How can communications technology protect a mobile workforce?

News   •   Oct 13, 2016 11:57 BST

On the morning of 22nd March 2016, Brussels airport was hit by a deadly terrorist attack that killed 32 people and left more than 300 injured. Around 25 million people travel through Brussels airport annually and more than half of those passengers will be on business trips.

The chances of being involved in a terrorist attack are still incredibly remote, but for those travelling through the airport that morning it would not have felt that way. Nor would it have in Paris in November 2015, or more recently in September in New York. The increasing regularity of critical events worldwide means more organizations need to be able to instantly locate and alert employees of any nearby risks and keep them safe from harm.

According to a report by Strategy Analytics, almost half of the world’s employees will work away from a single office by 2020. The effect of globalisation on business means employees are regularly travelling between locations, often to different cities and countries. Keeping mobile workers safe from harm is rising up the corporate agenda.

Travelling employees, and the wider mobile workforce, face a range of risks that could impact on their safety and security. These threats are not just limited to acts of terror, but include everything from fires and natural disasters to flooding and building closures. Organizations have a duty of care to protect their employees, yet according to Ernst & Young’s most recent Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey, only 30% of companies have a system in place to track business travellers.

When an incident takes place companies need to respond effectively to gain clear visibility of the crisis, and deploy resources to ensure employee safety. But how can organizations achieve this? One solution is to implement a critical communications platform to manage all emergency notifications, help ensure employees are located, and resources are deployed quickly and effectively during an emergency.

In a crisis, every minute matters. Organizations no longer have time to work through manual call lists to send out an emergency cascade. A secure, independent communications platform ensures that the right message gets through to the right people at the right time; even when traditional routes of communication are unavailable.

The Everbridge platform has the ability to send emergency notifications out via more than 100 different communication channels and devices, including SMS, email, voice-to-text, social media alerts and app notifications, ensuring the lines of communication between an organization and its employees can remain open in any situation.

Critical communication platforms that facilitate effective two-way communication have proved invaluable during emergency situations. For example, 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 to let them know they were safe or in need of assistance. The team at Brussels Airport made its public Wi-Fi discoverable and free to join, allowing anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled device to connect, send and receive messages.

Organizations that used critical communications technology to send out an emergency notification were safe in the knowledge that the message would be able get through to the right people, despite the obstacles. For an organization’s crisis management and business continuity practices, the flexibility that a multi-modal platform such as Everbridge provides is essential to ensuring that a high level of responses are received quickly when emergency notifications are sent.

These responses allow organizations to rapidly build a clear picture of an incident, and understand what impact it is having on its employees. To automate this process, templates can be built into communications platforms so employees can respond quickly in an emergency - facilitating a much higher response rate. A simple “I am safe” / “I need help” template means companies know within minutes which employees are at risk, which are in danger and where best to focus their efforts.

The most advanced critical communications platforms offer organizations more than just static location data. Everbridge’s ‘Safety Connection’ application has the capability to provide dynamic location insight, enabling an organization to know where its employees plan to be and responding automatically if they do not check in and update their status to ‘safe’. The safe corridor function means employees travelling to a location deemed unsafe can check in regularly with the organization, and if they do not check in, the platform automatically sends an emergency alert notifying management of the change in status and making communicating with that person a priority.

Should an employee inadvertently stray into an unfamiliar or dangerous area, they can also use the Everbridge smartphone application to trigger an SOS alert. Once this panic button has been pressed, the platform immediately sends an alert to the organization detailing the employee’s location and any relevant audio or visual data, enabling them to alert the emergency services.

By enabling employers to be aware of when their employees are travelling and where to, the organization is better prepared to handle a crisis. The company will know which airport employees are travelling to, which hotel they are staying at, where their meetings are taking place and when. This information can then be cross-referenced with a global real-time feed of international incidents, making it possible to inform employees when their travel might be disrupted or to avoid specific danger zones. For example, if a port or airport is being blockaded by protesters the company can warn the employee in advance. If riots are taking place in a suburb of a city where an employee is staying, the employer can warn them to remain in the hotel.

Employers have to accept three truths: in the future employees will travel more; the world will continue to become more uncertain; employees will expect more from their employers when they are travelling for work. Combined, this could be considered as a HR headache but in reality it is an opportunity. It can help engage employees, protect their safety and increase their loyalty to a company. A fully functional critical communications platform provides the reassurance and immediacy to support employees if and when the unexpected happens.

As part of Everbridge’s commitment to helping improve business continuity and emergency response practices for organizations around the world, we will be exhibiting at the BCI World Conference 2016 in London. Here, Imad Mouline, Chief Technology Officer at Everbridge and other members of our team will be discussing the importance of effective crisis communication and how communications technology can help organizations of all sizes better protect their infrastructure and people.

Everbridge are Gold Sponsors of the BCI World Conference where you can visit them on Stand 11 to find out more about their unique offer. The BCI World Conference and Exhibition takes place on the 8th and 9th November at the Novotel London West Hotel. The largest business continuity conference and exhibition in the UK, BCI World has a packed programme as well as an exhibition hall promoting all the BC products and services you need. Don't miss out, book your place today.