“This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” Ever since the advent of radio and television, these words have offered us a sense of connectedness and security. While these tests had an uncanny way of interrupting the climactic moments of our favorite programs, they also comforted us. In the case of a real emergency, we could sleep safely knowing that a system was in place to keep us informed and alert.
THE POWER OF NOW
Today, social media has taken the world far beyond the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). The more tech-savvy members of the public now have a jump on the EBS through outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. These social outlets have the ability to break news and provide real-time updates with far greater efficiency than traditional media sources. With a large segment of the population essentially creating its own news and emergency networks, it has become imperative for those in crisis communication to integrate social media into their continuity plans.
In AT&T’s recent study on disaster planning, Chris Costello, assistant vice president, Offer Management, Cloud Services, observed that the executives who took part in the survey appear to be taking the initiative in building comprehensive continuity plans. “There’s certainly no shortage of potential threats or disasters around the world,” said Costello. “We’ve seen a strong emphasis on IT security and continued growth in areas of cloud and mobile applications; implying that companies are embracing the tools and services needed to continue operational activities despite potential threats and disasters.”
Figures from the study certainly bear this out, with two-thirds of the executives surveyed saying they have incorporated wireless network capabilities into their continuity plans. Over half of these executives also indicate that they only expect this investment to increase.
While the threat of environmental crises such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes persists, executives are also bolstering their defenses against “virtual events” such as security breaches. Incidents in the past year have clearly demonstrated this need. For instance, in 2011 prominent hacker group LulzSec exposed security gaps in Sony’s PlayStation network, releasing the confidential information such as credit card numbers and passwords of thousands of users.
The very public fallout from this and similar instances has reinforced the need for mobile security. According to the disaster planning study, 87 percent of executives have grown increasingly concerned over similar attacks through mobile networks and devices, and two-thirds have already incorporated security measures into their continuity plans.
Investing in disaster preparedness
In the advent of a crisis, the Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program from AT&T is designed to strengthen the company’s business continuity and disaster recovery response. At the centerpiece of the NDR program is “a fleet of over 320 equipment trailers and support vehicles that house the same equipment and components as an AT&T data-routing or voice-switching center.”
The company has invested over $600 million on this program to provide the public not only with the necessary equipment and resources during a disaster, but with a skilled workforce of managers, engineers and technicians specifically trained to implement disaster recovery strategies.
Reducing Brand Vulnerability
The design, implementation, and execution of a viable, comprehensive continuity plan simply make good business sense. From corporate giants to mom-and-pop businesses, any brand incapable of responding to a crisis risks significant damage to its reputation. In fact, according to this 2011 SunGard Availability Services Survey, three quarters of executives cited “protection of reputation and brand” as the most important reason for building a strong continuity plan.
“In the connected age, news and opinions sometimes seem like they can travel faster than the speed of light,” says Patty Fitzgerald, Event Director at the Disaster Recovery Journal. “A brand’s reputation can change overnight on reports of either a perceived misstep or an unlikely victory. As a result, protecting brand image has become the number one motivator for developing comprehensive, viable continuity plans. A brand capable of weathering even the worst of crises stands to gain a great deal in public esteem.”
As Tom Peters stated in a 2010 Blue Focus Marketing post on crisis management, “Nothing is not branding. Branding is how our organization lives in the world.” Responsible social brands understand that, in order to protect their own needs in the event of a crisis, they must be ready to help protect and inform the public at large as well. A brand that has invested its resources in building dynamic, engaged communities simply cannot risk abandoning those communities in their time of need. With the 2012 hurricane season fast approaching, all businesses have an obligation to secure their infrastructure through a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.