Crisis Connections

With good planning, Web and mobile technologies can help find and inform employees in the event of a disaster. A global company shows how.

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the need for training will be very low. By adding a forum or chat module to an existing secure intranet site or portal, companies can quickly document an employee's safety, while sending important information to those in the field. Messineo says that such modules are relatively easy to develop internally using tools such as Microsoft .Net and are very easy to maintain. All data can be backed up each day on a standard Dell server and on a duplicate server offsite.

Preparing for "Next Time"

While McCrae sat in the pub in the aftermath of the bombings, he was frustrated that he couldn't feed information directly to the IRS. The system was built before every executive carried a BlackBerry, so it did not allow for direct feeds from the device to the site. Instead, McCrae was sending comments about his well-being and the condition of employees to colleagues in the United States and France, who then logged the information on to the intranet.

That will change. Messineo and his IT team are now working to allow BlackBerry and cell phone users to send text directly to the IRS. This involves new coding that will accept BlackBerry messages as real-time updates. By the third quarter of this year, if a hurricane hits, a power line goes down or a bomb explodes anywhere where Gale does business, its employees will be able get in touch with the IRS instantly, Messineo says, from any device.

Although McCrae hopes there won't be a next time, he believes his experience in the hours following the bombings taught him some key lessons.

"It's important to imagine how you would respond to a wide range of crises," he says. "Then, you've got to have a system that will allow you to communicate using multiple devices. If you have flexibility, you have a much better chance of finding your employees and making sure that your property and systems are in place."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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