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The Right Stuff

A number of new technologies and services are available today to keep you in control in a disaster. These are designed to help get the word out immediately about any emergency, including severe weather, fire, sabotage and terrorism, system failures, and more. (The 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech are a noteworthy example.) These technologies are referred to as "mass notification systems." The purpose of a mass notification system is to "get the word out" to lots of people quickly, whether the message recipients are residents of a city, employees of a company, first responders such as police or fire, students on a campus, or whomever.

In the past, a person had to do the work, sitting at a telephone calling number after number. Later technology introduced equipment such as auto-dialers that called a list of numbers and played a recorded message. (Probably just leaving hundreds of voice mail messages, given the way we do business today.) Today, very advanced systems offer features such as "find me, follow me" that ring a responder’s office, home, mobile phone, and/or pager numbers sequentially until the message is delivered. Some systems ask the recipient to press a key to acknowledge having received the message, assuring that a critical bulletin is not languishing somewhere on a voice mail system.

But mass notification is only one aspect of a full-blown 4Ci system. An equally important feature in such a system is the ability to restore inbound phone calls. This is a much more difficult problem. Recovery plans of the past responded to changed work locations by publishing "emergency" phone numbers that differed from the original numbers. This practice just doesn’t work. In the heat of a disaster, people don’t remember to look up new numbers. Your customers certainly won’t know those new numbers, either. Therefore, it’s essential to redirect the original numbers to the emergency work location automatically, to maintain 4Ci in a disaster and assure your customers that everything is okay.

A company called Telecom Recovery provides an interesting package that accomplishes both of these goals. The system answers or directs inbound calls in order to maintain business as usual in the eyes of callers and customers, and also performs outbound notification. In the process, it also allows two essential capabilities:

  • It enables the troubled business to redirect inbound calls without having to call the phone company. This is important: Imagine trying to get Bell South on the phone in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • It allows for graceful coordination of hundreds of employees, citizens, or other first responders, by team and function. One cool feature is the ability to call specific groups of people—by recovery team, for instance—and place them in instant conference with one another. This could be an indispensable means of retaining 4Ci in a disaster, because the machines, rather than you, remember the phone numbers.

Telecom Recovery states that there’s no need to change service providers, and the solution is vendor-independent—meaning that all local, long distance, and toll-free services stay with your present provider. Because each vendor has different methods for forwarding calls, Telecom Recovery has proficiency in those technologies as well.

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