ISO standards look towards improving public alerts in emergency situations

The ISO's headquarters in Geneva

The ISO’s headquarters in Geneva

People at risk – be it from natural disasters, terrorist attack or other incidents in daily life – need to be able to take appropriate safety actions based on a proper understanding of the level and nature of the emergency. Two new ISO standards will help organisations responsible for public warning at the local, national or international level to put in place a structured emergency response informing a targeted risk population.

ISO 22322:2015 Societal Security – Emergency Management – Guidelines for Public Warning provides guidelines for developing, managing and implementing public warning before, during and after incidents occur.

Haruo Hayashi, project leader for ISO 22322, explained: “Time to communicate is limited and, often, a specific message involving practical action has to be disseminated to a large group. Simple procedures that send the message efficiently and create the desired response can save lives, protect health and prevent major disruptions.”

The purpose of an alert is to attract the attention of people in a developing emergency situation by stimulating the auditory, visual and tactile senses so that they will take appropriate safety actions and seek additional information.

The warning dissemination function should ensure that the alert gains maximum attention, taking into consideration the characteristics and conditions of the people at risk and including the requirements of vulnerable groups. ISO 22322 gives advice on aspects of public warnings, for example helping to select a warning channel such as TV, radio, telephone, newspapers or loudspeakers to disseminate the information.

Colour-coded alerts

ISO 22324:2015 Societal Security – Emergency Management – Guidelines for Colour-Coded Alerts offers guidelines for the use of colour codes to inform people at risk, as well as first response personnel, about danger and to express the severity of a situation.

Colour-coded alerts are used to notify people of status changes on a safety or danger continuum and help them to take appropriate actions. ISO 22324 will lead towards a better understanding of colour-coded alerts by reducing confusion and prompting more appropriate responses in an emergency situation.

ISO 22324 describes various colours and how they should be used. For example, red is associated with danger and should be used to notify people at risk to take appropriate safety actions immediately. Yellow is associated with caution and should be used to notify people at risk to prepare to take appropriate safety actions. Green is associated with a safe status and should be used to notify people at risk that no action is required.

In addition, black, purple, blue and grey may be used to provide additional messages, such as fatal danger, supplementary information or when no information is available. For example, meteorological services use coloured maps as early warning systems when announcing a storm and appraising the population of the level of danger.

Stefan Tangen, convenor of the communications group of ISO Technical Committee 292, stated: “ISO 22322, which provides guidelines for public warning, can be used in combination with ISO 22324 and other standards that are under development on topics such as business continuity management, organisational resilience, security management and fraud countermeasures and control.”

*ISO 22322 and ISO 22324 were developed by ISO Technical Committee ISO/TC 292 on security and resilience, whose secretariat is held by SIS, the ISO member for Sweden

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.

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