Tips on Writing Messages for Critical Situations
President Obama’s speech on Sunday night gave us confirmation that what happened in San Bernardino on December 2nd was, indeed, an act of terrorism. Most of us already concluded this fact based on what the media reported. While the Obama Administration works diligently to fight the threat of terrorism and presidential candidates hash out their own opinions and strategies on what they think should happen, there is a heightened sense of awareness for our own safety.
If this could happen at the Inland Reginal Center in California—where else could it happen?
It’s a scary thought. But there is a silver lining to every cloud.
It has been reported that the employees at the Inland Reginal Center—which serves individuals with developmental disabilities—had recently completed active shooter training and, in fact, thought the emergency notification alarms that sounded was the initiation of another round of practice.
It is admirable the Inland Reginal Center’s leadership has put into a place an active shooter training program and it is very likely that the training they had helped save lives that day.
While I don’t know for sure if the Inland Reginal Center used an emergency notification system, it was reported that the employees were at least notified via an alarm about the emergency. We hope and pray that each and every day is a good day, but there are times when a crisis could happen—just like on that fateful Wednesday. Any form of emergency notification system is good, especially a mass notification system like RedFlag, that can provide people concise messages to keep them aware—communication is key part of our everyday lives and is a critical component that can help save lives in an emergency.
It is natural to feel an adrenaline rush or even to panic during an emergency situation. Lots of training and preparation will help mitigate nerves and allow us to be calm during a calamity. One key way to prepare for a critical situation is to pre-write emergency notification messages for a variety of situations—including for an active shooter crisis.
Following are a few pointers that will be helpful when you are creating your emergency notification plan and when pre-writing messages. Writing messages in advance that will be effective in helping to keep people safe in a crisis situation takes some time, but is for the wellbeing of everyone. To write the right emergency notification messages, follow these tips:
- Anticipate a crisis before it occurs. Hope for the best—but prepare for the worst. Know where you are vulnerable and make a list of possible situations.
- Identify the crisis communication team within your organization. A crisis communication team will ultimately be responsible for providing information to employees, staff or tenants via an emergency notification system.
- Hold training for the crisis communication team, managers and employees.
- Assign responsibilities to the crisis communication team, managers and employees and be sure to match the right skills to the right people.
- Draft an initial and follow up emergency notification messages for each situation on your list.
- Such statements which are prepared in advance are known as holding statements. These are not static or rigid, and can be modified from time to time depending upon the perceived threats to the organization in the future.
- Include information such as whether to evacuate (in the case of a fire) or to hide in an office or closet (in the case of an active shooter).
- Include directions that employees are familiar with from training such as the location of a first-aid station or fire extinguisher to help jog their memory—which might be a little foggy depending on the situation.
- Pre-write emergency notification messages for your employees, who might need life-saving information immediately, but also for other stakeholder including family members, clients, customers, vendors, etc. that can be sent at an appropriate time as well. For example, if an accident causes a production facility to be shut down, a message to customers will let them know of a delay.
- Don’t make any promises that you can’t keep. Do promise to keep your stakeholders informed.
- An emergency notification message is only as good as your contact list! On a regular basis verify your employee, staff and tenant contact information as well as vendor, customer and family member information.
- Testing your emergency notification messages during training is also a good way to verify if phone numbers and email addresses are up-to-date.
My hope is that no organization ever has to go through what the people at the Inland Reginal Center had to go through on what should have been a beautiful December day, but hope is not a guarantee. Plan, prepare, train and write emergency notification messages so you can be on point when it counts.