4 Steps to Help Your IT Team When Disaster Strikes

CIOs who have been through disasters share ideas to help employees cope personally and professionally in a catastrophe, so they can help with business recovery.

IT leaders who have been through disasters have rethought what to include in business-continuity plans. Their plans include alternative uses for technology and practical emergency-preparedness measures designed to keep employees cared-for during a crisis. (For more on leadership during a crisis, see "How to Be a Better Leader in a Disaster.")

1. Have at least two alternatives for paying employees during an emergency when normal operating data might be inaccessible, says Martin Gomberg, CIO of A&E Television Networks. Options include rerunning a prior payroll cycle at a backup site or offering a fixed amount of money to everyone and making up the difference later, he says.

2. If you do business in a place where the telecommunications infrastructure is under government control or subject to outages, configure some satellite phones, advises Sonya Christian, CIO of West Georgia Health. Christian was running IT at Slidell Memorial Hospital in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, and she wishes she’d had sat phones then. Now she includes them in her disaster toolbox. “We maintain them year-round to be available during storm season,” she says. (Read about Christian’s plans to secure mobile devices in “Data on the Run.”)

3. Prepare to use internal websites to keep in touch with employees if cell service is out, says Lon Anderson, vice president of corporate IT at ICF International, a technology services firm. Anderson was a senior IT leader at Hibernia National Bank in Louisiana, which used a Web application that became a hub for employees and customers after Hurricane Katrina hit. Ask news sites to publish the Web addresses to get the word out.

4. Certify as many staff members as possible in emergency-response training, including how to respond to shock, perform CPR and treat exhaustion, Christian advises. Have a second disaster-management team ready to relieve the first responders soon into the emergency, to alleviate physical and emotional fatigue, she adds.

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.

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