safeguard your employees and business' operations through a challenging time—but it requires careful planning. The key to being ready for any emergency is to be proactive rather than reactive. By implementing and testing emergency notification systems, businesses can stay one safe step ahead.