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Stay Connected During a Natural Disaster

Could your business be vulnerable to a natural disaster? Last winter as a cold outbreak continued across central and eastern U.S.. the National Weather Service predicted the already deadly storm would worsen. And that was just the beginning of winter!

If your business relies on your telecommunications system for day to day operations,  then you should have a plan showing how to handle communications disruptions due to natural disasters. Your plan should detail how to deal with telecommunication outages including redundant phone systems if needed and how to enable employees to work from home. A little preparation goes a long way in keeping a natural disaster from hurting your business.

Cloud Based Phone System for Natural Disaster Preparedness

Did you know that the circuit provided by your local service provider (AT&T, TelePacific, XO, CBeyond, etc.) is the  weakest link of your telecommunications system? They’re exposed to the elements and therefore can suffer the most damage. For this reason, any company who has a disaster plan must also have a circuit redundancy plan. Creating a backup VoIP hosted PBX system is a good way to make sure your companies telecommunications are not interrupted during a natural disaster.

With a VoIP hosted PBX system all your calls run over the internet. If your office loses internet, your calls can be automatically re-routed to employee cell phones or alternate office locations.

While switching your entire telecommunications system to a VoIP hosted PBX system would be the best way to avoid an outage during a natural disaster, you should at the very least have a VoIP hosted PBX setup as a backup for emergencies.

Setup Hunt Groups 

During a natural disaster, your employees may become stranded at home. The best way to make sure they stay connected is to setup a Hunt Group that rings their cell phone and their work phone simultaneously. This way they still receive their calls even if they are not in the office. Most VoIP hosted PBX providers do not charge for Hunt Groups. 

Enable  Employees to Work Remotely

At under $10 a Smartphone App (i.e. for iPhone or Android) is a great investment in your disaster plan. Once installed, a Smartphone App gives employees the ability to make calls using their Smartphone from anywhere in the world as if they were in the office.

Some of the features of a Smartphone App include:

  • Company caller ID on outgoing calls  
  • The ability to transfer calls to/from other employees 
  • Up to 3 calls can be answered and put on hold at a time
  • Calls are included in the companies call reports 
  • Calls can be recorded
  • Prices range from $4.99 to $9.99 one time fee

A Desktop Client is a piece of software that allows the user to make telephone calls over the internet via a computer. The software basically imitates an office phone. With a Desktop Client an employee can make/answer/transfer calls from their computer.

How a desktop client works:

  • The Desktop Client is downloaded to the employees computer 
  • Employee uses a headset with mic
  • When a new call comes in, a screen pops up telling them that they have a call 
  • Similar to the Smartphone App, all calls on a Desktop Client go through the companies phone system and show the companies caller ID
  • Calls are included in the company call reports
  • Prices from from FREE to $49.99 one time fee

Document How to Modify Your Auto-Attendant Greeting

When a disaster strikes and you need to make sure callers are aware of any outages.  Your disaster plan should include instructions on how to temporarily replace your current auto attendant greeting with a new message. You should have documented steps and you should practice them to be sure that they work.

Here is a list of steps as an example:

  1. Make a new temporary auto attendant greeting
    • explaining any current outages or disruptions 
    • point out other ways they can contact you i.e. Help Desk etc., and ask for their patience 
  2. Switch to your temporary greeting
  3. When you are back on line and the disaster is over, switch back.

Take Your VoIP Phone Home

If you have internet access at home, you can plug your office phone into your router. (Don’t forget the power adapter .)

Priority Support

A support plan with your telecommunications vendor is the most important disaster recovery element you can have. Most support plans include data backups, priority response and better availability of parts when needed. This could be critical in getting your business up and running again. 

Conclusion

Prepare now before a natural disaster brings your company to a screeching halt. The main thing to think about is communication. If your employees are home bound due to weather travel advisories, they can still work. But, they need a way to communicate with your customers and your staff. VoIP hosted PBX systems are a great backup. Even if the telephone poles are down, you should be able to get cell service and/or internet. So be prepared for anything and have a backup plan.