No matter if you operate a business or non-profit, planning for disaster is essential.
Before, during, and after a disaster, you need to communicate what’s happening to your employees, and even to folks outside your company, like your clients. It’s very easy to put off making a plan because, 1) it’s not fun and 2) you’ve got a whole litany of other issues occupying your mind. But, trust me, you should NOT put off making a plan.
Having a disaster recovery communication plan will help your company continue to operate on a basic level no matter what is happening in your community. And – note this – being able to keep critical operations functioning can save your reputation.
Whether the disaster is an earthquake, a weather related issue, or a terrorist strike, having a plan in place will help you continue to function when everyone else is in panic mode. Here’s how to develop the perfect post-disaster communications plan.
1. Put someone in charge, but make sure he has help.
Some one needs to be in charge, right? Often smaller companies select one person to be on point. At a radio or tv station, that’s often the chief engineer.
Sure, running through emergency scenarios may be in his wheelhouse, but what if in an emergency he’s out of pocket, trying to HIS job? Let’s face it – during a community-wide crisis your DOE or Chief will have his hands full trying to keep the network on the air.
The most important aspect of disaster recovery is reducing unnecessary stress and confusion – trust me, there will be enough of that happening, anyway. So do yourself a favor and assign supporting roles. That way, information will not bottleneck; everyone will know what to do when the unexpected happens.
Assign a point of contact for each department, with a backup. Each of these contacts needs to be involved in the plan. What’s more, think about assigning a single person to be in charge of external communications (particularly if you are a radio or tv station or your business is considered essential).
Make sure you assign folks to check your voicemail and answer the company phone, respond to emails, and manage social media accounts during the disaster recovery period. Like us, you may find this box easier to check if it’s an employee who lives and works outside the affected area.
2. Have a backup site.
This may sound wildly extravagant, but hear me out: Having an office, data storage off site, or – if you’re a broadcaster – a fully redundant studio, may just save your bacon. Being able to conduct business in the aftermath of a disaster may mean the difference between success and bankruptcy.
After experiencing a few close calls weather-wise, one of our radio customers chose to invest in one of the of our mobile satellite antennas so they could evacuate their studios, if necessary, but continue to broadcast at another location. Several other networks we support have chosen to construct fully-redundant studios, including Educational Media Foundation (EMF) and Family Life Radio, Tucson.
3. Collect employee information.
Maintain all emergency contact information for employees in one place. Keeping it in “the Cloud” so there’s always a backed up list on hand is great, but what if you can’t access the Cloud? It’s always good to have an old-fashioned hard copy of everyone’s information, as well
Collect phone numbers, including cell phone and home phone, e-mail addresses and home addresses.
At a recent disaster recovery seminar I attended the speaker strongly suggested we print out a map to and from each employee’s home, in case you need to physically check in with them. (Remember, depending on the type of disaster, street signs may be missing, as well.)
Also, each employee should provide you with at least one emergency contact.
4. Make a list of priorities.
First things first. Taking care of your employees and customers who have been directly impacted by the disaster is of prime importance. Do your employees need to leave their homes? Could your office building (or other employees’ homes) be a temporary safe haven? Do they need a hot shower and a good meal? If they are a customer, do they need immediate access to your services?
Once affected clients and staff are safe and taken care of, you can start to think about everyone else.
It may take several days for your plan of action to be implemented, and that’s okay. That’s why you have a plan.
5. Know what you’re going to say, and when you’re going to say it.
In a disaster, pre-created communication templates make it easier and faster to get your message out to different groups. Sure, all disasters are different, but there are some basic things you can include in each type of message required.
Employees will need to know if their paychecks will be delayed and, if so, when they will receive their payment. They also need to know (if they aren’t essential workers) when they should come back to work, any safety information about work locations, and what information they are allowed to tell other people.
A vendor’s need is simple: will delivery or service continue as usual? If not, when will it resume?
Customers need to know if there will be any delays in services and/or products. Also, share with your clients plans to reimburse or compensate them for downtime or outages, if applicable.
Here’s a novel idea: come up with a media communication plan. Nature abhors a void – and a lack of communication is just that. Your company or network may not deal with the media much, but during a time of crisis a well-placed phone call, social media post or press release that focuses on your employees and customers is a positive move.
6. Get everyone on board with the plan.
Hold a meeting to go over your disaster recovery plan so everyone knows about it. Keep the plan and all pertinent information in a binder and let everyone know where it is so that during a disaster they can just open it up and immediately be on task.
And, if your business or non-profit requires content distribution either 24/7 or even once a week, don’t forget to get your content distributor involved in your communications plan. They can do so much; assisting you in so many ways so your plan runs smoothly; a relief when you have an emergency on your hands.