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 daily 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. 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? It’s exposed to the elements and can suffer the most damage. For this reason, any company with a disaster plan must also have a circuit redundancy plan. Creating a backup VoIP-hosted PBX system is a good way to ensure your company’s telecommunications are not interrupted during a natural disaster.

With a VoIP-hosted PBX system, all calls run over the internet. If your office loses internet access, calls can be automatically rerouted 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 least have a VoIP-hosted PBX set up as a backup for emergencies.

Setup Hunt Groups

During a natural disaster, your employees may become stranded at home. The best way to ensure they stay connected is to set up 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 (e.g., for iPhone or Android) is a great investment in your disaster plan. Once installed, a Smartphone App allows employees 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 company call reports
  • Calls can be recorded
  • Prices range from $4.99 to $9.99 one-time fee

A Desktop Client is 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, and transfer calls from their computer.

How a desktop client works:

  • The Desktop Client is downloaded to the employee’s computer
  • An employee uses a headset with a 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 company phone system and show the company caller ID
  • Calls are included in the company call reports
  • Prices from FREE to $49.99 one-time fee

Document How to Modify Your Auto-Attendant Greeting

When a disaster strikes, you need to ensure callers know of any outages.  Your disaster plan should include instructions on temporarily replacing your current auto attendant greeting with a new message. You should have documented steps and practiced them to ensure 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. Switch back When you are online, and the disaster is over.

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 your most important disaster recovery element. Most support plans include data backups, priority response and better parts availability 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 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.

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