A teacher asked, "If there is an active threat, how should I alert the school?” The response, “every possible means.”
An effective communication plan is the most overlooked part of an emergency plan. The best communications plan is layered with redundancy. Each individual needs the ability to communicate to the outside and also have the ability to receive communications from the outside. In the military they use what is called a P.A.C.E. plan (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency). The principle is to have multiple methods to communicate in case one method is not available or fails. Additionally, communication needs to touch those that can listen and make a difference with the information they receive and respond effectively.
In the majority of situations there is no thought put into a communications plan. In every situation, every incident and emergency, having effective communications makes all the difference. Too much time, money and energy is wasted on things that have limited impact on emergencies, or impact very specific situations. Creating a communications plan will empower each individual in any given situation and ultimately have the greatest impact on saving lives.
In an organization you have an employee, other employees, administration, and first responders that need to be tied into the communications plan. Most important is assessing how each individual can get a message out regardless of where they are located in the facility. Secondly, how a message can be sent to each individual from a central location regardless of their location. Next, how does the message reach first responders in real time. Lastly, how to maintain ongoing communications throughout the incident until the situation is resolved. In some cases multiples means of communications are used to address each of these. There are some technologies that exist, which provide ability to do all the above, but be cautious to not create a single point of failure. A school recently spent a lot of money on a communication system that provided the means to communicate with all there people in a variety of ways. The system was great, however only a single person in a single location could send a message. This creates a single point of failure and creates a critical situation when that person does not have all the right information. This is similar to systems in hospitals across the nation. They are dependent on one person to share the right information at the right time, to everyone.
While conducting training at a local school, the question was asked, “if there is an active threat how should I alert the school?” The response, “every possible means.” However if there was an isolated medical incident, a call to 911 may be sufficient. Many organizations conduct drills on a regular basis, but do not practice communicating during those drills. Employees follow pre-determined plans, which does not truly train and enhance preparedness. It would be more effective to setup scenarios where different methods of communications were required to be used to navigate through a specific emergency.
Bottom line. A redundant plan that connects all the right people initially, during and after an incident happens.
Article written by:
CEO Tresit Group
Former Military Officer