Gilbert Directs 6th Annual Preparedness Guide to Surviving a Disaster

This may be the most important blog post you read this week.  As I am writing this, there’s actually a tropical disturbance brewing in the Atlantic. We’ve already suffered through earthquakes in major regions and a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus I felt it was time for my yearly guide to disaster preparation, right in time for hurricane and tornado season.

Much like a four-letter word, disasters happen in all forms just about anywhere, without warning, at any time. So prepare your company and yourself. Here’s a disaster-readiness checklist I suggest you look over carefully. If you think you’re on top of it, compare your list to this one to ensure you have all the bases covered.

  • Have a business survival disaster plan in place. Get your department heads involved as stakeholders. Let your employees know what to do in the event of any emergency.
  • Publish a list of all emergency contact numbers for your key personnel and vendors. Include home and cell phone numbers, as well as home email addresses as alternative ways of contact if main communication channels go down. And don’t forget instant messaging and Skype addresses, as well as text messages.
  • Twitter and Facebook can be effective tools for communicating with your employees, vendors and customers during times of crisis.
  • Designate someone in your company as chief disaster planning officer.
  • Back up your computers and computer systems regularly. Then back up your backups. Most importantly, keep them off-site. I have five backup drives and all my files backed up on DVDs. There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data, and those who will lose it. I fall into the first category: Last year one of my backup drives failed with more than 750 gigabytes of data on it. Luckily, while I lost three-quarters of a terabyte of data, I had almost all of it backed up on DVDs. I’m one of the fortunate ones who lost a little, not a lot.
  • Work with your call center so it can operate if a disaster strikes. If you use an external call center, inquire about its disaster plan.
  • If your call center is on-site, consider hiring a backup call-center staff to field calls in case of emergency (this saved one my clients’ bacon a few years ago).
  • If you host your own website, have a plan in place in case you lose all power. Find out what your ISP does if it loses all electricity.
  • If your business is in a disaster-prone area, buy a generator.
  • If your business isn’t in a disaster-prone area, contact any vendors that are. Disasters, either natural or man-made, can interrupt your workflow with printers, the Postal Service or any other vendors.
  • Don’t market into disaster-impacted areas because they won’t respond. If you’ve already marketed in a disaster-impacted area, adjust your projections downward.

Bottom line for all this, remember my motto (or is it the Boy Scout motto?): ALWAYS BE PREPARED!

Do you have a disaster plan? Feel free to add to this list by posting a comment below.

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One Response

  1. Hey Jim, this is a great post.

    First, the file backup plan is OH SO TRUE. i had a relatively small scare about 8 years ago with a 3/4 completed catalog on my hard drive when it failed. i took it to a specialist genius who charged me just $1000 to save enough of the drive and copy it on a new one but the anxiety was just awful.

    The good news is, the catalog happened to be safe but if it weren’t for him that would not have mattered.

    That being he case, network NOW to find that Savant who knows how to save data — just in case. But since that i’ve been using an automatic backup program with a portable hard drive backing up everything, every day.

    Also – At one point when my mac’s hard drive was a little wiggy I actually had two portable drives – one with the actual projects and one with the backup.

    Frankly it is reassuring to have something small and portable holding your current work so that you can take it, with your laptop, and go, go, go if need be. I love my huge computer monitor and system but I’m prepared to work big jobs off my laptop with just a little effort.

    Having lived through a major earthquake and having a client who survived Katrina, I have some additional stuff to suggest. These ideas for the most part involve a trip to the hardware store but it’s worth it to do just that…

    If you’re in a hurricane area:
    • Keep a stash of plastic sheeting/tarps and duct tape stored away to cover up left-behind equipment and desks in case you have to leave your office/home. When the hurricane’s coming they disappear from the stores like hotcakes and they’re much more expensive, too. My client removed some equipment but couldn’t remove all of it. When a window blew out of his offices during Katrina, the tarps protected everything nicely.

    If you’re in any disaster area – like anywhere at all:
    • Get those L-shaped brackets and an instrument that locates the studs in your walls, and some bolts/screws – then bolt your furniture to the walls if it’s taller than 5 feet. Consider doing it with shorter pieces if they hold valuable equipment. Get some nylon straps, and strap bigger computers to the stands — if you have a very expensive printer like a big Epson, try to attach it into place too, This kind of thing really saved me when i lived a mile from the epicenter of the Northridge quake. That equipment and furniture really gets tossed! My husband is the planner, thank God, and he helped set up my studio including those details.

    Just to give you an idea of the power of a quake, our 6 ft tall, 7 ft wide cherry breakfront was bolted into 2 studs, and the earthquake jolt tore it out of the studs and it ‘walked’ into the room about 2 feet. If it had not been bolted, it would have fallen over with all of the china and glassware, and also probably destroyed the furniture and anyone standing in front of it.

    • Keep a supply of water available. In most offices there is no hot water heater. couple of extra water cooler bottles are a good idea. In a home, you have that for some water source and also we have a spa that is drinkable water. But after a disaster the water can be off completely for a week or more. You need it to clean up the messes that happen when liquids fall and smash on the floor, as well as for drinking and flushing the toilet.

    • Carry a travel kit with a toothbrush and some non-perishable toiletries like hotel shampoo samples and such, and a small bottle of liquid woolite, a half dozen food bars, a six pack of water, a pair of sneakers, a towel and a blanket in your car. Note, the trunk gets hot so you’ll have to give yourself an automatic reminder on your calendar to change some of it out once every six months. But the security is worth it. disaster happens when you’re at work you’ll be ready to camp anywhere.

    i probably sound like a zealot but you are right – you prepare just once and then you’re covered.

    BTW… A friend of mine also reminded me that i should have a solar battery charger. hmmm. i think i saw one on ThinkGeek…


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