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Evaluating a 4Ci System for Your Organization

You should look for the following features in any 4Ci system:

  • Ability to route any number to any other number. A 4Ci system should allow you (not the phone company) to move mission-critical inbound numbers instantly to any working telephone number that was lucky enough to survive the disaster. This could be a branch office, residence, wireless, VoIP, or satellite phone.
  • Familiarity for the customer. Any system of this type should give you the ability to duplicate the same call prompts (press 1 for sales, 2 for customer service, etc.) as in your current system. You shouldn’t have to retrain your callers; in fact, if you do it correctly, callers may never even know that you’ve experienced a disaster.
  • Ease of activation. A 4Ci system should allow for "launch the missiles" accuracy in activation. It should give you multiple means of activating your plan, such as via a web connection, touchtone phone, PDA, etc. It’s impossible to predict what technology will or won’t survive a disaster, so give yourself every option.
  • Reaching responders wherever they are. At home, in the office or the car, via pager, PDA, or text message, you should never lose touch with key first responders. Short of someone being in the bathtub, which for most people (except my daughters) is an endeavor of finite duration, you should be able to reach most responders within a reasonable time if you plan ahead. For example, look for a "find me, follow me" feature, which sequentially tries all possible contact devices until the person is found. Remember, you shouldn’t be looking up numbers. If the system isn’t smart enough to handle all this simply by your dialing the original disaster number, you don’t want it.
  • One-step callout of first responders. The system should allow for emergency notification messages that can be instantly set up by you and broadcast to hundreds of responders based on the disaster. A good system allows the recipient to be prompted to press a digit to acknowledge hearing the recording, or to be placed instantly into a voice conference with other members of his or her team. The system should also keep a log of who was contacted successfully and who wasn’t—useful in any mass mobilization. A very desirable feature is "technology transparency." Emergency notification messages that can be sent to any message recipient’s network-connected device (phone, PDA, pager, text, etc.), independent of the delivery medium, would be very useful indeed.
  • Allows for quick message changes. Planning for one disaster but another happens? Count on that. Messages and call menus should be changeable in seconds from your phone or PC.
  • Fax—both incoming and outgoing. The system should forward incoming faxes to email accounts or hotel fax machines, or hold them in storage for later retrieval. The system also should be capable of sending faxes, including broadcasting to hundreds of locations.

I’m hot on these 4Ci notification systems because I believe that they have the potential to revolutionize the disaster recovery business. For example, why send people hundreds of miles to find workspace and lodging? With 4Ci technologies, any nearby hotel with high-speed Internet access can become a recovery center.

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