How communication technology helps meet the duty of care

May 24, 2019

This week’s bulletin has been written by guest author Richard Stephenson, who looks at why having a communication tool that is fit for purpose should be considered part of an organisation’s duty of care obligation.

What’s the first thing you reach for when the fire alarm goes off? It’s unlikely to be the ring-binder full of business continuity plans or the external hard drives with your backup files in. Perhaps the most blindly loyal of employees might start packing up laptops with their chargers and USB sticks as smoke starts curling under the office door, but chances are most people are leaving in a hurry with one thing: their mobile phones.

On average, people check their phone every 12 minutes during waking hours. 71 percent of people claim that they never turn their phone off. From using the alarm clock function to wake up, checking travel updates on Twitter, paying for their morning coffee with an online banking app to checking emails during the commute – mobile phones are an intrinsic part of people’s routines, including their working lives.

However, few companies are harnessing this ever-increasingly versatile tool that everyone has and incorporating it into their emergency responses. Communication can be the make-or-break factor in a crisis response, so organisations really cannot afford to ignore one of the most powerful communication tools at their disposal.

There is no doubt that having the right information during critical moments can literally mean life or death. Therefore, having a communication tool that is fit for purpose should be considered part of an organisation’s duty of care obligations. So, what is stopping companies from utilising employee phones, and how can these barriers be overcome to help them fulfil their duty of care?

Calling trees: some organisations are still working with the ‘lighting the beacons of Gondor’ approach. The CEO calls the heads of department, the heads of department call their next in command, next in command call the staff further down the ladder and so on. All it takes is one person to miss the call and those on the rungs below stay in the dark.

Solution: Mass notification software can send SMS messages to everyone at once. Calling trees were set up before everyone had mobiles that could receive text messages, so there is no need to rely on the Chinese whispers of “There’s a fire in the London office, pass it on.”

Unreliable mobile networks: especially during a terror attack or an incident that makes the news fast, the extra load from hundreds of people trying to call their loved ones at once or from thousands of SMS texts being sent at the same time can cause a bottleneck.

Solution: Crisis management software that includes in-app messaging or email can circumvent mobile networks issues using WIFI or mobile data.

Having a secure, accurate database of staff mobile numbers: while some organisations are embracing staff use of mobiles, for others, mobile numbers are tucked away in the dustier corners of the HR database.

Solution: rather than starting from scratch with copy-pasting mobile numbers into the crisis management platform or trying to export all the numbers from Excel during an emergency, an API can quickly hook up an existing database with compatible communication platforms.

The attitude of “this is how we’ve always done things” can lead to use of mobiles in an emergency being a tacked-on afterthought. But in most cases, to make sure duty of care is carried out to the best of a company’s ability, a full overhaul is needed. Mobiles should be at the centre of your crisis response and business continuity plans, because they form a central part of our lives.

Being able to quickly message everyone in your organisation to stay away from the office can save lives in a critical situation, and it’s your duty as an employer to have something in place and be ready. Threats will keep evolving and those wishing to harm your employees and your business will keep changing tactics, but there is one thing you can definitely count on: mobile phones are here to stay.

This article was first published on Continuity Central, and written by Richard Stephenson, the owner and CEO of YUDU.

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