The energy industry in Texas faced a unique challenge when Hurricane Harvey hit and disrupted the supply chain for gasoline, jet fuel and diesel in Texas. But with disaster planning frameworks in place, the energy industry was prepared for the test. The plans included implementing annual drills, creating coordination channels and covering both the strategic and the tactical. The frameworks were good but, as interviews with key decision makers found, the impact of plans in action depended heavily on management’s ability to communicate efficiently and make quick decisions. Management communicated with employees and customers through a variety of ways ranging from phone trees to text messages to social media channels. One CEO emphasized that they communicated with crisis managers via text message so as not to interrupt them during critical times.

The energy industry’s response to Hurricane Harvey highlights how exhaustive an emergency response plan needs to be, and the levels of communication required to effectively implement response plans. The energy and utilities industry needs to have an efficient communication system to reach out to those affected when an emergency—such as a system failure, a natural disaster or man-made event—occurs. These incidents can impact the business, employees and people living and working in the area, and can result in explosion risks or health hazards. It’s important that those who may be adversely affected by these events be notified so that they can prepare or relocate to safety as necessary.

The problem with communication plans that do exist, is that many of the systems used by energy and utilities organizations to notify people during an emergency are outdated. When it comes to notifications, there are a wide swath of internal and external sources that must be notified—including warning points, emergency management offices, control centers and first responders—immediately. Traditional communication systems like faxes and phone trees are archaic and inefficient. There is no guarantee that the intended recipient will receive the message, no proof of delivery, and it can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours for the message to be relayed. During an emergency, that kind of delay is unacceptable and can be costly.

It makes sense that organizations are beginning to look for alternative options to report incidents, notify first responders and also notify those that could be affected. For many, texting looks like the obvious solution. It’s proven that people open their texts—and they open them quickly. 90% of people read a text message within the first 3 minutes. It’s also a simple matter to send a single message to a large group of people. The issue with standard SMS text, however, is that it is not a particularly secure channel and its unlikely to meet compliance regulations for organizations. Secure, compliant text, however, which mimics the look and feel of SMS, can play a key role in facilitating emergency communication plans. In addition to providing the added security, secure messaging can be helpful because it designates a specific application for people to use for emergency scenarios. Advanced secure messaging platforms can additionally automate a series of texts to be sent based on the type of event. This ensures that communications continue to flow while resources can focus on the crisis at hand.

Organizations are already using Vaporstream to communicate important notifications in the event of an emergency. To find out how Vaporstream can help energy and utilities organizations set up an efficient, secure and compliant emergency notification solution contact us or request a demo today!

Contributor: The Vaporstream Team