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NEXT: No. 4. Create A Crisis Communications Plan
As a crisis unfolds, it's important to have a strong communications plan for employees, customers, vendors and contractors to know what's going on, according to the SBA.
It's wise to keep a current phone tree handy and create a password-protected Web page to update the public about your company's status both in the midst of the emergency and during the recovery phase.
Also, business owners should have access to primary and secondary e-mail addresses for employees, customers and suppliers. In addition, social media can be a critical component of a communications plan. Solution providers should create a Facebook page and use Twitter to provide realtime updates to the community. Companies should appoint and train an employee to be responsible for managing an internal and external media communications plan.
That's a lesson CMA Technology Solutions, a Baton Rouge, La.-based solution provider, learned during Hurricane Katrina. Even though the solution provider only lost power for four hours after the hurricane, it still couldn't connect with many employees and customers for days because much of the infrastructure for its area code was decimated for days, said Chad LeMaire, CMA's owner.
Three years later, when Hurricane Gustav belted the Gulf Coast, CMA lost power for a week, as did many customers. This time, however, CMA was much better prepared and used a strong communications plan to seize the opportunity to add services such as payroll and other critical applications for more than 20 customers, LaMaire said.
"We couldn't work for a while but we had servers [at a data center] in Dallas and a communication plan by then. Anything critical we needed, we did it through Dallas," LaMaire said. "That was huge."
A communications plan is vital to getting through an emergency situation, yet it's something many solution providers don't have, said Semel.
"When you talk communication, you'd be surprised how few resellers [answer yes] when I ask if they have the personal e-mail for their employees, not the e-mail that goes through a company server. They look at each other and laugh," Semel said. "They didn't think about their Exchange server may be down and your dot-com may not be able to communicate."
In addition to employees' personal e-mails, businesses should keep e-mails and phone numbers for insurance agents, landlords and utilities, Semel said. "Do you know your power company's phone number? Is it in your phone? Create contacts in Outlook or whatever you use and include your account numbers," Semel said.
Other contact numbers that should be accessible are for alarm companies, contractors and handymen, he said.
In addition, if events force a solution provider to move to another building, make sure there are complete change-of-address forms for FedEx, UPS and the post office, he said.