Mass Notify For Business

How does your company communicate when bad things happen?

Recent national events have highlighted how an effective rapid communication system can provide an invaluable link between managers and employees.  Though an active shooter is one of the “Nightmare Scenarios” our business continuity community plans for, a more likely scenario is power/service outages or pandemic influenza.  How can your company implement a notification system to minimize work disruption and create the smallest possible impact on the bottom line?

There are a few things to consider.  First, how many employees/suppliers/customers would require a rapid notification if some segment of your business were to be interrupted?  Second, how much risk or potential loss would be mitigated by having the ability to quickly disseminate correct/verified information to the right people?  Lastly, what is the investment both monetarily and technically required to obtain a notification system.

To address the first consideration, any company with a hundred or more employees could gain benefit by migration from the old fashioned “Call tree” plans to an automated critical notification service.  Though used by large non profit/political organizations as well as collection agencies for years, the mass call interactive voice response (IVR) technology has only recently become widely used by much more broad range of companies.  Partly in response to 9-11 and the noted failures as well as a rapid decline in the cost of obtaining these services on a subscription (web-hosted) basis, many organizations from small business to major corporations have found great value in rapid notification systems.  Often instituted by the emergency manager or business continuity director for contingency planning, these systems provide additional value by automating many finance, human resource and operations issues as well.  This added bang for the buck often allows smaller organizations to justify the purchase.

The mitigation of risk is very specific to each business’ potential threats with regard to both severity and likelihood.  While public safety organizations are compelled to institute notification systems to alert residents of potential calamity, the waters muddy considerably when trying to define an employer’s responsibility in the same area.  While we would all love to provide the greatest system available, it is not always economically feasible.  This is where an analysis of how much risk the company is willing to accept and the possible cost involved with doing nothing.  

The costs of these systems vary wildly as does the functionality of each.  A company could obtain a solution for as little as a few thousand dollars a year that would contact a list of all (employee/supplier/customer) 10-digit phone numbers with specific messaging.  On the other end of the scale you have enterprise systems allowing recipients to respond, mobilize and coordinate using nearly all communications devices in several different languages.  This kind of service will run in the couple hundred thousand dollars per year range. 

As businesses plan for disaster and recovery, notification one form or another is essential to keeping the company moving forward.  When the unexpected happens, will your business be ready?

By Joshua Evans, President,
Joshua Evans and Associations Inc.
Carlsbad, CA