March 1, 2015

The Communications Plan

Filed under: Safety First — houtkin @ 2:44 pm

Today, I would like to discuss communications for the small business.

There are different people that you may need to communicate with and as a business owner, you may need to communicate beyond your business in the case that you have staff or temporary staff.

The communications plan is one of the most important plan you can have in your arsenal of disaster planning tools.

The business contact list. The business contact list is a listing of all staff in your immediate world, whether full-time or temporary - along with the emergency numbers you put in your notification sheet; e.g. building manager, local police, fire department, hospital, etc. Always ensure that you have 2 phone numbers and 2 email addresses (1-business/1-personal). Ask your staff to add everyone’s information in their smartphone’s address. As well, suggest that they also have one family member add these numbers to their smartphone as well.

The call tree. The call tree is not a contact list although it contains all of the information that you captured for the contact list. The call tree is a process. It ensures that there are at least 2 people who are responsible for calling each staff member.

There are many problems resulting from disasters but the biggest one is that we cannot dictate what will happen and how it will play out. We can never assume that someone else will call John and John may need help.

The call tree should be tested, along with the contact information for staff at least 3-4 times as year - taking into consideration how fluid contact information is and how often it changes.

Always ensure that you have each staff member’s family contact information. Be sure that you have at least two contacts - as family members may also work in the same area and be dealing with the same event.

Finally, include two business associates that are remote to your state - who can also help you to make phone calls to find staff - on your behalf - while you are dealing with more immediate safety concerns.

This remote contact is also recommended for the family communications plan. Tag 2 remote family members in different states, with texting your family after an event.

Each remote business and family contact should be given the full emergency notification plan as they may have to handle business and be responsible for communications during the first few hours of an event. As well, should you not be able to communicate, they can call local first responders on your behalf. Ensure that they are entered into your phone as your ICE (in case of emergency) contacts - to close the loop.

We cannot always assume that we will be able to carry out our plans during an event - Thats why we include remote contacts in the communications plan. Send them your emergency notification list and your immediate contact list of staff or family.

Finally, ask your lawyer or banker to identify a remote contact in case there are legal issues that you need responded to. It would be a good time to check with your lawyer and banker for their communications plans and to find out how they can support your business during an event. Perhaps they can make payments for you, represent your business while you are focussed on immediate safety concerns, call insurances, etc.

The other important aspect of your communications plan is a listing of your accounts - banking, insurance. You want to keep this encrypted, if you keep on your smartphone - but I always recommend a hard copy version to be kept in your evacution bag, your lawyer and your remote family member. Even the generators that power cell towers and the local telephone central office only has a 5 hour limit - so you would either have to find an office with a land-line or move out of the immediate area to find cell towers that are still on-line.

Remember, the stranges things happen during events - you cannot always assume that you are going to have power, that the services you norally have will have power and that you can conduct your life or business as usual.

February 21, 2015

Accounting for Family and Staff

Filed under: Safety First — houtkin @ 2:40 pm

The last piece of the safety process is accounting for family or staff.  This part of the process requires some work and planning with your team and family members - beyond the immediate people in your home or business.

You can account for family and staff through a call tree, an evacuation assembly or meeting point and by including your staff’s family and remote family members into the call tree/communication part of your plan.

I’ve written an article on the accounting process.  I hope you capture some ideas that you may use for your own business and family.



February 15, 2015

Notification Card

Filed under: Safety First — houtkin @ 3:39 pm

Notification Card

Safety First/Take 2

Filed under: Safety First — houtkin @ 2:08 pm

For the last two weeks, I focused on the emergency notification card - This falls under: SAFETY FIRST before we even consider discussions regarding Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery.

After 911, we identified that many people did not know who to call, how to handle emergencies in their office or home and most importantly, did not know how to communicate.

Please focus on preparing this emergency notification card. It is important for you, your family, your staff and your customer. For many customers, we have to prove that we are responsible. This is one way to do that.

After 9/11 we identified that it took an average of 3 months for the customer/client to find the consultants as there was no way to really communicate with them. I recommend that you take the first step - and ensure your safety and well-being by creating your notification card and presenting it to your customer and posting it in your office, home office, etc.

I will be creating a sample and will post it to my website so you can download and begin creating your own.

The next step, after the emergency card is your company Call Tree. As a small business, you say suggest that you do not have enough staff to create one — but your family is an important connection for you - should you need help or should you evacuate without ample time to inform them.

