Sending the right message at the right time is vital during a critical event: communication coordination is key

Everbridge Australia
Thursday, 04 November, 2021


The focus of critical event management is on managing what happens when a critical asset is impacted by an event.

Navigating a critical event requires effective coordination and communication with myriad stakeholders. During a bushfire or flood, emergency services, government agencies, businesses and private citizens need to be informed. That’s not only about what is happening at a given moment in time, but also what they should be doing and what they should prepare to do next.

Business critical events can include a cyberattack, key applications going offline or the failure of a piece of critical infrastructure. They all require rapid detection and notification to ensure the problem is managed, that affected people know what’s going on and the issue is remediated as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The focus of Critical Event Management (CEM) is on managing what happens when a critical asset is impacted by an event. For a business, this could be events that impact people, such as employees, contractors, visitors and customers. Or they may impact physical assets including buildings, data centers or IT systems. Even your business operations, your digital applications, supply chain routes and operations need to be considered. And then there’s your reputation and your company’s share price.

For public safety, there are some obvious events such as bushfires and floods that different parts of the country face seasonally. But, increasingly, we are seeing storm damage and sometimes crime events that can impact many people.

CEM is more than sending messages

Mass notification is just one important part of CEM. If we think about a bushfire, there are many different emergency services to consider. There are also wildlife rescue organisations and there is the need to inform the public of the current risk to their lives and property as well as keeping them in the loop as conditions change. This means delivering the right information to the right people at the right time.

When Everbridge was founded in the aftermath of the 9-11 bombings in the United States of America, its focus was on keeping people safe during critical events. It’s that experience that has been refined over the past two decades and enabled the company to create a mature platform that now enables emergency alerting in Australia as part of the enhanced EAP4 platform that was activated in September 2021.

During a critical event, there are four key challenges to meet. You must assess the risks and determine which are relevant to your assets and people. Once that assessment is complete, you need to locate all the assets and people that are impacted or at risk.

This can be more challenging than it initially seems. For example, in the case of a bushfire or flood, there may be people that are impacted that are not local residents. Or, in a workplace, there may be staff working remotely that don’t need to be informed of a localised event. It’s critical that information is sent to the right people at the right time.

Then you need to take action. Where possible and practicable, you should automate standard operating procedures to launch and manage incident response.

Next, during a critical event, there will be an understandable level of stress. By automating where it makes sense you can mitigate the risk of mistakes caused by human error or inexperience.

Finally, you must learn from the event. Analyse your performance during the event so you identify bottlenecks and improve your response for subsequent events.

A CEM platform is much more than a mass notification system. It is a powerful suite of tools that work together to help assess the situation, locate all the at-risk people and assets, automate your actions and then analyse them so you can learn and improve your response for the future. It breaks down the silos between these activities so you can respond more effectively today and tomorrow.

Managing events is more than just data

WIRES, the Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service in New South Wales, receives as many as 400 calls per day during spring and summer to rescue sick, injured, or orphaned native animals. The organisation’s team of around 2,500 volunteers help over 100,000 animals each year.

Before implementing Everbridge’s CEM platform, each time WIRES received a rescue call a team member had to find an available volunteer with the right skills, training and experience. The situation may require someone who is trained to handle venomous snakes or someone trained and vaccinated to handle flying-foxes. And they had to be close enough to the distressed animal to be able to help quickly.

WIRES used to match the rescue to the volunteer manually using a spreadsheet to contact appropriate volunteers, calling them one by one until they found a rescuer. Response times varied considerably due to the volume of rescue calls, the location and the availability of volunteers.

Through partnership with Everbridge, WIRES has been able to manage all the information centrally and link it directly to the communications platform. WIRES is able to now allocate volunteers to rescue situations in minutes. When a call comes in, the specific needs are entered into the CEM platform and it automatically finds the most suitable rescuers and sends them a message in a matter of seconds. That message can be a text message, a recorded voice message to a phone number or even a message using social media platforms such as WhatsApp. Those messages are prepared ahead of time using templates and custom messages are sent for specific situations.

WIRES was able to leverage the speed and accuracy of technology to manage the entire life of a critical event.

CEM must scale and adapt

In Australia tens of millions of hectares burn each year, floods occur regularly and the Australian Cyber Security Centre responded to over 1600 cyber security incidents during the 2020–2021 financial year. Having a reliable and scalable system in place that allows governments and other organisations to strategically manage the entire lifespan of critical events is essential. For organisations with employees, that means connecting your CEM platform with your HR systems so that you have up-to-date information on hand and don’t need to manually update data.

In government, an incident may span multiple departments and agencies such as police, SES, CFA and relevant departments and staff may move around. Systems need to support horizontal integrations across all agencies and the ability to geo-locate people — an especially important function as more people work remotely as we emerge from the pandemic.

As a CEM system is contextually aware, people don’t receive notifications that aren’t relevant to them. For example, sending everyone an alert for a bushfire that is localised to a specific region may mean they ignore more relevant alerts later. Ensuring your CEM only informs people at the right time and place mitigates the risk of messaging fatigue.

Ensuring the delivery of critical communications is a vital element of CEM. That means using a platform, such as Everbridge, that supports sending messages to the right people at the right time over communications platforms that make sense for those people.

CEM management is important for almost every organisation. Where there is an overlap of risk events with people, physical and virtual assets, you need a system for managing that event that covers the entire lifespan from assessment to action and analysis.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Fxquadro

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