April is Emergency Communications Month, honoring the nation’s emergency communicators, so what better time to take stock of your company’s emergency preparedness both cyber and physical?

Two organizations have recently shared some useful tips to be aware of.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently kicked off the second annual month of recognition by encouraging all emergency communications partners to “get connected and stay connected” by enrolling in its free priority telecommunications services. 

Throughout the month of April, CISA encourages emergency communications partners to enroll in free priority telecommunications services (PTS) like Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) and Wireless Priority Service (WPS) in order to maintain communications during crises. These services are critically important as they allow for communication with priority capability when networks are degraded or congested and allow for the exchange of information when needed most.

Read more about the initiative here.

Meanwhile with recent news from the South to the Midwest about deadly tornados, QBE North America recently offered some timely advice to security leaders about how to protect themselves and their employees in the event of extreme weather. The three-point plan suggests the following:

1. Prepare employees for emergencies by locating, mapping and labeling both indoor and outdoor shut-off valves for things like sprinklers, gas, etc., and — importantly — train employees how to use them. It is also important to both create and maintain a current emergency and business continuity plan and update them as needed. Key employees can leave or change positions, and, though less frequent, redundant locations or business services can change, so it is very important to review these plans on a regular basis. 

2. Inspect and prepare your buildings for potential issues. Check on exterior foliage to make sure there are not dead or dying trees that could fall, or anything that could obstruct emergency services or plans. Check walkways for any winter-related damage; inspect and test sump pumps and dewatering equipment; perform all routine maintenance on systems and equipment such as fire and smoke detection systems and HVAC systems; and clean and safely store any winter-related power equipment and flammable fuels.

3. If you do experience an extreme weather-related event, conduct a damage assessment as soon as it is safe to do so. Inspect all fire protection equipment for physical damage, including sprinkler heads, valves, pipes, hoses and portable extinguishers. Have damaged equipment cleaned, dried out and the electrical insulation tested. Service heating equipment by a qualified technician before returning it to operation. Monitor portable and emergency generator use for carbon monoxide buildup, power back feeds and improper fueling.

According to a recent article in SDM magazine there are now more technology and services that can help with both the routine and disaster-related testing and repair. 

Today’s end users and first responders want intuitive, user-friendly fire and life safety systems, said Tom Meyer, strategic accounts manager at Edwards and Kidde Engineered Systems, in the article “End users ask what additional value their fire alarm systems provide; specifically, leveraging their fire and life safety system for other emergency event notifications, such as shelter-in-place, extreme weather, chemical spills, etc.”

Customers now expect information from their building in real time; if there is a service alarm, they want to see updates sent directly to their mobile device or on a web dashboard, added  James Taylor, senior offering director, connected life safety services at Honeywell. “End users should be able to easily access compliance information, including test and inspection reports, at any time and from any device. … Testing should be quick, with as little disruption to operations as possible. Additionally, any maintenance or update recommendations should be shared with corresponding fire code compliance to help end users make the best decision for their facility.”

While fire systems have traditionally been the more conservative side of the physical security and safety technology due to stringent codes, new technology is getting smarter as well. So it might be worth checking with your provider to see if there are new systems or services you could benefit from. 

From cyber to weather to fire, use this second annual Emergency Communications Month to make sure you have the best protection and the most up-to-date technology to help.