Posted on October 23, 2015 by Dan Quick
Planning for the worst events in life may not be an exercise in how to make yourself feel great, but it is an inescapably valuable part of leading any organization. Just as the most capable, defensive motorists are required to have liability insurance to drive, so too should a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan be a part of any company’s standard operating procedures. Additionally, the people who are chosen to execute this plan in the event of an emergency should mirror the way you hire for your business in that the strength of the team determines the quality of their product. Of course, in all of our worlds, we want to make sure we don’t have any weak links in the chain.
Identify the Essentials
Obviously everyone on your team is important and irreplaceable, that said, there are some job functions that have a more immediate impact to your bottom line than others when it comes to shutting down an office. Specifically, what departments or job functions would you ideally never have down, not even for an instant, if you could manage that? Say, for example, that you have a Sales Director who can shift her attention from managing her team to handling much of the day-to-day traffic should she be required to do so. Identifying her as an essential extension to stay operational during a prolonged service interruption at your office is a good sign that she should probably also be a key stakeholder on your emergency response team. Once you have all of the critical individuals identified, you’re ready to move forward with navigating the path for the team to take during an emergency.
Make a Plan
The next step in in building your emergency response team is to designate a chain of command. Even for matrix organizations, a hierarchy probably already exists in the business operations of your company. This is not necessarily the one you should default to for an emergency response team. As part of your OSHA Incident Command System, you’ve likely already identified a Safety Officer for your office. If not, you probably should. You can come back and finish this article when you’re finished. For everyone else, know that this person has the training and trust of the leaders who chose him or her to guide the team through any emergency. It’s best to default to the Safety Officer’s instructions to make sure that, before anything else, the whole company finds its way to safety as soon as possible during an emergency. From there you can then implement any continuity procedures you’ve set in place beforehand. Some of those could include the following-
- Automated hotline message for employees to describe evacuation and check-in procedures and any other pertinent information
- Have your automatic business telephone failover system programed to keep the essential employee’s extensions live and forwarded to their mobile or home phones
- Have pre-record messages for your inbound calls that state, in a general way, that you will have limited access to your phone system, and have the system admin update to that message from their remote access portal.
Following these few steps won’t totally complete your emergency response team’s strategy by any means, but including them will help solve plenty of problems before they occur.
You Know How to Get to Carnegie Hall, Don’t You?
Practice. You’ve made it this far to choose, build, plan, and empower your emergency response team, congratulations! Unfortunately, the work doesn’t stop just yet. Like any good team, preforming under pressure is a function of how well the members therein know their roles. To get there, try doing some simulations to test how well the team and the plan work together. Just like in business, you need to be willing to experiment, measure, iterate, and retry until you get things right. Plus, considering the essential nature of this particular endeavor, you’d be very well-served to put your best foot forward. Ideally you’ll never have to find out, but if your team is ever required to jump into action, having a smooth, rehearsed, and comprehensive strategy will be handsomely rewarding.
To get started today, consider your business as a homeowner who is evacuating from a fire and can only take one thing with it. It may seem silly, but these types of approaches help begin the thorough process in finding your business essentials. If you ever get stuck, you should consider taking a free personal tour with our emergency planning experts of the phone systems that will enable you to execute on the plan once it’s finished. Hopefully you’ll not need to ever act on it, but we’re here to help you build a plan that works for your business to ensure it can whether any storm.
Posted on October 15, 2015 by Dan Quick
So you’ve got a BCP, now what?
Good, you’ve decided to make yourself a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and are ready to move forward into the unknown with the comfort that comes from being protected. Smart move. But now you’ve begun to wonder if you’ve made it properly, if you’ve completely outlined your contingencies and how to proceed in an event that shuts down your office’s daily operations for a while. That’s to be expected. This is a big decision and could be the make-it-or-break-it maneuver for your company. Good thing for you, this is also one of our areas of expertise!
Communications Are Key
Like in almost anything, effective communications will be pivotal for success as part of your BCP. While each BCP is going to be tailored specifically to the business it is supposed to protect, there are a few essentials to consider. Conversely, unclear, panicked, or incomplete directions will not help the situation, and in many cases they only make things worse. That’s why it’s important to get these down early and well before they are needed to make sure your team hears what they need, when they need it most.
