It could be a natural disaster, extreme weather event, catastrophic health or safety breach or something less tactile like a cyber attack or loss of data. Tragedy strikes when we least expect it and can be devastating. I took my first job as a Director of Tourism & Sales for a big museum in NYC just after the 9/11 attacks and learned a lot about recovery, resilience and being able to bounce back. I worked with leaders from some of the area’s most prestigious and most visited venues to ensure that we’d be able to keep the lights on and get visitors back in to see us, support our community and help us recover.
The lessons I learned then were invaluable. Our Fire Starter Brands team has been quietly working with communities over the last few years to bring tourist back after they’ve suffered immeasurable loss. Tourism means that people in the community are working and those who are working can more easily rebuild.
While we’ve definitely learned what it takes to rebuild, this article focuses on a few things you can do now to make sure that your team, your community and your business isn’t completely off line should disaster strike.
Outages and systems failures are just some of the risks faced by organizations today and many aren’t fully aware of the threats they face. As a stakeholder owner with a lot of resources, time, and money invested in your product, it’s important to get a plan together if you don’t have one already.
Here are 7 fundamentals to prepare your business for anything:
Be REady to work From Home
“The simplest way to perform a readiness test is to stay home,” says Ken Menken, CEO of Capalon Communications, a Maryland-based provider of IT and communications services to small businesses. “With your office off-limits, what are you unable to do [remotely] for your business? The answers may surprise you, and you'll quickly know what you need to move or back up out of the office.”
For instance, one company executive told his staff to work from home on the day a superstorm was scheduled to hit. It’s only then that he learned that several employees didn’t have a home router for multiple devices or had a firewall blocking VOIP telephone service, which was a critical element of the company’s disaster recovery plan.
Make a Comprehensive List of Essentials
Figure out what you need to keep your organization running after a disaster. What are the essentials. From that list, they then develop various contingency plans.
A business with multiple offices, for example, might need a way to access their calendar and redirect appointments to another location, while a company with an archive of historical files might need to have instant access to those files if a server goes down or gets damaged. Hotels, restaurants, attractions motorcoach companies all need to know how to contact each other in the event that they need to accommodate overflow or displaced guests.
The pro advice is to actually map out an absolute worst-case scenario. What would happen if your entire office was flooded or burned to the ground? Think about everything you would need to keep things moving forward seamlessly.
Brandon Lewis, owner of advertising firm Revenue Jump in Greensboro, N.C., recommends choosing specific leaders to oversee the company in the aftermath of each likely threat, such as a tornado, hurricane or fire.
“In the event of an emergency, especially evacuations, you can’t rely on every employee to remember the emergency procedures,” Lewis says. “Leaders must be appointed and they must be trained and retrained regularly on how to implement the emergency plans [for the specific crisis] under their responsibility.”
Plan for Communications
Develop several ways to alert employees and local partners of an emergency. You may use email blasts, text blasts and voice broadcasting, which allows you to simultaneously send a voice message to everyone's office phone and cell phone.
Have a system in place to share messages and direct resources where they’re most needed. Give partners the tools they need to communicate when they’re up and running, what limited services they can offer and how they can help others.
Move to the Cloud
AppLaunch, a New York City-based PR firm for app developers, kept functioning when Sandy hit partly because all code and project information is in the cloud.
“We had every byte of our data during that week,” says CEO Chris Maddern. By providing employees with portable Wi-Fi devices, everyone could access their cloud-based project information and continue working from wherever they were based whether or not they had power. Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be expensive.
For example, Newtek Business Services, a New York City-based provider of cloud computing and other services to small businesses, can host a website in the cloud for as little as $6 a month and offers data storage for as little as $4.95 a month. Google Apps provides 5GB of backup space for free, while Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Rackspace also offer cloud-computing space.
Find an Alternative Places to Go
If you need office space, some of our clients have found relief in shared workspace companies that offer retention based plans. For a few hundred dollars a month on an annual plan, you can relocate your entire office if there’s an emergency for a certain period of time.
In the tourism world, this means identifying alternative options, places where visitors can go, attractions that will be open, restaurants that are serving great meals and hotels that are accepting overflow guests.
Ensure Everyone’s Safety
Be sure to consider what your employees may need in the event of an emergency. After some of the recent hurricanes, we saw companies provide employees with gift cards to be used for whatever essentials they needed to stay safe and continue with their work to support the community.
Great leaders check in regularly with their employees and partners after a disaster. During Hurricane Sandy, my home was on offer for anyone who needed a place to stay or recharge their devices. Understanding and supporting each other is key.
Tools, Technologies, and Marketing Strategies Built for Your Success
Whether you run a museum, a destination, theater, hotel management company, restaurant or small tourism focused business, one thing is certain:
You care about what you do.
You care about delivering the best service, the best results, and the best experience imaginable to the audiences you serve.
But to deliver the best, you have to work with the best...
You have to work with a partner ready to give you tools, technologies, and marketing expertise that will help you realize your goals, and drive your business forward.
About the Author…
Stephen Ekstrom is a tourism marketing and consulting pro whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a respected leader within the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor, creative problem solver and program facilitator.
Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, has cultivated a network that includes more than 21,000 opted-in domestic and international travel trade buyers, advising, teaching and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.