Emergency communication choices: Part two

Published 11 October 2006

We review the utility of text messaaging, pagers, and fax machines; next week we consider Internet-based services, satellite communications, and conference services

The backbone of every business continuity plan is its communications system. Data storage facilities are important; so too are remote work areas and redundant service agreements. Yet without a durable way for management to relay its orders to employees and vendors, it will all be for naught. Choosing an appropriate emergency communication system is vital. “Simplicity, ease of use, reliability under heavy use and basic effectiveness” are the key attributes to look for, says Harvey Fawcett. Following his lead, we review the choices:

Text Messaging/SMS

Pros: Text messages are less resource intensive than mobile voice calls, so networks can better cope with increased demand. During an emergency, message delivery times may increase, but there is a very good chance of the message eventually getting through

Cons: The main drawback is the limited amount of information that may be transmitted by text. Delivery delays may hinder immediate communications during a crisis

Recommendations: Text is not ideal for massive communication with staff, but effective for one on one messaging. Organizations should investigate transmission options and ensure that all staff, especially older employees, are comfortable using this method


Pro: Pagers are extremely efficient bandwidth users, and can typically hold more information than text messages sent to cell phones

Con: The technology is increasingly obsolete due to the ubiquity of cell phones. Many of the network reliability issues that confront cell phones and text obtain here as well

Recommendations: Small organizations may wish to consider pagers as an economical and extremely reliable form of emergency communication, but use should be limited to a small number of critical employees.


Pro: Fax may be the most efficient way to communicate large amounts of documentary information during a crisis, especially because once delivered they can be read without a power source (unlike e-mail)

Con: Electrical and telephony outages will render fax machines useless

Recommendations: As with phone and electrical service, organizations should carefully examine vendor contracts and consider building in redundancies. They should also implement procedures to ensure that fax machines are being monitored during an emergency for critical communications from other offices.

-read more in Harvey Fawcett’s Continuity Central discussion