Technology To Deliver Emergency Communications For The Modern Age


Whilst organisations have always faced crises, the risk associated with business today, particularly in light of globalisation, is more severe than ever.

In the past six months Europe alone has experienced two major terrorist attacks as well as several minor and major terrorism threats, severe flooding, a growth in cyber hacking, volatile financial markets and a migration crisis. This is without considering the day to day issues faced such as IT failures or office closures.

Whilst many of these events may not seem to have had anything to do with business, in an increasingly mobile and global business environment, responsibility for the safety and security of employees is a critical corporate consideration whatever the circumstances.

The Cyber Playing Field

Any incident that impacts an organisation’s business continuity has the potential to escalate. For example, large organisations can be routinely faced with IT outages, network issues or even complete infrastructure failure. According to the 2015 report from the Ponemon Institute, ‘2015 Cost of Cyber Crime Study: United Kingdom’, cyber-attacks cost businesses on average £4.1 million per incident and each incident can take an average of 31 days to resolve, severely impacting business in the meantime.

Yet this is only one example of how businesses can be sideswiped by the unexpected. Acts of nature, pandemics, IT outages all impact on productivity. When crises occur, businesses want to minimise the impact and return to normal as soon as possible. Yet managing this process can include communicating with several thousand employees to enable them to react quickly and remain functional.

Take the example of a major office flooding or power outage at an office location. The business that can immediately inform employees and advise them to work from home until the crisis is over. This will lead to less productivity loss than businesses that are unable to communicate.

Traditionally companies have used rudimentary means to communicate: typically either the ‘all staff’ email or a basic phone tree system where employees ring others to keep them informed. The former might be effective as long as a power outage or cyber-attack has not compromised the email network. The latter is simply a slow and inefficient means to get the word out.

Effective Communications Get Through

In the evolving business landscape, companies need to have an effective means to communicate with employees whatever the circumstances. This means a totally separate network from the corporate system. Effective communications in critical situations depends on two key things: delivering the message to the right individual, and receiving an acknowledgement that the message has been delivered and, if necessary, actioned.

When the unexpected occurs, a business will need to send both internal and external notifications to minimise damage. Internal experts will need to be located and informed of the issue so the situation can be assessed and immediate remedial action can be taken. If they are impacted, customers must be informed early to protect consumer confidence and brand reputation.

Utilising SaaS-based cloud tools is an extremely effective way to ensure continuity of communications during a crisis. It offers the reliability, security, and scalability necessary to communicate with key stakeholders during periods of crisis.

From One To One Million

A fully integrated communications system can be configured to deliver messages to one person, or one million people. This ensures that the organisation can inform key executives, stakeholders, and customers quickly and accurately during an incident.

Consider an IT outage. Critical communications platforms can determine where the nearest IT executive is; whether they are on site or away; and ensure action is taken swiftly. At the same time a communications platform can inform every relevant member of staff of the issue, what is being done to resolve it and the likely time of a solution.

Deploying Multi-Modal Communications

To be effective, emergency communications must be multi-modal. This is the only way to increase delivery and response success. Consider smartphones. According to OFCOM, more than two thirds of UK adults own a smartphone personally, and many businesses now routinely provide employees with devices for work purposes. In an emergency situation, sending a message to an individual’s smartphone will be the most effective method of communicating critical information. But how should the message be sent?

This is where multi-modal communications comes into its own. Corporations can send a message via email, text, a dedicated app, voice to text, or all of the above. The company can build a picture of the recipients’ most likely means of receiving a message and tailor the communications. For example in the week email may be most effective but over a weekend text message might be more so.

Getting The Right Response

Emergency notifications are only effective if recipients acknowledge the communication. Advanced communications platforms send communications that can be replied to in moments – with a form that states “I am available to help” or “I am away”. Imagine the example of a company that has employees in a high risk area when a terrorist attack takes place. A message can be sent asking “are you safe?”

Within minutes companies will know whether employees are at risk and what they can do to support them, delivering reassurance to families. Deploying multi-modal cloud-based communications provides the best opportunity for the message to get through even if local networks are too busy or closed down by the authorities.

One Platform, Multiple Applications

The most advanced platforms integrate information from trusted sources that can include simple information such as weather and traffic to more complex data such as unexpected environmental issues. If a gas leak takes place close to an office or factory, a company can identify employees at risk and advise them to take immediate action whilst also advising others not to travel to the area. With the ability to receive acknowledgement quickly from employees an accurate picture of who is safe and who is in danger is established quickly.


The world has never been more unpredictable, and unified critical communications should be easily adaptable to manage a crisis situation. Customers, employees and stakeholders are increasingly connected. Companies have the ability to communicate critical, even sensitive information to a wide range of individuals quickly and reliably in an emergency situation, if they put the right tools in place before the crisis occurs. Technology is changing fast, and to create an effective ‘plan B’ companies need to determine not only how they can utilise critical communication tools now, but how they can use them in the increasingly complex future.

Nick Hawkins

Nick Hawkins is Managing Director, EMEA for Everbridge, a communications platform for when the message HAS to get through. Having begun his career in the Metropolitan Police Fore, Nick has held senior positions with a number of technology security companies including Symantec, M86 and Trustwave before taking on the leadership role in Everbridge during 2015.