Severe weather events (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.) are by far the leading concern of decision makers responsible for emergency communications and response, according to the first annual OnSolve Crisis Communications & Emergency Notification Survey. The survey, conducted by research firm DRG, also finds organizations are concerned with their ability to alert workforces to cybersecurity attacks rapidly enough to mitigate financial and operational risk.

Organizations are challenged to communicate in real-time with employees and other stakeholders when emergency events occur. OnSolve surveyed almost 500 U.S. emergency decision makers – both in the public and private sector – responsible for business continuity, IT and disaster recovery on their emergency response concerns, and how they are using Emergency Mass Notification Systems (EMNS) to reach employees, partners and stakeholders before, during and after emergency events.

The survey finds that 63% of organizations are currently using an EMNS. Additional key survey findings include:

  • Severe weather top concern. 47% of decision makers said severe and extreme weather events are their leading concern when it comes to emergency communications and response – outpacing other events such as active shooters (23%), cybersecurity attacks (13%), IT outages (10%) and workplace violence (6%).
  • Organizations using notification systems for cybersecurity incidents. When asked which cybersecurity threats concern them when it comes to rapidly notifying the workforce, 64% said malware, 63% said ransomware, 59% indicated phishing, 50% pointed to email being compromised, 32% said rogue software.
  • Geographically dispersed personnel present emergency comms challenge. More than one-quarter (28%) of organizations said their primary challenge with workforce notifications is reaching geographically-dispersed employees spread across multiple locations in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Emergency response challenged by out-of-date employee contact info. More than one-fifth (22%) of those surveyed said having up-to-date employee contact info is their primary concern with emergency workforce notifications; yet only 28% are 'very confident' their employee contact info is up-to-date.
  • Email still primary means of notifying workforce of incidents. For organizations using an EMNS to notify the workforce of cybersecurity and/or business continuity incidents, 77% use email, 50% use text messaging, 43% use phone calls, 14% use desktop alerts, and 13% use a mobile app.
  • Organizations want two-way communication with employees during emergency events. 22% of decision makers said two-way communication was the most important EMNS feature, followed by integration with other applications such as CRM and BC tools (20%), reporting (16%), geographical tracking (15%), mobile app (13%), polling (7%) and conference bridge (5%).

"The survey affirms that organizations are turning to innovative mass notification solutions not only keep employees safe, but ensure reliable risk management and business continuity of operations – including crisis management, IT service management, supply chain management, event management, or any scenario that demands reliable two-way notification for groups from one to many thousands," says Ann Pickren, President, OnSolve. "Maintaining business continuity during crisis events is critical: Gartner estimates each minute of unplanned downtime costs organizations $5,600 per minute."

The full report is available for download or review here.