Cutting Through The Noise In A Crisis

Posted: 5 Sep, 2023.

During times of crisis, clear communication becomes paramount in keeping your employees calm, organised, and safe. However, in emergency situations, the abundance of chatter and speculation on messaging platforms can make it difficult to cut through the noise and effectively communicate correct information.

When an individual is receiving dozens, possibly hundreds of communications every day, whether from work, family or friends, it’s easy for messages to be missed, overlooked, or deprioritised and forgotten. It’s imperative that critical safety communications are read and actioned as necessary.

What’s more, in a situation with remote or frontline workers, it can be difficult to grab the attention of employees away from the distractions in their surroundings. The sound of notifications can easily become background noise in a busy or loud work environment, causing notifications to be missed.

In the BCI Emergency Communications Report 2022, 1 in 4 organisations said that communicating with staff was their primary challenge during an incident, but only 68.2% kept employee contact details up to date. This highlights the importance of pre-planning and preparation. Organisations that prepare for the unexpected are likely to recover from an emergency faster as well as having higher rates of staff satisfaction and productivity.

Overcoming Alarm Fatigue

Alert fatigue or alarm fatigue occurs when someone is exposed to too many emergency notifications, too often. And in a world where we are constantly connected, it is easy to become desensitised to alerts, messages and notifications, which can mean that important information gets missed. This can be especially prominent if your employees regularly receive notifications that are not relevant, causing them to pay less attention to alerts in the future.

To combat this, limit the number and type of alerts sent during a crisis. This means trading quantity for quality and only sending accurate, meaningful updates. Most incidents can be managed with 3 key messages:

  1. A notification of the situation and any actions that should be followed
  2. An update with the estimated recovery time
  3. A message to say the situation has been resolved

Targeted Notifications

Another way to reduce alarm fatigue is to only send alerts to those who need to know the information being provided. Specialised emergency alert systems such as Peoplesafe Alert allow messages to be sent to predefined groups, such as individual departments, teams, or those within a specific location. This ensures that only those impacted by an incident will receive the notifications relating to it, rather than your whole organisation. The use of predefined groups streamlines the process of identifying relevant employees, a critical factor when time is of the essence. Moreover, the unique sound utilised by emergency notification tools distinguishes crisis management notifications from other messages, instantly signalling the importance of the information. This ensures that employees pay immediate attention to crucial communications during a crisis.

Communicating out of Hours

Effective communication becomes particularly challenging outside of working hours. Some employees may not be connected to your company infrastructure and may not have access to company emails or messaging platforms on their phones, leading to important messages being missed.

In the instance where you need to communicate with staff out of hours, you will need to ensure all staff have access to receive these messages on a personal device, either via SMS or push notifications. This could be to inform employees that they should not travel to the office due to an outbreak of an infectious disease or to inform particular teams of a service disruption (e.g., IT) that needs urgent attention.

Managing Rumours and Misinformation

During a crisis, rumours and misinformation can spread like wildfire, causing confusion, fear and further escalating the situation. As an organisation, effectively managing rumours and combating misinformation becomes crucial in maintaining trust, credibility, and employee morale.

By using a centralised communication platform, such as Peoplesafe Alert, organisations can maintain control and prevent the spread of misinformation. The information can be received via a dedicated app or SMS, making it easy for recipients to verify that it has come from a trustworthy source. Only designated personnel can send messages from the platform which ensures that only accurate and verified information is sent to employees, reducing the risk of conflicting messages and rumours.

Guaranteed message delivery

In the event of a cyber-attack, critical communication platforms may be directly targeted, leading to disruptions in service availability and causing organisations to be unable to communicate with stakeholders. Additionally, in crisis scenarios, such as natural disasters or physical attacks, communication infrastructure may be physically damaged or destroyed. Disruptions to power lines, network cables, or data centres can leave organisations without reliable communication channels.

Specialized mass communication platforms like Peoplesafe Alert are kept air gapped, ensuring their separation from the organisation’s other infrastructure. This design guarantees their resilience against cyber attacks or other disasters, enabling seamless communication with stakeholders regardless of the circumstances.

Peoplesafe Alert: The Solution

“Peoplesafe Alert has improved message response time from up to an hour, to an auditable 91% open rate in under a minute, with an 80% response rate also under a minute”.

Discover how Merseyside Fire & Rescue use Peoplesafe Alert to mobilise responders in an emergency.

Peoplesafe Alert has the ability to override a device’s silent or do not disturb settings, guaranteeing that users receive critical messages 24/7. Additionally, if needed, messages can be sent with repeat reminders. This means that the message will continue to be sent every 20 seconds until the recipient has acknowledged that they have read it or completed the required response, allowing employers to guarantee that essential notifications have been read and boost compliance.

Peoplesafe Alert is a secure, encrypted safety notification tool designed to facilitate crisis communication. With the ability to send up to 2,000 messages per second, Peoplesafe Alert can communicate with entire businesses in seconds. The air-gapped platform can deliver a rapid response even when business servers are down or the office has been evacuated, making it the perfect solution for organisations looking to roll out better safety measures without large upfront investments.

Responding To a Crisis

In order to deliver effective communications in a crisis, it’s essential to have a ready-to-use, robust plan in place. This will help to reduce the downtime you face as a business, keep your teams safe and reduce the impact the crisis has on wider business activities. Centralising your communication material will allow you to clearly communicate top-down messages, share essential updates in real-time and ensure the same information is being shared across your organisation.

How you handle and respond to a crisis will have a lasting impact on your employees and the trust they have in you as an employer. When a crisis occurs, it’s vital to remember to:

  1. Act fast. Time is of the essence when it comes to crisis communications. Delays in communication can lead to confusion, panic, and misinformation, so you should communicate with staff as soon as reasonably possible, without compromising accuracy.
  2. Keep your messaging consistent and up to date at all times. Messages across all departments should be consistent with the information provided to avoid confusion and rumours spreading. Ensure that all departments are on the same page and convey unified information. Regularly update your staff with the latest developments, as the situation can evolve rapidly during a crisis.
  3. Include all relevant information. Provide information that empowers your employees to take appropriate actions. Include clear instructions on how employees should respond to the crisis, any safety protocols to follow, and whom to contact for further assistance. This may include adding a picture message of the threat they are facing e.g., a malware message.
  4. Let everyone know when the crisis is over. This should be using the same method of communication employed throughout the crisis and should go to everyone impacted. Announce that the crisis has passed, detail any remaining precautions, and express your appreciation for your staff’s cooperation and resilience.
  5. Improve after every incident. After each crisis drill or real-life incident, conduct thorough evaluations. Collect feedback from participants and assess the effectiveness of your crisis communication plan. Use these evaluations to refine your crisis communication strategies and address any identified weaknesses.

Download our guide to creating an emergency response plan

With the right system in place, you can ensure that every emergency notification reaches and resonates with your staff.

In times of crisis, effective communication can make all the difference. By employing the right strategies and tools, you can ensure that essential information reaches and resonates with your staff, fostering a safe and well-informed work environment.

Find out more

For more information about effectively communicating with staff in a crisis, visit the Peoplesafe Alert product page. Alternatively, book a free consultation with one of our employee safety experts.

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