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Emergency Notification And Crisis Collaboration

By Paul D’Arcy

In a crisis, companies need two things – a plan and a way to communicate. In the banking and financial community, being prepared for a crisis is mission-critical. Today, the threats to financial institutions are wide-ranging and volatile including cyber threats, organized crime units, intense weather conditions and regional power outages.
Beyond the actual emergency response, implementing a smooth recovery plan after a crisis is essential for the quick resumption of business operations. In order to ease business recovery, emergency notification is evolving from a new technology to become the cornerstone of crisis management.
Step 1: Crisis Collaboration Starts with Emergency Notification: Most financial institutions either have emergency notification systems in place or are actively evaluating one. These replace phone trees and other manual communications methods, which are slow and unreliable. During a crisis, it is critical to have automated and reliable communication with the entire organization. The system must also allow bi-directional communication so administrators can outreach and collect information in real-time, using all available modes of communication. The emergency notification solution should also alert administrators when a response has been received or if anyone needs help. In addition, it should enable employees to be immediately connected to a conference call bridge to discuss next steps when they respond to a notification.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) recently began offering MessageOne’s AlertFind emergency notification service to its membership of financial institutions. As a customer, FS-ISAC already uses AlertFind to help protect the critical U.S. infrastructure from threats like natural disasters, coordinated cyber attacks, disease outbreaks or specific acts of terrorism. Extending the relationship to all its member organizations will enable them to protect employees when an incident occurs.
An emergency notification system like AlertFind can provide huge gains in efficiencies, effectiveness and safety; however, the basic communication of emergency notification systems is just the tip of the iceberg.
Step 2: The Importance of No E-mail Downtime: Beyond emergency notification, financial organizations need multiple communication channels to coordinate recovery efforts. As the first step, organizations must protect their e-mail system from downtime. The use of e-mail as a communications channel is vitally important for recovery. Personal e-mail accounts do not provide the historical documents, bandwidth or compliance of the corporate system. It is critical for all organizations to employ a reliable back-up solution that is independent of its location and primary environment to ensure e-mail continuity in a crisis.
Step 3: The Advent of Crisis Collaboration: Even with a comprehensive emergency notification system and with no e-mail downtime, key communication challenges remain when moving into the recovery stage of any crisis. However, new technology offerings are making it possible for a company to have its own incident collaboration center to keep core business workflow functioning and to provide regular information progress reports to constituents.
During recovery, the crisis team will likely need access to all key corporate documents (plans, task lists, contact lists). Even if several members of the crisis team have hard copies of some of the documents with them, they often need to share, change and update them multiple times during the recovery. What the crisis team needs is one centralized, easily accessible collaboration center.
Another key concern is the reality that crisis management teams have complex and demanding communication needs. They need to know the ongoing status at any time, for any person and on all tasks involved with recovery. Organizations have found that in managing a recovery, there are multiple dependencies of tasks that require up-to-date communication for seamless coordination between the owners of those tasks. Further compounding recovery logistics, there are regular workflow needs that must occur to handle tasks, such as signing a lease for a temporary location.
Another challenge during a recovery is communicating status to employees, management and the general public. In fact, the crisis team handling the recovery efforts is often bombarded with frequent requests for information and progress reports. Many times, the crisis team is so busy providing updates that they are not able to focus on the job at hand – recovering the organization.

Incident Collaboration
In order to help financial service organizations transition from emergency notification to crisis collaboration, an Incident Collaboration Center (ICC), like MessageOne’s, is the answer. A module of AlertFind, the ICC provides the tools needed to effectively respond to and recover from a crisis. The ICC represents the next logical step in crisis management. Designed with input from current and potential customers, it offers four new unique features:
Collaborative incident logs: Individual employees, teams or leaders can enter event status and task updates in real-time, as tasks are completed;
Formal task management: By offering checklists, progress tracking and compartmentalized task streams that can be remotely managed, the ICC enables the management team and other employees to be informed of the next steps of the recovery;
Secure document sharing: Via a password-protected Web portal, the ICC empowers employees to securely post plans and documents that need to be shared; and
External Web site: Since companies often need to communicate progress to the public, and the corporate Web site may be unavailable, the ICC provides a Web site for keeping other constituents up-to-date.
With the importance of solid crisis management for financial institutions, the evolution from emergency notification to crisis collaboration adds up to a win-win for any financial service organization.

Paul D’Arcy is vice president of worldwide marketing for Austin, Texas-based MessageOne (, a provider of managed services for e-mail management, archiving and business continuity.

Posted on Friday, April 04, 2008 (Archive on Thursday, July 03, 2008)
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