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Creating a call tree plan for emergency communications

Independent disaster recovery expert Paul Kirvan discusses how to create a call tree plan for emergency communications in this Expert Answer.

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Can you outline an effective call tree plan for communications following a disaster? Who initiates the plan? Who should be contacted first?

A call tree is a time-tested approach to emergency communications. In a typical call tree, someone is designated in the emergency/incident response plan to launch the calling tree. That designated person calls two employees (ideally members of the emergency response teams), and those two call another two, and so on. An alternate call tree lead should be designated as well, in case the lead is not available following the disaster event.

While effective, call trees are not foolproof. However, there are options for mitigating concerns associated with call tree failures. A process for tracking the progress of the calling tree should be defined to make sure calls are completed and people have responded to the calls. The call tree lead can serve as the point of contact for this process as well.

Possible lapses or breaks in the calling tree can often be reduced or eliminated altogether using an automated emergency notification system that places many calls simultaneously to cell phones, land lines, email addresses, and even short message service (SMS) contacts. These systems keep track of all calls made and response confirmations received; they then flag system administrators if individuals have not responded after a pre-set number of tries. These systems also provide concise reporting on how they performed during the incident.

Emergency notification systems can be in-house devices, often rack-mounted, that can be programmed to generate many outgoing notification messages to pre-programmed contacts stored in databases. They can also be managed services, in which the user accesses the emergency notification system via a phone call or the Internet. These systems come at a variety of price points to suit the needs of many different organizations.

More on this topic:

Incident management systems vs. emergency notification systems

Independent disaster recovery expert Paul Kirvan compares incident management systems and emergency notification systems in this Expert Answer.

Emergency notification system comparison and purchasing tips

Check out this emergency notification system comparison and learn tips for purchasing the right program for your organization.

This was first published in February 2014

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