In crisis intervention, good communication can mean the difference between life and death. Emergency services, responders, and communications teams have to work together to ensure that individuals receive the best care possible during crises. Not only that, but the way that these service providers handle emergencies plays a significant role in their reputations; one crucial mistake and it could cost them the entire community’s trust.
With all of these implications in mind, everyone involved in crisis intervention must know how to communicate with each other well. To do that, they must know what causes poor crisis communication in the first place.
1. Excessive information
During an emergency, all sorts of information will come pouring into the communications center (or wherever crisis communications are received), and it’s very easy for things to get jumbled up in the storm. For example, when an ambulance co-responder team reports conflicting information from another provider, the emergency response is likely to be delayed.
Conflicting information is not the only problem. There is also the issue of having too much information coming in at once because there is too much data to process, it is more difficult to respond accordingly and monitor the situation in real-time.
A centralized system is the best way to resolve this type of problem in crisis intervention. With this kind of system in place, key stakeholders can report the situation in a more organized manner and monitor the situation themselves through remote dashboards, thereby speeding up the emergency response and minimizing the risk of miscommunication.
2. Decreased in-person communication
Due to the pandemic, in-person communication between emergency responders is limited to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Although necessary, reduced in-person communication can make it more difficult for team members to communicate effectively with each other. Moreover, holding briefings, delegating responsibilities, creating strategies, and addressing questions become more challenging, which could decrease the quality and swiftness of emergency response.
While this is a temporary problem, it is crucial that emergency response teams find a workaround while COVID-19 is still present. That said, here are some of the best solutions that teams can apply to their operations:
Crisis intervention professionals cannot spend a lot of time on virtual meetings. Thus, team leaders must determine which topics warrant an in-person discussion and which topics can be discussed online.
In every response team, there should be at least one person assigned to handle staff outreach, which consists of sending out messages to off-site staff to keep them in the loop. Staff outreach can be done through text messaging (often the most effective way), emails, or instant messaging.
Team leaders can also create a platform where all necessary information is centralized so that members of the response team can re-read briefing documents, policies, and strategy plans outside of meetings. This way, everyone can readily access the information they need without asking co-workers or contacting their team leader.
3. Failure to see messages
In emergencies, responders need to be able to see information right away, which entails the need to send out messages through multiple channels. If the communications team relies solely on emails, for example, there is a good chance that responders and other crisis intervention personnel won’t see it as soon as they possibly can.
That said, communications teams must send out information using multiple platforms, especially SMS which is the most effective route to deliver information in the age of smartphones. To do this efficiently, they can use communications software that will allow them to send messages in bulk and through multiple channels at once.
4. Lack of dissemination
Disseminating information should be easy in these modern times, but that is not always the case for emergency response teams or practices. All stakeholders (patients, staff, vendors, investors, etc.) must be aware of every change in policies, guidelines, and protocols as it arises. Otherwise, conflict may result from stakeholders having different knowledge of key information, and this can lead to delayed emergency response, miscommunication, redundancy, and all sorts of other issues.
The first step to solving this issue is determining what causes it in the first place, and then taking measures to eliminate those causes. For instance, if poor dissemination results from using only one communication channel, team leaders can incorporate multi-channel communications to ensure that everyone receives the message on at least one platform, be it a text message, email, or instant chat.
Addressing these crisis communications issues can enhance the quality and speed of emergency response, which, ultimately, helps save more lives and keeps personnel safe. That said, every emergency co-responder must learn how to solve these problems and adopt strategies that will help prevent them from happening again in the future.