By Martin Burvill - President, Verizon Business Markets
It has already been a very active Atlantic hurricane season. The flood waters from Harvey have yet to subside, and already Irma is threatening the southeast of the U.S. and tropical storm Jose continues to build and move west.
Businesses in the path of a hurricane can easily be closed for several days, or weeks – severely impacting both employees and customers. Because of this we want to share with you some important actions businesses can take in preparation for the storm, to help minimize operational impact and care for their customers, employees and the local community.
Backup data, secure assets and prepare technology. If your business isn’t regularly updating files and/or backing up data, now is the time: information not also copied to backup locations or servers can be lost forever; making returning to normal business operations extremely difficult, especially if customer orders or critical financial or account information is lost and cannot be easily recovered. Try and move servers and paper files to higher physical locations wherever possible: Flooding can ruin them. Additionally, check that physical locations are secured, file cabinets are locked, and all non-essential technology devices are turned off. Wind and water can break windows and doors so information safety needs to include physical locations as well.
Finally, make sure all devices are charged – mobile phone, laptop, tablet, etc. and where you have them, mobile back-up battery packs too. Being able to communicate is key and being able to contact employees and customers as soon as the storm passes will be critical.
Employee Communication. Do you have a company policy on employee leave during natural or man-made crises? What is your plan for employees to check in during and after a storm? Your employees are your most important assets and taking steps to make sure they are prepared and safe, and that you are able to communicate with them, is a priority. Make sure you have a communication and continuity plan for your employees. If homes are flooded or property destroyed, it will be important to clearly articulate your business’s plans to support employees as you (and they) return to normal business operations.
Customer communication. Do not wait until after the storm. Communicate with your customers proactively. Let them know how you are preparing and how you plan to serve them (if possible) during the storm. Provide them with information about where they can get updates on your business operations and services – phone numbers, websites, social media properties, etc. Provide a regular schedule of updates, even if you don’t always have new information to share. The commitment to transparency will be appreciated. Customers will stay with you even if it takes a while to get back up and running.
Reach out to the community. Contact your local chamber of commerce or small business association. Reach out to local humanitarian organizations or shelters. Organize aid and relief efforts with other local companies. Businesses can and should be more than the commerce engine of a local community. During times of crisis local businesses often have the resources and the connections to serve the community as a whole. Be a support for your friends, neighbors, employees and customers.