By leveraging the employee hotline feature of your automatic telephone failover system, PBX Parachute, you can give clear instructions that you’ve recorded prior to any emergency-taking place. Here are some items to be sure to cover therein-
- Make sure the first priority is that everyone gets to safety in the event of an emergency by directing them to the company’s standing emergency protocols
- Once everyone is safe and secure, instruct them to proceed to whatever rendezvous point you’ve established for a head-count and further instructions
- In the event of a total disaster, chain of command instructions are helpful reminders for your leaders to keep order and your team to know who to trust
- Remind them that all essential business will continue as is appropriate from alternate locations and that those employees will have already received instructions on how to access their work phones from their online portals
- Commit to recording any updated information as it comes available to this same hotline, or through whatever secondary method you’ve deemed best for you
Remember the Circumstances
Though there is a lot of ground to cover in the details of emergency messages, remind yourself that keeping it clear, calm, and concise will help your team almost more than anything else. Furthermore, making sure the information is current is important, so it is best to review it quarterly, yearly, or whenever you make changes to your safety protocol as appropriate.
Ideally your employees will never need to listen to this message, but that’s no reason to not have it. If you need help with this or any other aspect of your BCP and telephone failover management, we can help you get started with your disaster preparations. We’ve been protecting companies like yours for years and are eager to make sure you feel secure knowing you’ve got your work family taken care of.
Posted on October 2, 2015 by Dan Quick
For anyone on the Eastern Seaboard, this is nothing you should need a reminder on. However, because memories can be short, let me jog yours about what to expect as Hurricane Joaquin approaches the continental United States.
Sandy Left a Mark
If you were there in 2012, you know that almost 8 million homes and businesses were without power following Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, some going without electricity for over a week. Plus you needn’t look much further than that to get even more examples, from the Gulf Coast to New England, the Atlantic Hurricane Season (which runs from June through November) has traditionally wreaked havoc on the coastal states. The billions of dollars of damage that follow these events are exactly why local governments and emergency crews have been scrambling to prepare for Joaquin over the past few days. From New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declaring a state of emergency, to the cancellation of the Ironman triathlon in Maryland, to even the NFL announcing plans to potentially relocate or reschedule this weekend’s games, it’s clear that people everywhere are preparing for the worst. That said, what are you doing for your business?
Business Continuity for Profit Perpetuity
Words are fun, huh? Resonance aside, small and medium businesses don’t often have the luxury of alternate facilities in the country or emergency funds to gain access to during periods of heightened unpredictability. Therefore, a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the best way an organization can protect itself during these and any other unforeseen development. Whether from Mother Nature, technical failures, or any other man-made event, losing access to your office can cost thousands of dollars a day and yet those losses can be avoided with a relatively small investment of time or money.
Among the many features in a traditional BCP are-
- Alternate location plans in the event of an evacuation
- Chain of command and contingent authority procedures
- Communications strategy for both employees and customers
It’s the final point there that can cost the most if overlooked. When there is no access to an office building, but all of the employees are fine and physically safe, why then should there be a need to interrupt operations? There shouldn’t be! If you have a cloud-based VoIP platform for your company, you’re already covered should you lose access to your building. If you are still using a traditional, on-site phone system, you can have all of the protection of a hosted system with the PBX Parachute business failover system from VirtualPBX.
Be There, From Anywhere
By mirroring only the parts of your business that you decide, PBX Parachute can keep essential, customer-facing departments up and running by enabling employees to access their company phone from anywhere they can get internet access. Also, you can program automatic triggering events where the PBX Parachute is deployed that include emergency messaging specific to the audience. This means you can have pre-recorded information accessible only to your company and another message for your customers that you can even remotely update as new information becomes available.
Getting started with your BCP by using PBX Parachute is as easy as it is important. To see how to get started or to learn more about the technology, contact one of our Business Continuity Experts today. In the meanwhile, batten down the hatches, man the mizzen mast, and start working on protecting your company today. Also, you should go back to reread those first two things with the voice of a pirate. Stay safe out there, mateys!
Posted on August 26, 2015 by Dan Quick
Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the 6.0 magnitude Napa Earthquake in Northern California. This was the largest and most destructive tremor in the United States since the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake reached 6.9 on the Richter Scale in 1989, famously recorded during the broadcast of the World Series just minutes before the opening pitch of game three. There exists a constant tension between inhabitants all across the Western Seaboard and the unpredictability of the continent’s tectonic plates. Though these seismic concerns are generally contained just in the western half of the United States, they symbolize the same natural volatility that exists in every corner of the globe.
Prepare for Predictability
Predicting an earthquake is virtually impossible and even the most advanced early-warning systems currently in development at UC Berkeley provide only seconds of advance warning. This is critically helpful in shutting down gas lines, mass transit, and other factors that help reduce damage in the event of a quake, but it does little to help businesses prepare for the worst. The only certainty, the only thing that can be truly predicted, is that eventually there will be a tremor, or a storm, or simply a truck that hits a power line, and even the most diligent of businesses will be forced to shutter its doors for a period.
