The recent terrorist attack in Nice and civil unrest in Turkey demonstrate how important it is that organisations can communicate with travelling employees that may be in danger, but organisations need to strike a balance between employee protection and privacy invasion. How can cloud-based communication tools help organisations protect employees and minimise operational risk?

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In 2016 a new wave of terror attacks and unrest struck mainland Europe with attacks in France, Belgium and Germany coupled with severe military unrest in Turkey as factions of the country’s armed forces attempted a coup d’état to overthrow the government of President Recep Erdogan—leaving 312 people dead and more than 1,500 injured.

Business today is global. In the event of an emergency or crisis situation, secure, effective and reliable two-way communication with employees is crucial. Modern workforces are mobile, so businesses of all sizes need to ensure that the bilateral lines of communication between management and employees remain open, whatever the situation.

Power of multi-modal, cloud-based communication

In an emergency it is vital that organisations are able to implement effective crisis management plans. A vital part of that process involves the use of multi-modal, cloud-based communications platforms to ensure that notifications are sent out quickly and reliably, ensuring staff are aware of any danger and can respond accordingly.

No single delivery path is ever 100 percent reliable, 100 percent of the time. For this reason, emergency notifications must be multi-modal and utilise every available contact path to communicate with employees until delivery is acknowledged. The only way to guarantee crisis alerts and communication reach employees is to adopt a cloud based, multi-modal solution which enables users to quickly and reliably send secure messages to all members of staff, individual employees and specific target groups even when traditional routes are unavailable.

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These mass notifications are sent out through multiple contact paths which include: SMS messaging, emails, VOIP calls, voice-to-text alerts, app notifications and many more. In fact, with cloud-based software, there are more than 100 different communication devices and contact paths that businesses can use to communicate and send secure messages to their workforce.

This is a crucial area where cloud-based platforms have an advantage over other forms of crisis communication tools; unlike call cascade systems and SMS blasters of the past, emergency notifications are not only sent out across all available channels and contact paths, but continue to be sent out until the recipient acknowledges them.

Employees are then able to use the platform’s two-way polling feature to respond immediately, providing an organisation with clear visibility of an incident and crucial data that enables them to effectively deploy resources to ensure the safety and protection of its people.

In previous crises, having the cloud-based software installed on employees’ smartphones and other Wi-Fi enabled devices has proved invaluable. During the terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016 the GSM network went offline, making standard mobile communication impossible. The citizens of the Belgian capital were unable to send messages to family, friends and work colleagues. The team at Brussels Airport made its public Wi-Fi discoverable and free of a network key, allowing anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled device to connect, send and receive messages.

For crisis management and business continuity, the flexibility that multi-modal functionality provides is essential to ensuring that a high level of response is received quickly when emergency communications are sent.

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Privacy v Protection

What the recent spate of terror attacks has demonstrated is that that crisis communication plans are far more effective when supported by detailed location information. Easy access to accurate location data means a business can take a risk-based approach to targeting communications.

For instance, if you had a sales force operating at various locations across a city when a series of attacks happen, how do you know exactly where your people are and which ones might be in danger?

Some companies use GPS tracking dongles but these are expensive and liable to be lost or stolen. It could also be argued that they are intrusive as they cannot be turned off.  Employees want to be safe in the event of an emergency but they may also have concerns about their privacy.

The answer is to capitalise on information that is already being collected and use it smartly to understand more about where an employee might be. Employees already provide information on where they are in various different ways. For example, when employees log on to a company Wi-Fi network it is safe to assume they are in a certain building and when they enter that building, access pass information (which is being collected anyway) also provides insight into their location. By combining this data the employer can understand where someone is located without needing to generate additional location information or cause concern amongst employees that they are being tracked.

This is a way that organisations can then receive regular updates and alerts regarding their employees’ last known location. In a crisis situation, the employer has a better idea where people are, allowing Incident Management teams to co-ordinate a more effective response.

Staying Connected

For any organisation, the protection of its workforce in the event of an emergency is of paramount importance; infrastructure can be rebuilt over time whereas people’s lives cannot. Organisations need to have crisis communication plans in place that work in real-life, not just on paper.

An essential part of this process includes utilising a scalable, flexible cloud-based solution to help businesses communicate with their employees quickly, reliably and securely in any situation and enable it to protect its staff members who find themselves at risk during an emergency.

By learning the lessons of the past, organisations can be better prepared to handle the crisis of the future.