09.13.2012

Consumers, Small-Business Owners Should Use 'National Preparedness Month' to Review or Prepare Emergency Communications Plans

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Preparedness Month (September) and the agency's attendant Ready Campaign offer the perfect opportunity for consumers and small-business owners to review or create emergency communications plans.

"September is the height of hurricane season, with the potential for ice storms and blizzards only a few short months away," said Tom Maguire, Verizon's senior vice president of National Operations Support.  "The time to prepare for any potential emergency is now, not when something is bearing down on you.  At Verizon, we like to say failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  We are partnering with FEMA and support its work this month and throughout the year to emphasize how important it is for consumers and small businesses to have a plan that makes unavoidable communications disruptions less of a factor during any recovery period."

As part of its efforts, Verizon will conduct a month-long education campaign, using social media properties including Twitter and Facebook.  The company will also share the National Preparedness Month Toolkit 2.0 - a digital communications tool kit for personal emergency communications planning.

(Note: See related news releases on Verizon's all-hazards approach to emergency management and business continuity tips for enterprises and government.)

FEMA issued a news release earlier this month emphasizing the core message of National Preparedness Month - to be prepared in the event an emergency causes anyone to be self-reliant for three days without utilities and electricity, water service, access to a supermarket or local services, or maybe even without response from police, fire or rescue workers.

Preparation starts with four important steps:

  • Be informed about emergencies that could happen in your community, and identify local sources of information that will be helpful before, during and after an emergency.
  • Make a plan for what to do in an emergency.
  • Build an emergency supply kit.
  • Get involved.

Verizon Consumer Check List

Verizon and Verizon Wireless suggest customers prepare for potential emergencies by taking the following steps:

  • If you have a cordless phone, get an inexpensive corded phone that plugs directly into the wall. If the power goes out, cordless phones won't work even though the line is still active. However, corded phones will work.  In addition, answering machines won't work, but Verizon voice mail service - which is powered by the network - will work and can serve as a convenient family message board.
  • Make contact lists and create communications plans for loved ones before the storm comes. If you are evacuated or are otherwise unreachable, make plans to communicate via wireless calling, text messaging, the Internet or other alternatives available at relocation sites.
  • Charge up all battery-powered devices you might be able to use, from wireless phones and PDAs to laptop computers, flashlights and radios. And check your supply of batteries.
  • FiOS customers should consider having an extra backup battery unit (BBU) to keep their in-house voice service functioning if commercial power fails.  The FiOS BBU provides up to eight hours of voice service.  The battery backup unit also has a "battery emergency use" button, which provides up to one additional hour of battery life in case a customer needs to make an emergency call.  Please note: The Verizon-supplied battery is designed specifically for use with the Verizon fiber network.  Use of a battery other than a 12-volt 7.2Ah SLA sealed lead acid battery is not recommended since other battery types may impact the performance of your service.
  • Check your local emergency-readiness authorities for their recommendations and advisories about the situation in your area. Be sure to check back with them if the situation gets worse.
  • If you live in a flood-prone area, protect sensitive equipment like computers and TVs by getting them as high above ground as you can, so when service comes back up you'll be back in business quickly.
  • Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers and email addresses, including police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers. Program them into your phone, smartphone, tablet or laptop and also have a hard copy handy, someplace easily accessible.
  • In your phone's contact list, store the number of a person to contact under the contact name ICE (in case of emergency). In an emergency, if you are seriously injured or disabled, authorities will be quickly know who to call in an emergency should you be unable to.
  • Distribute wireless phone numbers and email addresses to family members and friends.
  • Forward your home phone calls to your wireless number if you will be away or need to evacuate.
  • Set up all social media and email accounts for you, your family and friends on all wireless phones, tablets and other devices as a method of communication and means to alert contacts of your status and location.
  • Set up your work email and server log-in (when allowed) to your wireless device to stay updated with co-workers in the event of emergency office closures.
  • Develop a systematic evacuation and communications plan with family and friends that includes what to do; who calls whom; where to go; and what supplies and items you will take with you.
  • Download Back-up Assistant, Verizon's free application that stores your phone's address book and contact information on a secure server in case the phone is lost or damaged.
  • Download weather applications and alerts that provide users with a variety of information such as radar images, forecasts and severe storm warnings.
  • Download apps and subscribe to alerts from aid and relief organizations such as the American Red Cross' apps for first aid, hurricane and shelter, and FEMA's Commercial Mobile Alert System.
  • Location-based services provide peace of mind, so that you know where your family members are located.  Specialized devices can provide single-button notification services for medical or other emergencies.
  • To help preserve battery life, turn off background data applications or Wi-Fi search services if you have a wireless device that is capable of these communications. (Note that your device will not receive alerts while data is turned off.)

Additional Tips for Small-Business Customers

Many of the tips for consumers apply to small businesses, but there are additional steps business owners or managers will want to take:  

  • Back up your archives and documents, including critical business data, stored on your computers. Verizon's Online Backup & Sharing will allow any small-business owner to back up these important files to secure remote servers that only the user can access from anywhere with an Internet connection, including via a smartphone.
  • Consider adding a Jetpack to your disaster survival tool kit.  A fully charged mobile hot spot can give you 4G LTE access instantaneously.  Plus, Mobile Hotspot users can share their signal with several devices, enabling fellow disaster victims to gain access.
  • Update the "Contact Us" page on your website to include an email address. This is an additional method of communication for your customers to keep in touch with you.
  • Add sign-up forms to your website and other social media platforms to capture contact information for your customers. This will allow you to communicate with them in case you have to temporarily close your business.

Verizon offers many free resources to give small businesses an edge over their competition, including free webinars; click here to get even more tips and insights on disaster planning. To read more about disaster recovery, read this post. Click here for a short video from Verizon offering key tips to be ready and prepared in the event of an emergency.

For more information about all of Verizon's services, visit www.verizon.com.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to consumer, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, with more than 94 million retail customers nationwide.  Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries, including all of the Fortune 500.  A Dow 30 company with $111 billion in 2011 revenues, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 188,000.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.

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