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Survey: Emergency departments experience many communication roadblocks

Communicating with a large population of residents continues to be a challenge for local emergency management departments.
Communicating with a large population of residents continues to be a challenge for local emergency management departments.

Technology and social media have made it much easier for individuals to get in touch with one another, but local officials have found that the public's embrace of various communication systems has  complicated their own continuity of operations planning, according to a survey from Zogby Analytics.

In the survey's fourth year, emergency managers were asked to explain "significant challenges and the measures that they are taking to address them," Government Security News explained. Traditionally, local emergency departments were asked about the community's awareness of emergency and safety awareness.

"This year, we wanted to assess the complexity of the issues emergency managers face and uncover the actions they are taking to find effective solutions," Joe Wilson, president of the industrial systems division at Federal Signal told Government Security News.

The survey found that local emergency departments cannot find a common ground to inform all residents because there are way too may factors to consider. For example, some locals are vision or hearing impaired. On the other hand, younger people get a lot of their information from social media networks or email.

"The increase in the number of communication layers emergency managers are up against has drastically added to the complexity of developing an effective, all-encompassing communications program," Wilson explained.

As a way to break down these barriers, the survey found that 81 percent of emergency staff members began promoting their communication platforms during community events, and 67 percent use the town's local website to reach out to residents.

While these are effective ways to share information, three out of 10 respondents said they are not providing additional education tools on social media or the website, which means that emergency management teams have a long way to go before they can "generate 100 percent awareness," Wilson added.

Emergency management departments that need to define a comprehensive plan that includes communication measures can benefit from working with business continuity consultants that specialize in similar operations.