BCI: “Don’t wait for an emergency to prepare an emergency communications plan”

Posted On 02 Nov 2014
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BCIA newly-published report from the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) highlights the fact that, while overall results indicate a good uptake of emergency communications planning, a significant minority of companies remain passive or have difficulty securing management buy-in. Supported by Everbridge, the report concludes that emergency communications remain an essential part of any business continuity programme. This research demonstrates that, while a great majority of companies are aware of the importance of such communications, there are some gaps in implementation that demand to be addressed. In order to be effective, emergency communications plans must be continuously updated to reflect the risks that a business faces and embedded well enough within the organisation. Relevant training and education programmes” as well as ensuring top management buy-in” are necessary in promoting a culture of awareness and reducing the risk of communications failure during incidents.

It’s worrying to note that, among those organisations without an emergency communications plan, two-thirds (63.4%) of them would only consider adopting one after a business-changing event. Something akin to shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted. This could have dire consequences as previous BCI research suggests that business-affecting events may often severely affect an organisation’s viability.

Further findings from the report are as follows: ‘¢ In a sign of growing awareness, only less than 13.5% of organisations surveyed do not have an emergency communications plan in place ‘¢ Emergency communications plans are quite comprehensive in their scope. At least 70% of organisations have plans covering the following threats: IT outages (81.2%), fire (77.8%), power outages (76.2%), weather-related incidents (75.6%), natural disasters (74.9%) and security-related incidents (70.0%). These mirror the top three causes of business disruption as reported by respondents in the last 12 months: IT outages (59.8%), power outages (51.6%) and weather-related incidents (47.2%) ‘¢ Almost one fifth of respondents (18.7%) belong to organisations where more than 500 staff members travel internationally on a regular basis. More than 30% report travelling to ‘high risk’ countries ‘¢ Almost two-thirds of companies (64.7%) report having training and education programmes in place related to emergency communications. Most have regularly scheduled programmes (64.2%) ‘¢ Around 15% of organisations regularly schedule exercises of their emergency communications plans. Most schedule their exercises once a year (55.8%). This is a worrying finding considering that almost half of organisations (49.6%) are likely to invoke their plans more than once during any given year ‘¢ More than 70% of organisations take 30 minutes or less to activate their emergency communications plans. Nonetheless, more than a quarter of organisations (27.4%) do not request responses from their staff in the event of an incident or have defined acceptable response rates (28.2%) ‘¢ Social media appears to play an important role in an emergency communications plan. 42% of respondents report using social media to monitor their staff during emergencies and almost a third (31.6%) use it to inform stakeholders

Benchmarking of arrangements Patrick Alcantara, research associate at the BCI and author of the new report, commented:” This survey is seen as the first step towards benchmarking an organisation’s emergency communications arrangements. It’s hoped that it will allow companies to take a second look at their emergency communications capabilities and introduce improvements that will rebound to their benefit. Given how emergency communications may improve survival during extreme situations, it’s important that organisations take heed and aspire towards a robust capability before it’s too late.” Imad Mouline, CTO at Everbridge, added:” Fluctuating global threat levels, sophisticated cyber attacks and an ever-growing mobile workforce present increasingly diverse and complex risks to business interests. In this unpredictable environment, business continuity practitioners are consistently faced with the challenge of planning for the unexpected while ensuring the safety of their staff and communities and protecting their businesses from both financial loss and reputational damage. Undoubtedly, this survey provides a benchmark for emergency communications planning.” This is the first dedicated piece of research into understanding the emergency communications plans of a wide range of organisations and learning how they’re integrated within wider recovery programmes. The results support the anecdotal feedback from the industry, demonstrating that such plans form an established and vital element of continuity plans for medium-to-large size enterprises while also offering some practical ideas for those looking to improve their capabilities in this area.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.