A large percentage of organizations have an emergency communication plan, but they take too long to implement, says a new study.

In addition, organizations are far less prepared to handle location-based incidents, such as workplace violence and terrorism, where knowing which employees are in, or near, a place of danger is critical.

The Emergency Communications Report 2016 by the Business Continuity Institute also found:

The majority of organizations have an emergency communication plan, and use it across departments:

  • 84 percent of organizations report having an emergency communications plan.
  • Plans are used across departments and the most common triggers for emergency communications are unplanned IT and telecommunication outages (42 percent), power outages (40 percent), adverse weather (39 percent), facilities management incidents (23 percent), cybersecurity incidents (22 percent) and natural disasters (22 percent).

Employees are less likely to be confined to a single physical location – and critical event management plans need to reflect this growing reality:

  • 1 out of 3 organizations (32 percent) have more than 100 employees who travel internationally.
  • 32 percent of organizations have staff traveling in “high risk” areas of the world.

More than 60 percent of businesses are not prepared for location-specific events, such as workplace violence or terrorism:

  • 30 percent have no communications plan in place to communicate with employees during workplace violence or terrorism.
  • 56 percent are not confident in their preparation for workplace violence or terrorist incidents, and only 6 percent are “very much prepared.”
  • 65 percent felt that simply locating people who may be in an impacted building was their biggest challenge in a workplace violence or terrorism situation; 76 percent indicated that the ability to communicate with those people and confirm their safety was a major concern.

 Businesses are not fully prepared to facilitate communications during crisis situations:

  • 29 percent do not have emergency/crisis communications training and education programs.
  • It takes too long for organizations to respond to an incident even though speed is critical in many types of incidents. 26 percent of organizations said it takes more than 30 minutes to activate their emergency communications plan; 12 percent take an hour or more. Only 24 percent activate their plan in less than 5 minutes.
  • Of the 16 percent of organizations that do not have an emergency communications plan, 64 percent said they would only consider putting a plan in place after a business-affecting event.

Organizations utilize multiple communication channels to improve the reliability of getting information to employees:

  • More than half of organizations (55 percent) use three or more methods to communicate with employees during an incident. Email and text messaging are the two most common modes; 56 percent said they still use manual call trees.

“This year, our findings revealed that global businesses are increasingly aware that an effective emergency communication strategy is critical to ensuring business resiliency and the safety of all staff – from lone workers, to executive travelers, to high risk areas,” said Imad Mouline, CTO, Everbridge. “While it’s not surprising to see shared interest in emergency communications across business continuity, IT, security, facilities and other disciplines, it’s clear that organizations are still seeking solutions to optimize their critical event management and response plans for the mobile workforce and to adapt to the growing complexity of business operations and security incidents.”