Minimizing Communications Downtime During Natural Disasters

Easy Office Phone, a provider of cloud-based business phone services, shares these tips for minimizing communications downtime during natural disasters. With hurricane season and many businesses preparing for potential weather events, it’s crucial for organizations to take steps to minimize communication disruptions. Their tips for minimizing communications downtime are:

Set a Protocol: Before the next disaster arrives, employees should know exactly what is expected of them if an event occurs. Develop a simple checklist for employees to follow and ensure every staff member has a copy. Do not allow for any confusion or uncertainty in the event of a disaster; you cannot afford it.

Assess the Current Business Continuity Plan: Determine which regular activities are mission-critical, and then apply worst-case infrastructure scenarios to see whether your plan holds up. For example, if your office loses power, how can your staff continue fielding phone calls?

Ensure Your Phone Service is Virtualized: For most healthcare organizations, phone continuity is mission-critical. Cloud-based phone service greatly increases the odds that your main phone number will remain reachable, and your callers will know you’re in business, even if a disaster takes your call center or office off the grid.

Obtain Backup Numbers from All Staff: Because you can never be too prepared, develop a comprehensive staff contact list, including cell phone numbers, home numbers, and personal email addresses. Some staff may not wish to receive cell phone calls outside of office hours, so your list should note which numbers are for emergencies only. Unless you have mass notification capabilities, implement a contact tree so all employees know who to expect an emergency call from, and if they, in turn, need to call someone else on the list.

Ensure Key Documents Are Virtualized: Ask your staff to develop a list of documents and files they regularly use and need to access easily. Implement a practice of backing up these key files to cloud-based storage on a regular basis. Remember, you may have only limited advance warning of an impending disaster, so preparing now saves staff from having to scramble to decide which files are critical, or worse, risk losing documents they saved locally.

Let Your Staff Work Remotely: Many employees will attempt to commute to the office even in extreme weather, unless you’ve told them otherwise. If employees cannot safely travel to the office or the office infrastructure is compromised, you need an alternative. Implementing a virtual private network (VPN) with cloud-based phone and email services will remove a great deal of pressure, enabling staff to access files and emails from home and make and receive calls from anywhere.

Set a Point Person: Although the above tips are crucial, implementing them involves work. As with most aspects of business, a clear leader is important. Designate one trusted staff member to work through the steps – and do it now, so you have a chance to review and test your system well before you truly need it.

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[From the October/November 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]