Like just about everybody on the east coast, we are concerned about damage from Hurricane Sandy and are desperately seeking information about loved ones and business acquaintances that might have been impacted by the storm.
Getting information about family members seems a little easier, as they are mobile and are more likely to have multiple methods for making contact.
Not so for businesses. It seems that for many businesses losing electrical service seems to be equivalent to simply vanishing from the planet. Unlike twenty years ago, almost all phone systems require power at the source (old style phone were powered directly by the phone lines), so when most businesses lose power they also lose phone and internet service. That is understandable, and with the type of damage this storm caused, it will take a while to restore power to businesses that suffered no physical damage.
What is more difficult to understand is why so many businesses fail to understand that there are other ways to keep in touch with their customers. These are methods that should be used all the time, but are indispensable in times of power outages.
Most businesses do not host their own web sites and a site that has been set up for proper management can be updated with nothing more than a smart phone. This can’t be done after the fact (“fact”, in this case being the weather event), but a little preparation before the storm allows this to be done as soon as local phone companies can get temporary cell towers up and running.
An even better tool for “one to many” communication is Twitter, and there are many Twitter applications designed to let you post to a Twitter stream directly from a phone. It is simple and instantaneous.
We just discovered that one of the suppliers we are trying to contact last updated their Twitter feed in February of 2010. With no phone, no voice mail, no web site updates and no Twitter info, we can only hope for the best.
There is a better way.
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