Calling storm safety plans

It’s scarcely a month since we were talking about the effects of Hurricane Irma and now we have our own hurricane to worry about.  Ironically in a week in which various news reports have been looking at the lasting effects of the great storm of 1987; exactly thirty years to the day on from that event, Hurricane Ophelia is set to hit our shores.

Ireland is expected to bear the brunt of the onslaught with all schools and many businesses shut. In a public broadcast Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged people to stay indoors and to work from home wherever possible.  Even in the immediate aftermath of the storm it may not be safe to venture outside with trees and power lines down making roads impassable.

The UK won’t escape unscathed either with winds of up to 80mph expected to start hitting the western half of the country on Monday afternoon. For businesses that means it’s time to dust off those business continuity plans and take appropriate action.

Often when disaster strikes we have no warning and have to hope that the plans we made in peaceful times will carry us through the disaster. But at times like this when we do have plenty of warning there is no excuse not to take action. First of all that means ensuring the safety of staff, suppliers and customers. Luckily we have not yet reached the time of year when the evening commute is carried out in the dark, but with high winds expected to continue well into the night it may be worth reviewing staff travel arrangements and sending people home early if appropriate. For those businesses which operate on a customer or supplier appointment basis, it may also be appropriate to review whether those appointments should be rescheduled.

With some level of infrastructure damage expected, there is a chance that phone connectivity may be lost. Having a telephone continuity plan can help the business not only stay touch with key individuals but also to organise any recovery process that may be required. Continuity options range from a simple phone divert to the maintenance of a complete backup hosted PBX switchboard. Bulk SMS text messages can be used to inform staff, suppliers and key clients of the ongoing situation, whilst the provision of an information line enables the business to issue regular update bulletins which can be accessed by a wider constituency.

With staff working from home, a straight divert either to landline or mobile can see calls directed as appropriate.  Should that prove unfeasible then you may opt for answerphone messages being forwarded as a .wav audio file to nominated e-mail addresses or accessed at a central point for onward dissemination. Answerphone messages can also be used as a quasi roll call to ensure the safety of employees immediately following an incident.

For many businesses phone connectivity is their lifeline.  By ensuring continuity of communications, organisations can help to ensure business as usual whilst at the same time helping to ensure the safety of their employees and others.

Written by Alison