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Disaster Guide

Define Disaster:  (This will vary based on your location)

Example:  A disaster is a natural or unnatural event that is destructive to our clients personal and business properties and threatens our ability to serve.

Determine the roles of employees:

  • Who implements the plan?
  • Who's responsible for checking physical office location and determining the safety of the space?
  • Who speaks with the media?
  • When should will the plan be implemented and by whom?
  • What policies are in place for remote access/work?
  • Is there an alternate location/CAT van should you be in an area prone to disaster?
  • Who will monitor closures and safety?

Employee expectations during a disaster:

  • Publish clear and concise guidelines for employee communication.
  • Establish minimum expectations of work attendance in advance.

Organization tree:

  • Have employee contact information and communication process in place.
  • Utilize text/email services to communicate closers or alternate plans.

Automation:

  • Be prepared to serve with loss of power, phone and internet connectivity
  • Determine if there is a need for alternate call center service: CSR 24, Insights, Centratel, etc.
  • Additional Resources: FEMA; Comprehensive Preparedness Guide/Needs Assessment

Data:

  • Publish and establish guidelines for the sharing of customer data with vendors, carriers, and partnerships.

Client communication

  • Be prepared to communicate with clients via your agency-customer portal, social media, email or AMS.

Sample disaster plans: https://sba.thehartford.com/managing-employees/how-to-create-a-disaster-plan-for-your-small-business/  


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Before the event:

Prepare your team and systems

 Power, phone and internet

  • Have contact information for power, phone and internet companies should you need to check on service.
  • Determine minimum power needs to support customers - number of servers, computers, phone systems, lights, printers, etc.  Include amp drain from multiple power strips.
  • Research back-up power supply and telecom solutions. Once implimented test often.
  • Document the process for using back-ups.
  • Resources: Energy.gov:  Choosing the Right Backup Generator

Alternate location

  • Have a written agreement and clear proccess for use of alternative locations (home offices, CAT vans, alternate business locations)
  • Set standards for back-up power (generators or UPS) and telecom solutions (fiber, landline, cell phone, wireless hotspot) for home offices or alternate locations  
  • Consider Hot and Cold sites and develop a test CAT process

Does your agency need  CAT vehicle? 

  • Is there need for a trailer or van and is it in the budget?
  • What equipment would your CAT location need post catastrophe (fuel, equipment, supplies)
  • Develop a deployment process and keep staff educated on the process (Where should it go? How do you notify clients?)
  • If it needs replaced, where will you find a replacement?

 

Prepare physical office location

Prepare to minimize damage:

  • Identify areas most vulnerable, and least vulnerable, to damage from a catastrophe (wind, rain, fire, rising water).
  •  Determine steps to minimize damage, such as: shutters or pre-cut plywood sections for windows, sandbags around doorways, moving equipment to interior portions of the office, fire suppression, etc.  
  • Identify which items of equipment, furniture, records, and supplies could be moved to safer portions of the office, or to off-premises locations.
  • Consider the need to elevate certain items off the floor if rising water is a serious  threat. Procure the equipment needed, such as blocks of wood or concrete  blocks.
  • Smaller items can  be stored on desks, or in restrooms (which are usually interior, windowless rooms). 
  • Identify promising sites, and  make  contact  with  the  owner  or leasing agent, so that final arrangements can be made in short order after a catastrophe if the need arises.

Record keeping

  •  If not fully paperless, be prepared to protect and secure all files, manuals, and records.
  • Tape cabinets and drawers shut, and elevate.
  • Cover all equipment, furniture, file cabinets, and storage containers for records with plastic (such as visqueen or garbage bags), and tape tightly.
  • If you have computers or servers on the ground, elevate them to the tops of desks or other higher locations, and unplug all electrical items, and turn off breakers before leaving the office.

Assessment of travel to facility for employees and clients

  • Checking with local and state associations for regulations for safety
  • If there is a known catastrophe, state EOC's may setup local insurance villages. Reach out to your state association in advance if these are predefined

 During the event:  

  • Seek safety
  • Keep tuned to news or other state channels and alerts
  • Execute previously communicated plan
  • Communicate with vendors (power, website, service providers, etc.)
  • Test systems safely if possible
  • Ensure safety and security of vehicle, and fuel.

After the event:

  • After ensuring family and home are safe, assess the safety and damage of staff, and see what remedies can be established to ensure safety of staff.
  • Once all staff and their issues are identified proceed to assess the safety of the building for the consumer as well as access as your building may be fine, but roadways may limit access
  • Proceed to asses the damage of the agency plant, and initiate your catastrophe plan.
  • Monitor power/back-up power and other services necessary for business
  • Follow up with your local catastrophe liaisons if your state has a CAT committee and if any insurance villages were enacted.
  • Monitor running condition of generator, ensure fuel needed to keep running is available.

 

Before the event:

Include communication processes in your plan:

  • Employees: Develop a written guide so that employees are aware and educated on their specific responsibilities
  • Customers: Develop and publish on your agency website and reference material the definitions of disaster and the behavior and expectations that your customers can expect, including disaster levels and communication methods
  • Carriers and Vendors: Development and implementation of escalation plans and partnership execution planning
  • Keep staff contact information and preferences current.  Develop a phone tree, based on line-of-business and departmental needs.
  • Be prepared to update your websites and social media during a disaster from any locaton.

Systems:

  • Have a combination of alternative communications systems in place such as landlines, VOIP, cell/satellite service, redundant Internet access.
  • Phone: Identify staff cell/satellite phones that could be used in an emergency. Know how to reroute phone numbers to another location (VOIP).
  • Internet: Ensure multiple ways to access and communicate via agency website, social media, and email via desktop and available mobile devices.

Website :

  • Host website with a reputable vendor that offers uptime guarantees.
  • Ensure agency staff can edit website content, at and away from the office.
  • CRITICAL: Your website needs to be mobile-friendly to meet the needs of people whose landlines are cut, or who are displaced by disasters. 

During the event:

  • Deploy staff communciation plan.
  • Contact staff to see if they have been impacted and are OK.  Determine available staff, and schedule help to initiate disaster plan.
  • Publish alternative numbers on agency website, social media, blast emails and other available communications channels. Ensure adequate staffing for alternative numbers.
  • Distribute communication notifications at regular intervals even if nothing has changed so that customer have a clear understanding.
  • Publish for employees and customers points of contact for vendors and carriers.
  • Update website with critical information. Verify that it correctly displays on desktop and mobile versions.
  • Keep social channels updated with key information. Monitor and reply as necessary.

After the event:

  • Ensure you have a process to flip back to normal phone operations as part of your failover process.
  • Create process to ensure staff does periodic follow-ups with impacted clients to ensure service needs are being covered.
  • Take down emergency information. Review analytics and other feedback; periodically debrief staff to ensure and iterative process improvement.
  • Continue to use social channels to relay any carrier alerts and updates, federal agency offerings, and significant updates.