Disaster Communication for Small Business

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One unexpected hurdle MSPs might face when it comes to backup and disaster recovery is simple communication. Emergencies do happen, but let’s face it, they don’t happen terribly often. Just like writing cursive or speaking a foreign language, if you don’t do it on a regular basis, you’ll forget it. This is why it’s important to practice things you hope to remember, or at the very least, write it all down. When it comes to critical procedures like those in a backup and disaster recovery plan, it’s useful to test them periodically to make sure clients (and you) know what needs to happen. At very least, you and your client should establish communication expectations for various scenarios so that everybody knows what’s going on and what needs to happen after an event occurs.

A small business might have some thoughts in mind when it comes to disaster plans, and it’s  good to make sure they know what they expect of their employees as well. A lot of businesses don’t consider what should happen if there’s a large emergency. Should employees work from home? Who should they call? Will the company email them or call them to tell them what’s going to happen, or will they need to look for an update on a Facebook page? These are all questions an MSP can help a business answer.

Here are some common ways of communicating after disaster. These should help an MSP or a small business decide the best way to communicate in an emergency.

1. Social Media

Following Hurricane Sandy, many people used social media to update friends and family of their whereabouts and to let them know they were safe. Similarly, businesses can use social media to share what’s happening in an emergency. You can update your business’s Facebook profile to explain that employees should stay home or that they should be cautious coming to work. Some emergencies won’t affect the employee’s area, but it might affect the location of the business itself. In any case, social media is a great communication vehicle.

2. Email

Depending on the size of business and the type of email communication systems set up, it can be pretty easy to send an email to all employees. In any case, email is a great way to alert employees of a problem at the office, or what they should expect after a disaster scenario. One thing to think about, however, is that some people don’t check their work email very often at home. It’s useful to have alternate personal email addresses for all employees and include them in a larger list to use in emergencies. Those that don’t check work email at home might check personal email over breakfast or before they head to work for the day.

3. Text Messages

Email can be effective, but text messages might be more likely to be read before an employee leaves to head for the office. Alerting employees to be cautious on a drive in or even to work from home if possible during a snowstorm like the one that hit Atlanta a few months ago can actually save lives and thousands of dollars in damage. You can set up a system to automatically text all employee numbers in a database with an emergency message so that the information lands right on the phone in a purse or pocket.

4. Phone Calls

This one is more difficult to pull off, especially with a high volume of employees, though phone calls tend to have more weight than a text or email and might be a better indicator to employees that there’s a problem—texts and emails are very easy to ignore. Again, there are ways of automating a large number of phone calls, but how much time will it take to record and deliver a message to hundreds of people? Time might be something you don’t have, so consider using one of the other methods for more speed.

Send Word Now

When it comes to crisis communication, taking all possible angles to deliver a message is the best way to go. You don’t want your employees in jeopardy, so making sure you send out as many messages through as many channels as possible will help ensure that more people receive them and know what to do. One great way to do this is using a service called Send Word Now. Using this service, you can login online, select a list of people to send a message to, write your message, and send it to the entire contact list in a variety of ways (email, text, voicemail) all at once. If the service cannot get through to a person using, say, a text message, it will cycle to the next type of message, maybe a voicemail, until that person is reached and replies.

Remember, however, that since this is a cloud service, it depends on the Internet, which you might not have in an emergency, so prepare a backup option in case this is unavailable.

What if a Client is Down and You’re Not?

If you’re an IT provider and your clients a few towns over are down, but you’re doing just fine, your clients might not be able to submit a ticket to your help desk or email you. That’s why it’s important to give clients alternate ways to contact you. Providing them with cell phone numbers to you or your techs will really help them out if they’re in a crunch and need you right away.

What if All Communications are Down?

If for some reason communications are down all together—Internet, phone, cell service, etc.—you might have bigger worries than getting businesses online, but clients still need to know what to expect from you. When will you be able to come help them get on track? It all depends on the scenario, but clients should know what to expect ahead of time so you’ll want to make that clear when you’re discussing backup and disaster recovery plans.

Words Count

Post-disaster communication is important to not only ensuring the safety of employees, but to managing their expectations with regard to work. Be sure you and your clients know what the communication protocol is for various emergencies so that everybody knows that to expect, whether they receive a message or not.

 

Casey Morgan is the marketing content specialist at StorageCraft. U of U graduate and lover of words, his experience lies in construction and writing, but his approach to both is the same: start with a firm foundation, build a quality structure, and then throw in some style. If he’s not arguing about comma usage or reading, you'll likely find him and his Labrador hiking, biking, or playing outdoors -- he's even known to strum a few chords by the campfire. Casey.Morgan@storagecraft.com

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