Crisis Communications and Response

Here are the top trends, tips and challenges our CCR experts eagerly shared when asked about the business realities they face this year. We have listed them by industry sector:

Consulting. “Large companies are starting to invest more time in incident response and management,” says Ron LaPedis, Founder and Principal of Seacliff Partners International, LLC.

“Organizations like InfraGard, ChicagoFIRST and BARCFirst are bringing public and private sectors together, creating a need for a common language and framework for incident response.”

He says this framework is turning out to be the Incident Command System (ICS), which is used in all facets of public sector incident management.

“Consultants trained in ICS are being recruited by companies to assist them in implementing the framework within their own incident response process.”

Response equipment and shelter. Mark Conron of FSI North America says all of the products purchased in the year after 9-11 have now been in the field for more than eight years.

“In many cases they need upgrading, repairs or outright replacement with new and advanced products,” he says, “yet the budget dollars seem limited to handle this scenario.”

Another difficulty in the industry, Conron says, is sparse attendance at trade shows. “That makes it difficult for end users to touch, feel and learn about new and existing products first-hand.”

Food and water. Companies might not realize the significant shortfalls a disaster would bring, in terms of one of the most basic human needs – drinking water. “Many institutions and organizations have a false sense of security in the belief that they will be able to rely on bottled water,” says Andrew Moorey, President of Global Hydration Water Treatment Systems Inc.

“And many have a false sense of security in the belief that they will be able to rely on a chain of support providers including fire departments, water treatment plants and the military. It comes as a surprise to many that their assumption that these service providers can and will respond with safe drinking water capability is simply false.”

Food, too, presents its challenges: which according to Dave Blandford, Marketing Director at Innotech Products Ltd., dba HeaterMeals, are “the overall feeding response time during the first couple of days immediately after a large-scale emergency event, and feeding citizens in remote areas, or in situations where citizens don’t want to or cannot leave the affected area.”

Notification. Another emergency necessity is communication, and Forrest Oden, Vice President and General Manager of ALL RADIOS LLC says cities will have to take the initiative to include their constituents in an emergency.

“People being protected by their government will require a two-way dialogue, carefully controlled and orchestrated, to give meaning instead of chaos,” he says. A white paper from ALL RADIOS outlines a scenario whereby every family invests in inexpensive “handy-talkies” and participate on a grid-square dissecting their city into sections run by volunteer team captains.

“They report to city government, fire and police officials via commercial radios at the command center,” Oden says. “This gives trained responders hundreds of eyes and ears located at all points of the city the ability to assess the situation rapidly.”

John Rhind, Director of Marketing Communications for Twenty First Century Communications says emergency notification providers need to tailor their offerings to what customers want most in today’s economy.  They need help with emergency notification, employee accountability, continuity of operations, product recall, inbound information hotlines, and routine group notifications.

Rhind says companies should have the capability to send their message out using every channel available. “Depending on the time of day, people may be at home, work or school, in transit, in a meeting or elsewhere. If the situation is urgent and you need to inform everyone as quickly as possible, sending the notification over landline, cell phone and TTY, via text message, e-mail and other means increases the likelihood that the information will reach individuals on at least one of their devices.”

Another emergency notification trend is integration of business continuity planning tools with emergency notification tools, according to Michael Gambacorta of Send Word Now.

“Right now many companies use two separate vendors for these two needs,” he says.

He says that in the near future the truly reliable services, those with a robust hardware and software infrastructure, will continue to separate themselves from the pack while smaller, weaker competitors will begin to disappear as they lose customers as a result of system failures during a crisis.