Tools for a Crisis – Get your head in the cloud

People who live and work along the Gulf Coast are very familiar with the need for a hurricane kit. Most families have a stock of food, water and critical supplies stored and ready to use in the event a major storm hits and disrupts power and other services. This works well with hurricanes because they generally develop slowly enough to provide ample time to react.

Unfortunately for most companies, crises often occur with no warning and outside of normal business hours. A well-designed, detailed crisis plan is only effective if you can access it when you need it. Often, important details, templates and procedures are kept in a binder in the office or on the company’s network. Both can be difficult to access from a weekend lake house during those critical first few "Golden Hours."

Chances are, however, you will be near a smart phone, tablet or laptop, which means you have access to a variety of cloud-based services that can be very helpful in a crisis. EvernoteDropbox and Google Drive are just three examples of cloud-based storage services that offer secure storage that is accessible from the cloud on a variety of devices. My preference is Evernote because of its robust text searching capabilities. For example, text contained in photos of whiteboard plans or scans of contact lists are searchable, making file names and tagging much less critical. 

Your crisis response plan

As with a hurricane kit, it is important to do the ground work before a crisis develops. Create a crisis response folder in your cloud service and fill it with any information you might need to respond to a crisis, such as:

• sample holding statements
• internal contact information, including home and cell phone numbers, as well as both company and personal e-mail addresses
• regulatory agencies needing notification
• detailed crisis response procedures
• approval processes
• maps

Having this information stored securely, but always available to you, will allow you to hit the ground running as soon as the call comes in. Many services, including Evernote, allow you to also store designated content locally on a device. This means that even without internet access, those documents would be available.

After the call

Once a crisis occurs, don’t forget to take advantage of the cloud. Begin to capture everything. Immediately begin taking photos or scans of notes, planning boards, etc. Many cloud services allow e-mails to be forwarded directly into your account. Scans or photos of newspaper articles should be captured. Be sure to tag each item with the event name as you upload it. This will make it easy to gather everything associated with the crisis for future reference, to support post-crisis reporting or just to archive everything in a folder. In fact, having everything captured and easily accessible can be very helpful from within the crisis response room, when information is constantly being updated, holding statements are being revised, and it becomes critical to keep up with many moving sources of information. 

For those responsible for guiding their company or client through a crisis, planning, preparation and organization are critical. The unpredictable, fast, fluid nature of a crisis in today’s media environment makes it difficult to keep up if your only tool is a three-ring binder. Do you have a favorite cloud service that has proven helpful in crisis situations?