Report finds it is “people, not technology” that represent the first point of failure in an emergency communications plan

The BCI has released this year’s Emergency & Crisis Communications Report, sponsored by F24. The report looks at how organisations are choosing to communicate in emergency situations, as well as the evolving role of technology in this field and what businesses are looking for in the communication tools of the future.

The report finds that organisations are now investing more in specialist emergency and crisis management tools to support remote business operations.

The surge in remote working throughout the pandemic has resulted in the usage of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions seeing a sharp rise over the past few years, as organisations ensured that emergency communications systems could be accessed across multiple devices in remote environments.

Organisations are finding that some tools, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, have been pushed to their use limit and are now looking for added functionality to match the unique requirements of their business.

The sharpest increase for this has been in small- to mid-sized businesses, those which had previously viewed the investment as not worthwhile.

One particular tool is growing in importance even more, with organisations reporting the mobile phone as the most used device in a crisis. The functionality of SaaS applications on mobile phones has been a factor in the mobile phone becoming the dominant tool for an emergency response.

Not only is remote working influencing the overall trends, but a return to the office and an increase in hybrid working has also resulted in on-site technology (such as walkie-talkies/radios) beginning to record a comeback for emergency communications this year.

Response times are evolving

The ‘golden hour’ target for organisations to respond to a crisis and execute their emergency communications plan is still in play for more than 80% of respondents. In fact, the ‘golden five minutes’ is now a valid option for just under a quarter.

However, the number of organisations who can activate their plan within five minutes has decreased from that seen last year. Alongside different survey demographics, this is likely a result of senior management requiring events to be analysed more closely before action is taken, as well as a decline in incidents which need a response within 30 minutes.

Exercising should be an ongoing part of an organisation’s Business Continuity Strategy

The report remains firm that it is usually people, not technology, that represent the first point of failure in an emergency communications plan.

Despite this, the number of organisations exercising their emergency communications plans at least once a year has fallen to 78.6% from 82.3% in 2021. This could be due to a difficulty testing response plans in remote environments or a unwillingness to exercise the plans due to a rise in real-life activations serving the same purpose.

Although, it is exactly after a large-scale change in environment or working practices that an emergency communications response plan should be exercised.

Rachael Elliott, head of Thought Leadership, The BCI, commented:

“We have seen the emergency and crisis communication market evolve dramatically during COVID: there was a spike in the take-up of emergency communication tools and software in 2020 as organisations grappled to address communication issues in the early part of the pandemic.

”A rise in activations of emergency communication plans as a result of COVID ensured staff gained familiarity with process and procedures, and management pushed investment for new communication technologies.

”However, 2021 saw a slight cooling in the uptake of emergency and crisis communication tools after the burst of activity in 2020. What we are noting is organisations becoming far more discerning when choosing solutions: they are seeking solutions which still work during communication blackouts, demanding tools which have the facility for team collaboration during a crisis and requesting extra security from their solutions.

”Last year was all also all about speed of communication, with organisations chasing to get plans activated within five minutes. This year, organisations have learnt the value of trading speed over insight, with response times going out towards 30 minutes as management become more demanding of information in the early stages of an incident.”

Benjamin Jansen, vice president Sales ENS/CM at F24, on this year’s report:

“Based on intense experiences arising from the pandemic, we now have to act in foresight and shape our new ways of working when dealing with crisis situations – and this is precisely where the research of the report supports heavily.”