Safe and Secure: Can SMS Protect Your Employees in an Emergency?

It used to be the case that each type of emergency required a different response. Depending on the situation, fire alarms, announcements, emails, phone calls, and other kinds of alerts all play roles in communicating with the public in emergency situations.

Today, SMS has changed all that, especially in the workplace. Businesses now have SMS (or text messaging) at their disposal, which empowers them to alert and communicate with employees quickly and effectively in the event of an emergency.

Why SMS Works for Emergencies

Many employers haven’t yet seen the benefits of SMS as a form of emergency communication, especially if they already have other systems in place. For example, a toll-free number or an app specifically created for reporting problems can certainly be useful during times of trial, but these methods aren’t entirely reliable.

Wired and mobile networks can become jammed with callers. In addition, data networks sometimes suffer outages or overloads. Furthermore, when a smartphone steadily attempts to get access such a network, this puts a strain on its battery.

In cases of severe inclement weather or other emergencies that may render voice calls impossible, text messaging almost always continues to work. SMS solutions such as the ones available from Infobip can further improve your chances for success, because they have been designed specifically for emergency situations.

Workplace emergencies can also be technology-based. Problems with hardware and other internal mechanisms often lead to major data losses, and a lack of Internet connection or other technological dysfunction can make it difficult and even impossible to convey a message to the entire company.

SMS can play an enormous role in planning for disaster recovery because it relies on an external network.

How to Implement SMS Emergency Alerts

Although it can be an indispensable tool, SMS is useless without an emergency plan. Businesses need to implement a number of best practices to ensure everyone’s safety.

First and foremost, all team members should know exactly what the emergency plan entails. Since different businesses and situations call for different responses, it’s important to set your policies ahead of time.

The Occupational Health & Safety newsletter advises the following when you’re planning for a potential disaster.

  • Create a chain of command. Employers usually have a diverse team of people who operate at different levels during everyday work. When your firm creates an emergency plan, designate the target “need to know” recipients for your messages. These may be different depending on the business infrastructure or situation you’re facing. Make sure they know who they are, and set up a system to relay whatever information they will need to know based on their roles.
  • Establish policies for emergency message approval. Each emergency involves its own unique needs, and the person who becomes aware of the problem first may not be the highest in the chain of command. When you’re creating an emergency plan, make sure all the parties understand the serious nature of emergency messages. In addition to creating a chain of command, you should also designate which people are approved to send SMS messages in emergency situations in order to ensure messages are relayed as quickly as possible.
  • Standardize language. Emergency messages should be as clear and concise as possible to minimize confusion. Decide whether your business needs to develop a lexicon for emergency situations. If you decide to use any form of shorthand to relay messages more quickly, make sure all the concerned employees are well versed in the language.
  • Consider communication frequency ahead of time. Due to the nature of emergencies, you may not have access to all the information you need about the situation. A simple text message asking employees to reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ if they need assistance might be enough. On the other hand, it’s also in the nature of emergencies that message recipients want to know everything they can. When you outline your plan, make sure all expectations for communication are clearly laid out. For example, you may decide to update your team only when new information becomes available; alternatively, you may want to provide alerts linked to specific time increments, whether or not the situation has changed. Either way, all members of your communication team as well as external recipients should know precisely what you plan to do.
  • Set up turnkey messages. During frightening emergency situations, it’s not unusual to lose clarity of thought. Set yourself up for safety and success by creating templates with dates, locations, and other details you can edit and distribute quickly. Mobile messaging providers experienced in SMS emergency alerts can help you work out what you’ll need to communicate and when.
  • Practice ahead of time. Even the best-laid plans can fail without proper preparation. To help everyone stay safe no matter what the situation, all employees should be trained in the who, what, where, and how of emergency protocol.

Final Thoughts

No matter what the emergency is, SMS nearly always has a place in the response. It’s a form of communication that’s familiar, ubiquitous, affordable, and — most important — fast.

With a plan in place to determine critical content, ensure message delivery, and troubleshoot ahead of time, SMS can become one of the most reliable communication tools for keeping all parties in the loop during an emergency. Used globally by companies, universities, and other communities, SMS can serve as the basis of an effective Employee Safety Helpline.

If your company doesn’t have an Employee Safety Helpline in place, it’s time to implement one as part of your disaster management and recovery plan. Infobip has successfully deployed emergency alert solutions for major enterprises, which enables employees to stay in touch about their safety status in real time and employers to mass-communicate emergency updates.

Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help your company, employees, and data stay safe.

Oct 29th, 2015
5 min read