Building Resilience Against Critical Events

Building Resilience Against Critical Events

Critical events can affect any transport operator. Accidents, problems with infrastructure including vandalism, fires — such as those seen recently on electric buses in London — extreme weather events and cyberattacks have an immediate and often highly disruptive impact. While many incidents are resolved quickly, the knock-on effect on the reputation of the operator can be long-lasting, inconveniencing employees and passengers, and, in extreme cases, even threatening their lives.

It is therefore essential for transport organizations to build in resilience measures. This is, in part, the ability to anticipate the types of emergencies that might arise and adopt practices that minimize the impact of these crisis events on their operations. This type of approach ensures the safety of their employees and passengers and assists in resuming normal services quickly.

The success of operational resilience relies on several factors, the first of which is corporate culture. An organization’s resilience reflects the resiliency of its people, so public transport operators must invest in training programs, mentoring, and delivering resources that are inclusive for employees, and promote their well-being. Employees who are engaged and listened to will be better able to manage emergencies and equipped to confidently put practices in place to minimize disruption. Adopting an approach of employee collaboration through which teams and individuals are recognized for their successes and able to learn from their mistakes helps to cultivate collaboration and enables better teamwork in a crisis.

Continuously Assess Potential Risk

Proactive risk management coupled with agreed contingency plans that are regularly assessed and updated is essential. A list of the appropriate experts, technicians and helpers should be drawn up and these will be the first port of call when a critical event occurs. If companies fail to communicate in a timely manner during a crisis, they will lose control of the incident and the agreed response plan. Aligning actions to the right people ensures clarity of message, averts rumors, such as on social media, and keeps employees and passengers updated with accurate and timely information.

A comprehensive communications plan for use during a critical incident should be devised by transport operators. This outlines processes and those with responsibility for communication, who talks to whom and when, and what information they share. In addition to internal contacts, there may be external groups, such as passengers, partners of employees, or the public, that will require communications and updates. As public transport companies operate critical infrastructure, there may also be an obligation to report to the authorities.

Planning saves time and effort in an emergency. Messaging templates, for example, can be created in advance to help employees communicate efficiently and accurately. These will need to contain specific information to suit a variety of audiences and situations, but key messages must be consistent and not contradictory so everyone involved can be kept on the same page. Transport operators should plan for multimodal communication. The more channels they use, the more likely they are to reach all audiences. Ideally, messages should be sent through the most used channels today such as SMS texts, push messages, email, and voice messages and on both personal and work landlines and mobile phones. Practicing the procedures that have been agreed upon will allow transport operators to ensure they work efficiently without the pressure of a crisis. Any problems can be identified and addressed.

Building Resilience with Technology

Organizational resilience can be enhanced immeasurably by technology. Transport operators will benefit from an integrated critical event management (CEM) software solution that connects business continuity, disaster recovery, and risk management tools. This allows them to assess risk, seamlessly disseminate information across teams, and avoid disruptions that get in the way of responding quickly to a critical event. At the core of a CEM platform is a data hub that collates all the information relevant to an emergency and manages all the necessary processes.

Information that informs a CEM platform ranges from IoT device data monitoring traffic infrastructure and vehicles through to employee location data. It also includes police channels on social media, traffic information, or severe weather warnings. The platform brings this data together and visualizes it so transport companies can be quickly alerted to likely crises, assess the impact on their own systems, and initiate responses. From this, teams with responsibility for communicating critical events can coordinate activities, teams, and resources within a single application.

Emergency processes can be quickly implemented and controlled in a CEM solution in the form of rules, guidelines, and templates and it will automate those processes using a workflow system. This reduces the time that might be lost to manual activities. The CEM platform should support two-way communication allowing people to respond, which is helpful in terms of knowing who is safe, where people still need help, and whether the level of response needs to be escalated.

Transport operators face many risks but with intelligence, strategic planning and a robust crisis communication plan in place, they will be able to maintain operational resilience and protect both employees and passengers in the event of a crisis.

Tracy Reinhold is chief security officer at Everbridge. He is responsible for advancing Everbridge’s enterprise-level security strategy, as well as working closely with customers and partners to optimize their organizational approach to managing and responding to critical events.