Monday, October 29, 2012

Disaster Preparedness, Teamability Style



It's so nice to have a team to remind you of what's really important!

Philadelphia is in the middle of a rare weather event for us: an approaching hurricane. But when your team includes people who have experience dealing with things you don't, at least you have someone to turn to that you can trust to come through for you.

So as we look toward the coming week, which could include enough national disruption to derail some attendees at our intensive, three-day weekend, advanced course in Teamability, we were lucky enough to get these important tips from Carolyn DeWitt, a partner in Coherent Counsel, LLC, who advises CEOs on disaster planning, among other services.
  1. The loss of power is what really fouls things up the most. If you have multiple devices, charge them all so you can extend your personal 'connection life' by transitioning from one to the other as they lose power. 
  2. Set up a communication list on email and text for all the people who will need to know what's going on. That starts with your team but it also includes key contacts, vendors, customers, and if you are planning any events, attendees.  
  3. You will have a point where you need to make a go/no-go decision, for instance on a meeting or conference. You can send a text to tell people to check their email for your more detailed message. Remember: not all people have access or look at their email throughout the day if they are out on business or traveling, but the text will tell them you have important news/updates.
  4. Cancelling flights, hotels etc becomes an iffy things for conference attendees during “acts of god”.  Some will honor the 24 hour advance cancel only, some will make smarter choices and allow non penalty cancels. The sooner you can allow attendees to cancel without penalty obviously the better. Remember: if attendees are in an affected area, they may not have power to GET your message, as the impacts spread.  
  5. If you DO have power, the other thing that may shut down your communication is overburden of circuits and cell towers, both land and air. Even the paths to internet connectivity can get overwhelmed. Emergency tactics are for you to have a contact outside of the emergency affected area that can be your communication point. Select someone outside of the affected area to be your RELAY point. You then only have to worry about getting your message to one source that then can relay the message to everyone else. Remember: much of the network and frequency capacity gets designated for emergency responder and support networks like the Red Cross. This all happens behind the scenes in the network directly with providers. Especially with everyone who lives outside of the storm zones, frantically trying to learn the status of their loved ones, every network type can be overburdened.
  6. Another option is to have the chief decision-maker (located somewhere with generator power) who can have direct posting access to your website as a communication update point. Then delivery is to one (hopefully in a secure and redundant service site).  Again, where email and text messages may be compromised, internet access to a large pipe access website, might be one thing that all or most people will be able to access. But everyone needs to know in advance what your methods of communication will be.  
  7. Finally, once you figure out what you want to do, how you will communicate—proactively let everyone know. Send out communication as soon as possible to say that you are on this, and will be keeping communication to them by X process at Y frequencies. Otherwise, everyone will start getting peppered by all sources to 'know what the plan is'.   
  8. Lots of people have never been through a huge storm and their first priority will be to protect and communicate with their family and loved ones, then protection of property etc. Snow and ice are one thing, water is another. People will get trapped by rising water, and many people do not know how to swim. The most unexpected devastation is inland, not near water sources. People forget their sewer and drainage cannot cope with the amount of rain, even though they may not be near ocean, rivers, etc. Many emergency responders will meet situations they have never dealt with, so they may have failures as well.  
  9. There are many special situations such as call centers, large student populations, where there are other very specific things they can and should be doing. Carolyn can help here.
  10. Remember that even less invasive storms create much havoc and loss. Things can start to unravel pretty quickly if you aren't prepared.
Thanks for that advice, Carolyn! I'm just going to add one more point...

If you want to prepare for ANYTHING, start by amassing the very best team you can!