Hurricane Irene: Avoid FUD, Preach Preparation

Hurricane Irene: Avoid FUD, Preach Preparation

My week started with a minor earthquake. Apparently, it will end with a hurricane. As Hurricane Irene heads up the U.S. east coast, most of my neighbors here on Long Island are securing their yards and loading up on water, batteries... you know the drill. As for me? I'm blogging -- and delegating Hurricane Preparation Duties to my always-reliable wife. So, what should managed services providers be doing right now? Here's the checklist.

First, don't try to blatantly cash in on a natural disaster. Instead of selling business continuity services right here, right now, start with an alert to your existing customers. Offer them calm guidance both on a personal and professional level.

Not sure where to start? Follow Mike Semel's lead. Semel is VP and chief security officer for Business Continuity Technologies. His father's small business was nearly destroyed by a hurricane roughly 40 years ago. Ever since, Semel has played a leading role in helping SMBs to prepare for disasters, minimize damage, and restore operations fast. Semel also played a key role in developing the HTG Peer Groups' Hands That Give program, an insurance plan of sorts to ensure member MSPs aren't left behind amid a personal or professional emergency.

A Simple Emergency Checklist

Instead of hyping his business continuity expertise, Semel has been preaching personal preparation over the past couple of days. He offers up the following tip sheet to anyone interested. It states:
Hurricane Irene is moving towards the East Coast. Is your family prepared? How about your business?  Hopefully this checklist will help you...Please share this with your family and business associates.
  • ____ Family Communications Plan – write down critical cell and landline numbers in case your phone dies; know where you will meet if cell towers and landline phones go out; designate an out-of-area relative everyone should contact if they can’t reach each other
  • ____ Cell phones – text messages use less battery and get through when calls can’t; external batteries are available to keep your cell phone powered when the internal battery dies; pack your car charger and home charger if you evacuate; extend your battery by turning off wi-fi and other services you aren’t using
  • ____ Computers—back up critical data onto external hard drives, thumb drives, or online services; if you have to evacuate take critical equipment with you or seal it in garbage bags to protect against water damage
  • ____ Water – Buy water or fill pots and pitchers with drinking water – 1 gallon per day per person; water systems may be contaminated and unsafe for drinking
  • ____ Food – non-perishable food you don’t have to cook
  • ____ Cash—credit cards won’t work if power and communications go down. Withdraw $ 200 - $ 300 so you can make purchases
  • ____ Automobile—fill your gas tank when you first hear a warning; gas pumps won’t work if power fails
  • ____ Evacuation – have a backpack or overnight bag with clothes, medications, sweatshirt and sweatpants; extra glasses, personal hygiene supplies; energy bars; emergency blankets (look in the camping supply areas of sporting goods or department stores); follow instructions to shut off water, gas, and electricity before you leave
  • ____ Hand-crank weather radio – these also charge cell phones through a USB cable. Purchase one at Lowes, Home Depot, Sam’s, Costco, or Wal-mart. Make sure the radio has SAME alerting so you will only receive alerts for your local area.
  • ____ Batteries – enough for flashlights, lanterns, radios
  • ____ LED lanterns—no need for fuel or mantles; safer than candles; some lanterns come with removable LED flashlights
  • ____ Common Sense – evacuate if your local government issues an order; don’t drive through flooded streets; stay away from downed wires
  • ____ Don’t panic -- keep your cool for your own safety and your family’s
Memo to Semel: Thanks for the valuable guidance. I'm printing it for my family and neighbors now.

Once the Hurricane Irene cleanup begins, you can bet Semel's email inbox and voicemail will be packed with inquiries from peers and customers. The key takeaway: Semel didn't start pitching his 40 years of experience. He simply shared key insights when customers and peers needed it most. MSPs should follow his lead.
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