Emergency Communication Blog

Emergency Communication vs. Crisis Communication

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

In the face of unexpected events, effective emergency communication plays an important role in managing uncertain situations and reducing (potential) damage. The terms ‘Emergency Communication’ and ‘Crisis Communication’ are often used interchangeably. However, they hold distinct meanings in the realm of disaster management. This blog will explore the differences between emergency communication vs. crisis communication and examine the role of Emergency Communication Software. We will also discuss best practices of both communication types and help you make a good choice for Emergency Communication Software.

Understanding Emergency Communication

Emergency Communication plays an important role in alerting (groups of) individuals about imminent threats, enabling them to take necessary precautions. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) emphasizes the importance of clear, timely, and accurate communication in managing emergencies. Emergency Communication is also vital for organizations in a variety of internal scenarios. These often involve imminent threats to safety, security, or operations. Here are several examples:

  • Natural Disasters: Events like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or wildfires can pose immediate risks to the safety of employees, especially if company facilities are in affected areas. In such cases, timely Emergency Communication would be needed to relay safety protocols, evacuation routes, and updates about the situation.
  • Fire or Explosion: A fire or explosion within company premises requires immediate Emergency Communication to ensure all employees are aware of the situation, can evacuate safely, and know where to gather for a headcount.
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  • Workplace Violence: In the unfortunate event of workplace violence, such as an active shooter situation, rapid Emergency Communication is crucial to inform employees about the threat and provide instructions on what to do to remain safe.
  • System Failures: If a critical system like an IT network, power supply, or manufacturing line fails, Emergency Communication should be employed to inform relevant parties about the issue and how to respond, which may include invoking backup systems or procedures.
  • Cyber-Attacks: If systems are compromised or data is breached, swift Emergency Communication is essential. This would involve informing relevant teams to initiate response protocols, potentially including isolation of affected systems, and initiation of data recovery or backup systems. It would also be important to communicate with employees about the situation and, if necessary, instruct them on actions to take or avoid.
  • Health Emergencies: Sudden health crises, like a heart attack or stroke happening to an employee in the office, require immediate Emergency Communication to summon medical help and inform staff to keep the area clear.
industrial communication

The objective of Emergency Communication is to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals involved by providing real-time, accurate, and actionable information.

Understanding Crisis Communication

Unlike Emergency Communication, Crisis Communication is a strategic approach that organizations use to communicate with their stakeholders during times of crisis. According to PwC’s Global Crisis Survey 2019, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last 5 years. It was observed that effective Crisis Communication was key in managing these situations, emphasizing the importance of strategic communication in times of crisis. Crisis Communication is essential in a range of internal scenarios that can occur within an organization. Here are some examples:

  • Merger or Acquisition: When two companies decide to merge or when one company acquires another, it can create a lot of uncertainty and upheaval within the organization. Effective Crisis Communication in this scenario would involve informing employees about the details of the merger or acquisition, why it’s happening, and how it will affect them.
  • Executive Misconduct: This could be a high-ranking official involved in unethical or illegal activities. The organization needs to communicate about the incident internally, making sure employees know the matter is being handled appropriately.
  • Product Recall: If a product fails, it might disrupt the company’s operations and harm its reputation. Internal Crisis Communication would involve informing employees about the issue, the response, and their role in the crisis.
  • Workplace Accidents: In case of an accident, the organization needs to quickly communicate about safety measures, but also regularly give updates to make sure employees know what to do.
  • Financial Difficulties: When facing financial problems, which could lead to layoffs or pay cuts, the organization should communicate honestly and transparently about the situation.
  • Legal Disputes: If an organization is involved in a lawsuit, internal Crisis Communication would involve informing employees about the situation, potential impacts on the company, and the steps being taken to resolve the issue.
sms notification product recall

The goal is not just to spread information but also to maintain trust, protect the organization’s reputation, and manage the crisis. The key is to be transparent, timely, and consistent in messaging.

The difference between Emergency Communication vs. Crisis Communication

Emergency Communication vs. Crisis Communication seem to be the same but serve different purposes and sometimes even different audiences. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (2018) emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between the two for effective response planning. Emergency Communication is primarily focused on immediate threats to life and property and aims to provide critical information to help individuals and communities stay safe. On the other hand, Crisis Communication is more strategic and is often utilized by organizations to manage crises that could affect their reputation or operations.

