Plan Ahead

Everyone knows that it is better to respond to a crisis proactively rather than reactively. The question is how.  Your crisis response message needs to get out before the crisis situation begins or as soon as possible afterward. At the first sign of a developing crisis, your emergency alert manager should be ready to activate an alert through the emergency notification system to inform staff, stakeholders and constituents about the crisis, what’s being done to resolve it and what they should do in the interim.

Earlier this year, a January snowstorm and an August earthquake snarled traffic in Washington D.C. for hours as people tried to leave the district. A D.C. Council hearing following those incidents came to the conclusion that the first message to the public during future emergencies would likely be a recommendation to stay put until more information is available. D.C. officials also recognized the need to streamline the vetting process for communications, as it took the district’s emergency management agency 30 minutes to send out an alert about the earthquake.

After verifying and assessing the crisis situation, the next step should be releasing the message rather than creating and approving the message.  In the time it takes to draft and submit your message for approval, you have already lost valuable time in helping your audience deal with the crisis situation.  Better to have pre-written and pre-approved templates to work with where relevant information can be inserted to keep it timely.

Rapid Notify customers can download our comprehensive User Guide from on the “Help/Contact” tab.  In it you will find sample messages in multiple formats and scenarios for which to prepare and a quick activation guide to keep handy.

Helpful tips:

  1. Who is your audience? Messages should be tailored to be relevant to your audience, whether it is your staff, the media, customers, citizens, or the general public.
  2. Plan for every possible type of crisis. Create a scenario for each one where you determine roles, responsibilities, spokesperson(s), and audience.
  3. Develop key messages and talking points for each potential incident. Determine which communication channels will work best (voice message, email, SMS text or a combination).
  4. Have initial crisis messages pre-approved, saving the time needed for going up the chain of command while the crisis is actually underway.
  5. Don’t forget about other staff members who may not be in your emergency response team but will still be responsible for communicating crisis response messages. Make sure your receptionist, website coordinator, IT manager and legal department have been provided the same pre-approved messages.

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