Part of this is creating your ICE contact in your address book. Your ICE contact (in case of emergency) is the person you designate that first responders call in case you require help or if they need to report on your status.

Be aware - that although many people feel that a passcode on their smartphone or phone is crucial in today’s security climate, note that not presenting your ICE information in your phone could potentially impact your ability for someone to communicate to your family on a timely basis.

One more point about understanding your building’s evacuation process and route. Many of you, no doubt, work from home and sometimes visit a customer in their building. Take a moment to review what you would do in your home office should an evacuation be required - from a physical perspective — or if you should have a fire emergency. Do you have your go kit (which we’ll discuss in a later post), a fire extinguisher? Notification numbers? Clear stairways?

Take the time to ensure you can deal with a fire or other in-house/office emergency and then what you need to do/have to evacuate.

I visit my customers sites from time/time. I always take a look around for the exits based on where I am in the building and I always ask what the evacuation route is. I do not want to go down one stairwell that is actually the up stairwell for emergency responders. As well, some buildings have painted their evacuation stairwells with a product that absorbs and then provides light during evacuation should the electricity go out. Make sure you know how to evacuate - especially if you are in a major part of the city that could potentially be a soft target.

Know where you land.
Some stairwells go to the street and some go to the lobby. This should be part of your criteria in creating an evacuation plan if your building manager has not already defined one.

Some main lobby entrances actually take you between buildings - and some to the street. Its a good idea to get the lay of the land — so you are comfortable and knowledgeable about a clear exit.

Why do we focus on SAFETY FIRST? Basically because if you can have the best tools, the best technology, but bottom line, if you do not have anyone to engage them, they make no difference to your ability to maintain a presence as a working business after an incident.

Take the time now to check these items under SAFETY FIRST. Your business will succeed during the most difficult of times.

January 24, 2015

Safety First-Building Safety

Filed under: Safety First — houtkin @ 10:30 pm

Last post focused on gathering emergency information and compiling it into a single document that can be posted in your office and at the homes of your staff.  This post deals with safety in the building where your office is located.  Since 911, the New York City Fire Department implemented an emergency process for buildings that includes regular evacuation and life safety drills at least once a year, a building emergency team, the designation point for evacuated tenants, recommendations for staff accountability and new processes that support both evacuation and shelter-in-place scenarios.

Here is a more in-depth article on talking with your building manager about building safety.   http://www.houtkinconsulting.com/FacilitiesPosted.pdf

Some information that you may want to add to your emergency notification card that you would gather after your discussion with your building manager is:

  1. Building Manager contact
  2. Building Manager contact number
  3. Building Manager Office Location
  4. Building Emergency Number
  5. Evacuation path on your floor
  6. External building meeting point in the case of evacuation
  7. Your Floor Wardens: Names and contact Information
  8. Floor Searchers: Male and Female
  9. Personnel trained in CPR on your floor
  10. Location of Fire Phone on your Floor
  11. Location of defibrillator

Your business emergency notification may look like this with this additional information.


January 18, 2015

Small Business Disaster Recovery: Safety First

Filed under: Safety First — houtkin @ 2:00 pm

Safety First focuses on those processes and procedures dealing with two basic scenarios: evacuation and shelter-in-place.

In both cases, the required tools are:

1. Communications plans: Owner to Emergency Personnel/Organizations; Owner to building manager; owner to staff; Staff to Family

2. Communications tools: Municipal websites, email addresses and twitter accounts; Business Call Tree and annual test, wallet card; Family Call Tree.

3. Evacuation process

4. Accountability process

5. Accountability tools.

Communications Plans: Part 1 (20150118)


1. Create an emergency listing of local, municipal resources.  The main ones are: City Office of Emergency Management, Local Emergency number, Local Police Precincts, Local Firehouse, Local hospitals (at least 2-3), Poison Hotline.

Include all contact information: Municipal (311, 911), full address, current Captains, email and twitter accounts.

Everyone in your family and all staff should have access to this information and should be posted several places in the office, on the phone and in the wallet card.

Speak with your local police and firehouse regarding those processes they have put in place in case of an incident, including when you would evacuation and who will communicate that; when you would shelter-in-place and who will communicate that and recommendations for your family and business.

Check these numbers and municipal process at least twice a year.

See sample, below.

Powered by WordPress