Are your staff safe?

It is now a fact of life that during your career there will probably be more than one incident – natural or man-made – that could have a disastrous effect on colleagues in your business, writes Alan Coulter of StaySafe. How do you know who is potentially affected and how can you provide the help they need urgently?

The simple answer is that you need to be prepared.

It is not hard to see why your business would be extremely lucky to avoid being hit by a crisis of some kind. In 2017, data showed that the number of recorded terrorist incidents in the UK was 122, representing a six-fold increase over the previous 15 years. In the same year, it is reported that fire services were called to an average of 300 ‘non-dwelling’ building fires a week. According to The winter floods of 2015/2016 in the UK, a review by the UK’s National Hydrological Monitoring Programme, extreme weather conditions are on the rise. It says that, in 2015: “The magnitude, persistence and repetitive nature of the flooding had major adverse impacts on communities, infrastructure, agriculture and a host of other sectors of the economy.” And all of this is before considering the increasing number of wild fires, major travel disruptions and occasional civil disturbances.

What does ‘prepared’ mean?

These days it is not unusual for businesses to plan and prepare for the practical side of disaster management, such as backup IT systems and emergency office relocation. However, the ability to locate employees in the event of an incident nearby and to protect them from harm can be a very difficult task to plan for. With your workforce forming the foundation of your business, and your duty of care towards the safety of your staff enshrined in employment law, there are economic, legal and moral cases for making such preparations a priority.

The challenge is to locate and communicate.

Arguably, the greatest challenge you face when a disaster occurs is locating all of your employees and determining how many have been affected. It is unlikely that you know where all staff are at all times and it could take hours or even days to account for everyone.

Even if you do manage to identify where staff are, how do you know whether they are in danger? Are you able to convey crucial guidance to relevant individuals to stay away from nearby danger areas or how to minimise risks to themselves? Passing critical information to a large number of workers poses a second challenge. Strong communication has the potential to prevent further damage and allow the business to resume its normal running as quickly as possible.

A traditional common approach has been to use ‘phone chains’ or simple messaging to try to communicate with all staff and ascertain their whereabouts. These methods are not only time consuming and resource intensive, but can also be unreliable. Your employees may well be injured or just be preoccupied, so they might fail to respond to your messages or call – how can you tell which? However you are doing it, if you are trying to communicate with all staff then you are making the task even more difficult for yourself. Spreading an alert to people who are not directly impacted will only serve to increase the alarm and lead to confusing communication traffic as worried friends and colleagues try to contact each other.

Fortunately, developments in technology and the widespread use of mobile devices are providing solutions to incident management challenges. Whether by warning individuals of a nearby emergency, providing peace of mind, or communicating practical advice, technology is able to offer a solution.

Social media, with initiatives such as Facebook Crisis Response, or the AIP app developed by the French Government, are suited to reassuring an individual’s friends and relatives if someone is near to an incident. But they do not scale up for use by a business that has many employees, so purpose-built emergency management solutions, such as IncidentEye from UK innovators StaySafe, are now appearing. IncidentEye is composed of an smartphone app and an online hub, which allow you to locate and communicate with employees in or near an incident zone. It also specifically addresses the personal privacy concerns of employees by only ‘waking up’ when a monitoring agent describes a locality within which they need to identify workers’ locations.

The IncidentEye hub and app from StaySafe helps employers to alert and guide employees through an incident. Image: IncidentEye

What to look for in a solution

  • Instantly locate but maintain personal privacy

Systems like IncidentEye communicate with mobile phones to locate employees within an incident area called a ‘geozone’.  Anyone not in the this danger area can be immediately eliminated, allowing responders to focus in on those who may need it. Equally, this maintains personal privacy; only users within the geozone will be displayed and notified of an incident.

  • Safety status

The next step is to determine whether anyone within the area is actually in danger. Incident management apps allow a push notification to be sent to employees prompting them to specify whether they are safe or in danger. This allows anyone responding to the incident to focus entirely on those who need assistance.

  • Effective communications

Communicating from an online hub to an app provides a reliable and efficient way of providing information during an incident. If the hub is available online, communication can be maintained even in situations where internal systems have failed. A good system will allow you to tailor communications to specific groups or individuals, so that the right advice can reach the right people.

  • Reporting

Following an incident, it is likely you will need to report back to the heads of the business with information on how many people were affected and what was done to ensure their safety.  Your chosen solution should offer a simple way to present a final report to the business and answer any concerns that they may have had.

Find out more about the IncidentEye solution here.

This blog post was originally posted on Crisis Response.

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