Systems of mass notification for companies have evolved significantly over time. Whereas less than a hundred years ago the majority of emergency alarms were manually operated fire bells, internal notifications consisted of a memo pinned to a notice board, and communications with the public came in the form of newspaper ads, these days everything is digitalized.
While digitalization has made communication faster and more efficient, the choice of mass notification software for companies can be bewildering. For example, emergency alarm systems can now consist of PA systems broadcasting pre-recorded messages, digital signage systems that can translate alerts into multiple languages, color-coded beacons indicating the type of emergency by their color, desktop alerts with text-to-speech capabilities, and smartphone push notifications.
How multimodal mass notification systems like Rave Alert work
With regards to internal notifications and communicating with the public, the choice is even wider. Internal mass notification services for companies range from emails and intranets to collaboration tools and video conferencing; while, although newspaper ads still exist, the most frequent way companies engage with consumers is through social media – many also taking advantage of technology to engage with consumers via website chatbots and artificial intelligence.
Selecting a System of Mass Notification for Companies
Selecting a system of mass notification for companies does not have to be an all or nothing choice because mass notification software for companies is often designed so systems can be integrated with each other. For example, many emergency alarm systems are designed to be compatible with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) - an international standard format for emergency alerting which allows alerts created in one system to be disseminated across multiple compatible systems.
This compatibility between software systems enables companies to pick and choose which elements of each system are most appropriate for their environments to:
Mitigate the risk of injury and property damage
Minimize business disruption during an emergency
Encourage employee engagement with internal notifications
Support collaboration during emergency and non-emergency events
Maximize the potential of marketing efforts and build brand awareness
However, before committing to any particular mass notification service for companies, it is advisable to benchmark the effectiveness of existing communication channels so it is possible to determine the impact of adding to or replacing existing systems. Also, in relation to emergency mass notifications for companies, it is recommended to conduct a risk assessment to establish where gaps may exist in mitigating the risk of injury and property damage and minimizing business disruption.
How COVID-19 Changed Emergency Notification Risk Analyses
Prior to 2020, an emergency notification risk analysis was relatively straightforward. There was a standard set of threats (fire, severe weather, cyberattack, etc.), and employees were usually located within the company campus. There may have been challenges to consider such as how to communicate different types of emergency effectively; but, as a rule, emergency responses generally consisted of evacuate, shelter in place, or disconnect from the network.
Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are operating remotely or under a hybrid structure to facilitate social distancing requirements. While this means there may be fewer on-site employees to protect in the event of an emergency, the nature of the virus complicates protecting on-site employees from infection and minimizing business disruption caused by employees taking time off sick or self-quarantining after being in close contact with an infected person.
Emergency planning during the COVID-19 pandemic can now involve conducting wellness checks on employees – both on-site and working remotely – notifying employees when a colleague has been diagnosed with the virus, and filling vacant shifts due to illness or self-quarantine at short notice. Further staffing issues can manifest due to employees having to take time off to care for sick children or elderly relatives, which then places them at risk of contracting the virus.
Mass Notification Solutions for Companies in the COVID Era
Although there is hope a mass vaccination program will see workplaces return to normal sooner rather than later, public health experts are warning that – even with an effective vaccine – social distancing measures may be necessary for several years to come. For companies, the consequences will be a continuation of remote working and possible short notice shift vacancies. For these reasons, companies should evaluate mass notification solutions suitable for these circumstances.
Because mass notifications in these circumstances will need to be sent to employees both on and off-premises, the most effective solution is an SMS-based mass notification solution for companies. This is because nearly everyone has a mobile device capable of receiving an SMS text message and there is no need to be logged into an email account, intranet, or collaboration tool in order to receive a message or reply to it. Furthermore, everybody is already familiar with the technology.
With regards to filling vacant shifts at short notice, there is an immediacy to SMS text messaging unlike any other two-way channel of communication. Research has shown that 91% of people keep their mobile devices within reach at all times, that SMS messages have a 98% open rate, and that the average response time to a text message is 90 seconds. Further benefits of using SMS-based mass notification software for companies to fill vacant shifts at short notice are discussed later.