The fact is that during an emergency situation the majority of us just don’t think as clearly as we normally would. Events are moving at the speed of light and when we have people who are depending on us, it’s very easy to be, well . . . human. The purpose of pre-recorded and/or pre-written emergency notifications is to reduce the margin for human error and enable life-saving messages to be sent quickly when every second counts. A case in point was reported in The Americus Times-Recorder:
“In the midst of a quickly developing storm situation . . . the emergency notification siren/loudspeaker . . . accidentally dispersed the wrong message . . . Instead of sending a second severe weather warning message . . . a message was announced saying a gunman was on campus . . . the university is taking steps to make the system less vulnerable to human error.”
While it isn’t clear exactly what led to the incorrect emergency notification being sent out, it does reinforce the need to spend sufficient time putting systems in place before a crisis takes you by surprise. This also includes regularly testing those systems in actual safety drills, which gives administrators, staff and public safety officials the opportunity to gain experience using the systems prior to an actual emergency event.
One way to reduce the margin for error with emergency notification messages is to be specific, in every sense – from how you label/name/organize your emergency templates to customizing them for every type of emergency situation. This includes any multimedia you want to attach to a specific event template.
For example: Instead of using one generic pre-written/pre-recorded emergency notification message for an evacuation, consider creating emergency notifications for specific evacuation scenarios, e.g. a hurricane, a chemical spill/hazmat situation, etc. By utilizing separate templates it will allow you to tailor them to correspond with the specific situation leading to a evacuation.
The real key to handling an emergency situation more effectively is to prepare in advance for worst case scenarios. Review every part of your organization’s Emergency Preparedness Plan, including taking a real close look at any existing pre-recorded/pre-written emergency notifications you may have created. Evaluate whether they need more specific customization, including multimedia.
With clear and event-specific messages, including the best course of action to take, emergency notification messages will have the desired effect; to help keep those who depend on us safe.