3 typical errors in alerting which cost time and money

by Johannes Ebner

In an incident your foot itches. In an emergency you shot your foot with a gun. In a crisis your leg is already gone. What do these events have in common? Communication. Perhaps sending out information is sufficient for incidents, but in emergencies and crises, an immediate alert is essential to regain control of the situation. But alerts can also have their own mistakes. Three of them are presented in this article.

#1 False alarms and inadequate awareness of the alert

You probably know the story of the shepherd boy and the wolf. A shepherd boy was once tending a flock of sheep. On a lark, he alerted the villagers: “Help! The wolf is coming!” Of course, the villagers rushed over. But the shepherd boy laughed and rejoiced at his joke and repeated it a few times. One day the boy was tending the flock of sheep, as he had been doing before. Suddenly a wolf really did come towards the flock. Terrified, the boy cried out loudly for help. But the villagers didn’t react: “He’s trying to trick us again” they thought. The shepherd boy could not defend himself. The sheep and the boy fell victim to the wolf, which ate more than just their legs.

A lot can be learned from this story. Constant false alarms lead to frustration and alarm fatigue. The consequence: alarms are dismissed as false alarms or perceived as an annoying everyday noise.

In addition, history shows that different types of alerting are useful for different situations. Here is a practical example: A hall is ablaze and those responsible are only alerted by e-mail? Not a good idea for communicating critical events. In the worst case, you react too late, even greater damage is caused and the opinion of your staff and the public about your emergency and crisis management. Alerts should therefore be sent via as many channels as possible, such as push with an alerting app, SMS, phone call, and email.

2# No deputies assigned

The situation: Great alarm plans have been worked out, risks analysed and corresponding scenarios planned through. The tool for the initial alert is usually the telephone list/chain in the first step (which however entails considerable disadvantages). So far so good. But something is often forgotten: defining deputies.

If a person with an essential function is not reached, responsibilities must be clearly defined and deputies must be established. Otherwise, there will be a delayed reaction and the emergency will lead to serious consequences. With clear responsibilities and the definition of deputies, one is spared such intermediate incidents.

#3 All remains silent

Your company is burning and the alarm system is not working. This dramatic event leads to incredibly high costs. Hopefully you can pull an immediate business continuity plan out of the drawer.

A fire is a very striking event, but especially at night this situation can arise faster than one would like. Therefore, it is important to have a plan in place to be aware of when and how to raise the alarm.

In addition, continuous monitoring of your systems should take place. If a system fails or if a value is exceeded or fallen short of, you can react immediately and be alerted automatically with the right tools (e.g. safeREACH).

Is the leg already off? Avoid alerting errors!

In every phase, no matter whether it is an incident, emergency or crisis, typical alerting errors must be avoided. Especially when the figurative leg is already off, delays lead to the creeping death of business operations. Communicate critical alarms appropriately for the situation, define clear responsibilities and establish deputies, determine when and how alarms are issued and implement continuous monitoring of your systems. Then your company will overcome even critical events.