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#4.14: The “When The Lights Go Out” Issue

The big blackout reminded us all about safety procedures, but what about the all-electronic office?

1> Keep The Phones Working
2> Create An Electricity-Free Contact Plan
3> Make A Plan While The Lights Are Still On
4> Check It Out: Movies About Blackouts

1> Keep The Phones Working

When the power goes out, you’re going to lose your office phone system, and cell phones only last until the battery is gone. Here’s how to stay in touch:

  • Copy all important phone numbers off your cell phone and PDA. You can always use a pay phone, but when the battery is gone you can’t look up critical contacts.
  • Get a plain old phone. Your phone line will work when the power is out — but cordless phones and digital office phones don’t. Make sure you have a regular phone line with a $10 phone plugged into it at home and work.
  • Save your cell phone battery for incoming calls. You’re not likely to be able to reach anyone, and every attempt costs a little battery power. Save it for someone trying to reach you.

THE LESSON: Gadgets are cool as long as they have juice. Make sure you can do it the old-fashioned way when you need to.

2> Create An Electricity-Free Contact Plan

Does everyone in your office know how to stay in touch and where to go? Put the plan in place before you need it.

  • Print up emergency contact information for everyone. Give everyone a paper copy of the list. The online staff directory doesn’t do much good on the out-of-power office intranet. You may want to include key clients, vendors, and the elevator rescue number.
  • Print directions to get to safe places near the office. People may be stranded nearby or not able to get back upstairs. Include the addresses and phone numbers of staff who live close to work. Everyone should share the list with their families as a possible place they might be waiting.
  • Set up an emergency phone number with voice mail. Your team can call in to get updates on what to do and where to meet. Staff and families can also leave messages so you know they are ok. Use a service based in some other city so it still works when the local power is out.
  • Create an office phone chain, so everyone knows who to check in with, and so everyone is accounted for.

THE LESSON: Your phone directory, phone system, and voice mail won’t be working. Have a low-tech alternative.

3> Make A Plan While The Lights Are Still On

We forget about the little stuff that needs a power cord — until we need it!

  • Check that electronic door locks and door buzzers can be opened manually. Make sure everyone knows where the emergency keys are hidden.
  • Keep a few battery-powered radios around the office, along with flashlights and lots of batteries.
  • Keep a healthy stash of cash. The ATMs won’t be working, and many people might be caught short. Don’t let anyone leave the office without enough cash for food and transportation.
  • Post emergency computer instructions in case you lose power when the IT guys aren’t around. It’s always better to shut things down properly than let them crash.

THE LESSON: Don’t wait until it’s dark to figure out what isn’t going to work.

4> Check It Out: Movies About Blackouts

Summer of Sam
http://imdb.com/Title?0162677

Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
http://imdb.com/Title?0063801

100 Girls
http://imdb.com/Title?0214388

Pitch Black
http://imdb.com/Title?0134847

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