Emergency websites, sometimes referred to as dark sites, are inactive pages that organizations can build and have ready to activate in the event of a serious incident. Most often, the trigger for the activation of an emergency website tends to be the news that there have been confirmed fatalities.
The emergency website differs from a usual corporate website because it has a subdued and somber appearance. There is no marketing and company branding tends to be gray-scaled. In the aftermath of a crisis, a company’s emergency website is one of the most important elements of an effective response. This is because however experienced and well-resourced your communications team is, they are not going to have the capacity to answer the thousands of calls and emails that they will receive. So the emergency website becomes the most useful channel by providing an outlet dedicated to addressing the incident. This enables the company to make the relevant information available and share the latest updates.
If a situation does not warrant a full-scale crisis response, an emergency page or section on the organization’s regular site may be all that is required. For example, a message on the front page of the website referring to the incident could drive traffic to the media pages where more information can be found.
To create an emergency website and put systems and processes in place for using it in the event of a crisis requires input from the board through to the IT, marketing, communications and social media departments.
Organizations need to be confident that they have an emergency website that’s fit for purpose, in addition to a skilled team of staff or partners, who can activate and manage the site at a moment’s notice in the event of a disaster.
Following a mass fatality incident, the emergency website should be live within a very short period of time. In alignment with this, organizations also need to put plans in place to ensure that they can act quickly to deactivate their marketing activity and change the branding on the regular site and social media pages during a crisis. It is essential that these actions can be taken 24/7.
The emergency website will continue hosting statements from the company throughout the incident and it may be up for several days. Posts on all the company’s social media accounts should link back to it. By publishing regular and timely updates through these channels, an organization can successfully demonstrate that it is taking responsibility and is in control throughout its response to a crisis.
The emergency website should not be confused with the Family Website, which is a service offered by Kenyon. This is a specially commissioned site that is password-protected and contains information specially designed for the survivors, friends and families of those affected by the disaster. Those that have been directly affected by a crisis must always be the first to know new information and this site provides a safe and secure means of communicating with them and putting their needs at the heart of your emergency response.
In assessing your response to a crisis, the media will be looking to see how swiftly your emergency website is up and running, the information it contains, the relevance and regularity of updates and the tone it takes – which should always be respectful, somber, caring and compassionate.