6 disaster recovery lessons from hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Published
  • September 12 2017, 5:05am EDT
One week after Harvey flooded the Houston area, brokers in the Sunshine State can learn a few lessons about advanced planning from their peers in Texas.

6 disaster recovery lessons organizations can learn from Harvey and Irma

Just one week after Hurricane Harvey flooded the Houston area, Hurricane Irma emerged as an even more powerful Category 5 storm. The system made landfall this weekend and Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state, urging residents to evacuate the storm's path. The two back-to-back powerful hurricanes have put the focus on disaster recovery strategies. Here is what organizations can do to serve their clients and their employees in the hours and days before disaster hits.

Communicate a disaster recovery plan

Inform your clients and co-workers how you will operate after Hurricane Irma passes and rescue and recovery efforts commence. Clients will need to know how to reach you, and your coworkers will need to know how they can deliver services to clients in the wake of the storm. If your benefit advisory firm has an offsite disaster recovery center, share the address with colleagues and phone number with clients.

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Forward all calls and emails to mobile phones

Telephone and Internet connectivity may be spotty at best and disabled at worst during and after the storm. Have all forwarded office calls routed to your mobile phone. Make sure to have the phone numbers of key staffers and clients.

Change the outgoing greeting to your office telephone directory to state where clients can reach their advisers. Also, add your personal mobile phone number to your email and consider adding your personal email address as a backup as well.

Form an texting chain

If voice calls are limited due to network availability issues, establish a text message chain with employees to ensure an open line of communication.

Back up all client data

Even if your computer files are stored in the cloud, back up as much work data as possible. For contact information and critical business files, back up files to a USB stick. As a fall back plan, email them to yourself. As an extra precaution, print out your client information. A principal with Houston's Clarus Benefits Group took a hard copy of all client data with him when he left his office before Harvey struck.

Check with your IT supervisor to make sure the data is safe and can be accessed from home, on the road or a disaster recovery facility, if your benefit brokerage has designated one.

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Open the office to advisory employees and their families

After Hurricane Harvey, benefit brokerage Ascende - a branch of EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants - offered its offices for employees of the firm who lost their home to flooding. If your office is in an area with minimal damage, consider making your workplace a safe haven for co-workers and their families until they can return to their homes.

Suggest clients' employees have ID information available

Employees will most likely contact their health insurers for medical coverage and prescription questions in the wake of the storm. One adviser suggested that employees write down their account numbers and the contact information of their insurer in case they do not have an Insurance ID card handy. Also, remind clients to have their log-on and password information on hand when accessing benefits and medical coverage online.

Inform clients and colleagues of free services

After Hurricane Harvey, the National Association of health Underwriters launched a gift card drive for members in Texas who had been displaced by the storm. One brokerage started a GoFundMe account to help fellow advisers who lost their homes in the flooding. Telemedicine provider MDLive offered a one-time, free video consultation with a doctor to any victim of Hurricane Harvey, for example.