Depending on the size of the company, a business can risk the loss of tens of thousands of dollars a day in revenue by simply not being open for business. Furthermore, those lost dollars have a doubly damaging impact because not only do they not find the way into your bottom line, but they also are bolstering the business of your competitors. This is where simple business insurance falls short. Getting reimbursed for the costs of rebuilding after a catastrophe doesn’t make much of a difference if your business is crippled during the downtime.
Every Employee Can Have a Headquarters
By including a telephone failover system like PBX Parachute into your company’s Business Continuity Plan, you can ensure that all critical operations can continue under any circumstances and from anywhere in the world. PBX Parachute mirrors the parts of your business you want to keep up and running and allows your key employees to virtually log-into their office lines from anywhere they have an internet connection. It deploys automatically with 99.99% reliability when your phone lines are down or not functioning for any reason, or you can activate it manually if you can anticipate your office becoming inaccessible. This way, should your office become inaccessible for any reason or amount of time, your employees can both stay in the safety of their homes with their families and your business can keep humming along without missing a beat.
You don’t let market factors or competitors dictate your success, why should you let a few bumps in the road do the same? Granted that a 6.0 earthquake is a little bit more than a simple bump, but you get the picture.
Contact one of our Business Continuity Experts today to see how we can help augment your emergency preparations with PBX Parachute. You can rest assure that no matter what is happening under the Earth’s crust, we’ll be here to help you stay in business!
Posted on August 13, 2015 by Dan Quick
Boston had record-setting snowfall last winter and it did so in less time than the previous record year 20 years ago. In fact, it wasn’t even until mid-July until the snow drifts from the winter had finally melted. The entire country was so severely beaten down by Mother Nature that there were rolling blackouts and road closures from coast to coast. Everything from Rainpocalypse, which, though laughable, actually did shutdown the typically bustling San Francisco Bay Area to extreme winter weather all the way far south as Dallas, 2014-2015 was uniquely disruptive to businesses across the country. What would you do if you knew that was just the beginning?
The Boy Who Could Stop a Hemisphere
No, this isn’t some revolutionary political activist or a sole student protestor halting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square, this is El Niño. El Niño is a weather anomaly during which an irregularly warm flow of water in the Pacific Ocean presses up against the shores of North and South America, creating months of unusually extreme weather, including massive amounts of precipitation. Unless you haven’t heard, by the way, there appears to be one of the largest El Niño effects ever recorded brewing right now, too. Yeah, so it’s never too early to begin preparing for another intense winter weather season.
Plan for Tomorrow, Act Today
Wayne Gretsky said that he doesn’t skate to where the puck is, but to where it’s going to be. With the El Niño effect that we are likely to face in the next several months, perhaps an ice-skating quote is more appropriate than we think, too.
How many times have you wished you had recognized the signs of what was happening in your business while it was still on the horizon? Today you can do just that. By preparing yourself now for the literal storm that is brewing off in the distance, you can hedge your business against any weather situation along with all of the other, unforeseen circumstances that could shut down your operations. By building a phone continuity strategy for your business that includes failovers for your office communications systems, you can stay operational through anything that would normally disrupt your business.
PBX Parachute Delivers
VirtualPBX hosted phone systems are already backed by the reliability and flexibility it takes to keep a business up and running whether its employees are at the office or not. We build multiple redundancies into our system so that our customers never have to worry about their office location being inaccessible due to extreme weather. Some companies, however, have their own on-site phone systems that work better for their business needs, but that expose them to the risk of inactivity during any similar type of crisis situation. PBX Parachute is built for them.
By signing-up for PBX Parachute, a company is safeguarding themselves by mirroring their existing telephone system and keeping it on constant stand-by. With this system in place, administrators can either deploy PBX Parachute on command if they have ample time to anticipate a disruption, or they can program a variety of triggering events to automatically enable the redundant system to activate. Furthermore, like all of the VirtualPBX communications solutions, PBX Parachute is fully customizable, so any combination of departments or extensions can be assigned to deploy in-line with your specific business objectives. If you want only sales and support to keep firing from home, you can do that, if you want only administrative lines for internal messaging, you can do that, too. Anything your company needs to focus on the safety and security of your employees and customers is available with PBX Parachute.
Someday Isn’t Actually a Day of the Week
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. As a business owner, you never have the luxury of waiting until things are convenient to act, so why should ensuring the safety of your business and employees be any different? Get in touch with our Business Continuity Experts today to see how PBX Parachute can help you rest easy knowing your company will see its way through any storm.