Crisis communications is an increasingly important part of business strategy. Here's how YUDU developed our Sentinel solution with one of Britain's most famous law firms.
Farrer & Co are an independent law firm based in London known as the “Queen’s Lawyers” owing to the privilege of counting the House of Windsor among their client-base. Having been practicing law for over three centuries and steeped in the rich tradition of the British legal system, this historic law firm adopted the YUDU Sentinel platform following the Holborn Fire to help enhance their business continuity and resilience practices.
"We knew YUDU were experts in developing apps and were confident that they could develop a solution to help us"
- Neil Davison, IT Director, Farrer & Co.
April 2015 saw an underground electrical fire significant enough to make the national news, just 100 yards from the law firm’s building at Holborn tube station. Causing chaos to the local area, the fire destroyed power cables and burned through trunk lines.
A large part of central London was plunged into darkness and thousands of businesses, including Farrer & Co, found themselves suddenly without any power or traditional communication channels like landlines.
Neil Davison, Head of IT at Farrer explained that while their business continuity plans that existed in paper held up well, it also revealed ways in which they could improve, particularly in the area of communication:
“Initially there was lots of confusion. We were without power, without mobile signals and were unable to locate a large number of staff. The crisis management team was quickly assembled and we needed to dig out and dust off our business continuity and disaster recovery plans.”
But they couldn’t. Why?
Because the fire had burned out existing landlines, power-lines and internet trunk lines - knocking out not just mobile phones but their server too, and in order to access the business continuity plan – this system needed to be running.
The only disaster recovery plan was to send everyone home – but this just did not make sense. Not only in terms of the business, such as lost man-hours of work, risks to corporate social responsibility and risks to the firm’s reputation, but most crucially, the duty of care the practice had towards all their employees in maintaining their safety.
One of the major issues was the safety of staff - around 100 people - and the ability to mass communicate when all channels are down. Neil immediately recognized a new solution was required. He explains: “This incident made us realize how inadequate our existing business continuity plan and disaster recovery process actually were, and we could never put the firm and employees at such risk again.”
Farrer & Co was already working with YUDU, and knew they developed intelligent apps for businesses. The firm approached the team about creating a communications app to help improve business continuity, risk management and employee safety. And YUDU said yes!
YUDU built Farrer & Co. a Sentinel app designed to keeping people informed and safe in an emergency. Unlike other existing Emergency Communications systems, this app was built “first for mobile,” rather than mobile being a later development appended on to a desktop-first design.
The app design is simple, people centric and easy to use – simplicity is key in a disaster situation. Users can both email and call people from the app, register if they are safe or in danger and send mass messages out to all employees - in under 2 minutes. It also includes access to an Employee Directory module with contact numbers, email details, information and even pictures of employees, as well as other useful numbers in case of emergency.
Document Center, leveraged from YUDU’s existing app architecture, gives employees the ability to download key documents like the Business Continuity Plan directly from the app to make them available offline, so even when the power is down, vital guidelines remain available and management can rest assured that staff are in receipt of all the necessary information for such an eventuality.
However, the center-piece of the app is the Messaging Center module. This messaging center allowed Farrer’s management to directly communicate with their employees through the app. The center-piece of this new development was a roll-call system which organized employees on a “traffic light” basis, putting those who weren’t accounted for in the event of an incident first.
Though initially just developed to accommodate in-app messaging. The Emergency Communications App now allows administrators to broadcast using SMS and e-mail too, allowing for multiple redundancies in the event of examples like a power-outage or a local wi-fi network being taken down.
Neil also brought attention to the utility the app offers as a communication tool in general, outside of the context of any incident:
“We are yet to use the App for an emergency, but it is reassuring to have such a sound solution in place. If anything happens again, we know the BCP plan and contact numbers will be immediately available.”
Neil went on to discuss the unforeseen productivity boost that the Employee Directory stating that Farrer & Co “make day-to-day use of the app with its Employee Directory primarily”, as it lists each employee, some information about their role in the company and contact details, allowing staff to call virtually anyone within the practice within a couple of clicks.
“We knew YUDU were experts in developing apps,” Neil adds, “and were confident that they could deliver a solution to help us."
The Sentinel app was developed specifically for Farrer & Co to meet our actual needs following a serious incident, however it is now being used by many other businesses.