Hurricane season began June 1 and the peak of the season runs from mid-August through October. With our headquarters in Tampa, Florida, we know what it’s like to be running a business in hurricane country.
My number one concern in disaster situations is the safety and well-being of our colleagues, but I also know how important it is that we keep our business up continuously to keep our partners supported. If our organization’s services are not up and running every day, that increases our chances of continuity challenges in the long term and impacts the well-being of our partners and colleagues. Those are our areas of concern and everything we implemented from a planning standpoint for last year’s hurricane season was done to address those topics.
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While this can be a stressful time, we at ConnectWise have discovered that there are several best practices you can use to help your business stay safe, secure, and successful when the toughest of storms hit.
1. Get Prepared Early
This is my top tip to other business leaders: The number one thing you can do is be prepared well in advance for hurricane season. That way, if something were to happen, you already have a plan in place.
When Hurricane Irma first showed up on the radar last year, we were watching it carefully from the beginning. As we saw other storms begin to appear, we were carefully watching the forecast, which was predicting a severe storm with the potential to do serious damage in the Tampa area. We were not taking any chances -- we were going to be well equipped.
We started the hands-on preparation checklist more than a week in advance and we had our mission critical team identified and mobilized well in advance. Ultimately, we had to be prepared for every possible scenario, including the worst case and a full evacuation. That required us to make sure all preparations and action plans were in place so we would remain operational regardless of what played out.
Before the storm hit our coast, we had all parties identified and ready to go and all business continuity plans in place. What we can vouch for is that the safety of your employees and the effectiveness of your business really does come down to the preparations you have in advance.
2. Build (or Update) Your Action Plan and Test It
Regardless of the time of year, build an action plan and put your team through at least one test run. That way, if a hurricane or other natural disaster does occur, your staff can execute against an established blueprint and checklist. Have backups in place if something changes on your team, including people leaving or joining the team.
In a moment of crisis, you don’t want to be sitting there asking “What are we going to do?” But, if you don’t have a plan in place -- that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. If you’ve built and documented a disaster action plan and checklist, you'll find your company will run much smoother in an emergency.
3. Form a Mission-Critical Team
Our mission-critical team consisted of 10-15 people inside the company who were prepared and empowered to make decisions on next steps and delegate responsibilities. We make sure every member of the team had a crystal-clear understanding of their role in the days leading up to a potential disaster.
When Irma came, we had a team in place in Tampa to make sure that our colleagues and company made it through safely. We were on the phone four times a day with status updates, verifying reports, making sure we could relay information to our customers and colleagues.
In a moment of crisis, we built a team that could oversee the most pressing needs of our customers, keeping us operational without putting our colleagues in unnecessary danger. Building your own mission-critical team should start with considering the size and capability of your company, and also include any team members you can call on in other areas that may not be impacted by the storm. We were lucky to be able to call on our colleagues in Raleigh, Seattle, and London to help see us through.
Choose a team that you trust to get the job done, clearly outline expectations, and keep the lines of communication open to make sure your mission-critical team can succeed.
To handle business continuity properly, we knew that overcommunication was key for our partners, and our colleagues. Standard information updates came from the hurricane center four times a day, which allowed us to get the latest information out each time so that our business, our colleagues, and their families were knowledgeable on our current situation.
During Hurricane Irma, our colleagues and partners all had varying circumstances when it came to receiving communication – for example, someone might have lost access to their telephone but still had access to the internet or Facebook.
Everyone consumed information differently, so we needed to broadcast on a variety of platforms. When executing our action plan, all methods of communication were used including: email, social media, crisis hotlines, and notifications on our support page. Whatever you do, give your followers, colleagues, and partners a status on your position during the storm. During and after the storm, we heard from our partners that they were appreciative of our communication efforts.
Overall, preparing for a storm and putting together an action plan is a healthy balance of managing priorities. We’re focused first on making sure our colleagues are safe from danger, and then on protecting our business and partners from down service.
That’s why we try to communicate the “why” behind our actions. Ultimately, you’re not going to be able to make everyone 100 percent happy, but when you make an action plan – balance your priorities, take employee and company needs into consideration. Then, make sure you are communicating why you’re making the decisions you are.
This hurricane season, we once again have a solid plan in place and we have taken the time to consider how to keep our colleagues safe, our clients reassured, our business up and running. The only thing we will change to our process this year is that everything will be in the cloud in advance, including payments, processing, and phones. We are implementing this so that when a storm comes, colleagues can simply pick up their belongings and laptops and leave, and our company will still be fully operational inside or outside of our buildings.
Ultimately, being prepared for a potential disaster is something that takes careful thought and planning. Your safety and success are something we care about deeply, which is why we’ve created a resource page with further in-depth details and disaster protocol checklists. While every tech company is different, having a firm grasp on basic disaster best practices will help keep your business healthy if a hurricane should ever hit.
Plan now for the storm season. Download our disaster checklist to make sure your business is prepared.