The Role of Technology in Emergency and Crisis Communication

Modern technology has revolutionized Emergency Communication vs. Crisis Communication. Advanced software solutions, like Netpresenter, now allow for more targeted, real-time communication, enhancing the effectiveness of both Emergency and Crisis Communication. Emergency Communication Software has emerged as a crucial tool for managing emergencies. It is also called Emergency Notification Software and offers mobile communication to recipients via SMS notifications, push notifications, or sometimes even phone calls. MarketsandMarkets’ forecasts the Mass Notification System Market to rise from $10.8 billion in 2021 to $27.3 billion by 2026, reflecting its increasing importance. These tools can facilitate rapid, widespread dissemination of information during emergencies, contributing to more effective response efforts. They can also provide real-time updates, allowing for quick adjustments to evolving situations.

Emergency Notification Software on G2

Every quarter, G2 publishes its new Grid Report for Emergency Notification, where they award badges to businesses that have outdone themselves in their industries and received positive reviews from their customers. Netpresenter is happy to be part of the High Performers in the Emergency Notification category. You can also check out our Grid position below.

Selecting the right Emergency Communication Software involves considering various factors. Start by identifying your organization’s specific needs. What kind of emergencies are you most likely to face? How many people do you need to reach? Do you need to communicate across multiple locations or even countries? An alert needs to appear on every screen and device within your organization with one push of a button. Make sure to have omnichannel alerting capabilities (digital signage, screensavers, push notifications, or SMS notifications) so there will always be a reliable way to reach the individuals. The software should be easy to use, both for administrators who will send out alerts and for employees who will receive them. Don’t forget to ask for an acknowledgment that they are safe!

Best Practice for Effective Emergency Communication

Ensuring effective Emergency Communication involves adopting certain best practices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), providing clear, concise, and accurate information can significantly improve the public’s response to emergencies. This involves using accessible language, repeating critical information, and leveraging multiple communication channels to reach as many people as possible. Additionally, it’s important to provide updates as the situation evolves to keep the public informed and prepared.

As demonstrated in one of Netpresenter’s case studies, Rijnmondveilig.nl used its platform to inform and alert an entire region at the push of a button. The Dutch Rotterdam-Rijnmond region is home to biggest harbor of Europe and home to 1.2 million people. Situated in a highly industrial and closely inhabited part of the Netherlands, it is a matter of national security that these people are instantly warned and know what to do in case of an emergency, and that they are also involved and kept up to date on urgent police warnings, showcasing the importance Emergency Communication.

rijnmondveilig emergency communication

Best Practice for Effective Crisis Communication

For Crisis Communication, best practices involve planning, transparency, and consistent messaging. 54% of organizations that had a crisis response plan in place fared better post-crisis than those that didn’t. This emphasizes the importance of preparedness and strategic planning in managing crises. Ensure your crisis communication plan can be implemented quickly and in a structured manner through visual crisis communication protocols and a clear division of roles. Transparency is also crucial; organizations must be open about the situation and their response to maintain trust.

An example of effective Crisis Communication is seen in one of Netpresenter’s customer stories. In 2019, Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates (CEENTA) selected Netpresenter to communicate with its visitors and patients via digital signage. Today, Netpresenter is used on all digital signage screens across CEENTA’s nearly twenty locations. The result: a more efficient and productive Marketing team and high-quality messaging, even in times of crisis. For example, the world was struggling with ways to fight the coronavirus. As soon as that news hit, they were able to do a slide to inform patients and visitors about regulations regarding the coronavirus.

Conclusion

Both Emergency Communication and Crisis Communication are vital in managing unexpected events. While they serve different purposes and sometimes even different audiences, they both aim to reduce damage, whether it is to human life or to an organization’s reputation. Emergency Communication Software plays a significant role in enhancing the effectiveness of both types of communication. It is crucial for individuals and organizations to understand the difference between these two types of communication and to adopt best practices in each area. As we navigate an increasingly unpredictable world, the importance of effective communication during emergencies and crises cannot be overstated. This can enhance our collective resilience in the face of adversity. Get in touch with one of our consultants; they will be happy to discuss your organization’s needs and show you everything our employee and emergency communication platform can offer you in a free 30-minute demo. Or download the free infographic about the power of push notifications.

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Frank Hoen

Frank is CEO of Netpresenter and co-founder of the Dutch AMBER Alert and later the European AMBER Alert Foundation, which brings together and trains law enforcement, governments and innovation specialists from more than 20 countries.