The Communications Plan
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 - That's 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 evacuation 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 strange things happen during events - you cannot always assume that you are going to have power, that the services you normally have will have power and that you can conduct your life or business as usual.