Calling in an Emergency
The combination of high winds and rain experienced over the Christmas period has led to floods, structural damage and thousands of homes being left without power. With more bad weather on the way the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, is (at the time of writing) chairing a meeting of Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee.
Cobra is called into action whenever a national emergency arrives, or is threatened. Drawing together ministers, civil servants, the police, the environment agency and other relevant parties, Cobra can both co-ordinate and direct action as appropriate. The current meeting is designed to ensure that authorities ‘are on the ground and offering all possible support to their communities’.
Whilst Cobra may be at one end of the preparedness chain, at the other are people and businesses; all working hard to secure property and look after the safety of individuals. For businesses this may well involve working through disaster preparedness plans; sandbagging entrances, moving property to higher levels or safely powering down key processes which may be damaged should a power interruption occur. But whatever the level of preparedness, whatever the threat, one key element of any plan is ensuring robust communications.
Rumour, speculation, assumption; the three horsemen of the disaster apocalypse ride in whenever a disaster happens and can make the task of restoring order and smoothing the pathway back to business as usual a very fraught affair. But all three can be beaten by the simple addition of an emergency information line to a disaster recovery planning package. Emergency information lines, also known as ‘company emergency lines’ or ‘staff emergency lines’ sit apart from the normal telephone infrastructure. Most of the time they are not required but when a disaster hits, an authorised person can record a message which briefs all callers on what is happening and what they need to do.
Messages can be pre-recorded and can be changed as often as required, keeping interested parties informed and leaving the management team free to get on with the task of restoring the business. Added options include bulk SMS text messages to proactively inform staff, clients or suppliers as well as an answerphone option which could, for example, be used for employees to report their whereabouts and availability.
No managing team, not even Cobra, can stop the weather. But with robust planning and communications in place the worst effects of the winter storms can be mitigated.