Cobbler’s Collective: Contingency Plans

Today, we met to discuss what happens if there’s snow, illness or aliens. You know, what to do when you can’t work.

Being ever prepared, Dale brought a checklist his firm sends out to clients when the weather report looks ominous.  This sheet reminds building owners of things to check before the storm hits. We've shared it below, so you too can be ready!

We didn’t just talk about checking out your building, we also talked about checking out your computer. Do you back your computer system up?  When was the last time you double checked to make sure your backup system was working? Making sure your backup system is backing up should be part of your regular business maintenance.

(Backblaze.com is a new player in this market that is very reasonable. Gretchen uses a combination of Dropbox.com (for active projects) and Crashplan.com for longer term storage.)

And speaking of technical failure plans, do you have a plan in place if your hardware stops working?  How will you get to your work if your computer crashes, and how do you keep working once you get your data off the broken machine? Many backup software programs allow you to download your work off their servers, but you should find a time to try it when it’s not an emergency to learn how your system works. Think about having a backup computer, or at least do the research to know what you would buy in a pinch if your hardware fails.

Consider too, your service contracts. Do you have someone who regularly maintains your building? Will they be able to get in to service your equipment, or do you need to reschedule them?  Do you have someone assigned to contacting service providers? What about employees? Having a written policy in place (that everyone knows) can greatly reduce the stress of closing the office for a day or week or even a month.

We also talked about insurance. There are many flavors of insurance. (e.g. disability, errors and omissions, professional liability) Individuals should keep in mind that your personal insurance may not cover damages to work-related items. If you leave your work laptop in the car, and it gets stolen, chances are your personal insurance won’t cover the cost of replacement since it’s a “work” laptop.  As always, you should talk to your insurance representative and your lawyer.  (And do try to read the fine print on your insurance documentation, to understand what you are actually covered for.)

Finally, what happens if you pass on?  Do you have a letter of instruction for your partner (business or personal partners) that tells your person what to do with your business, clients, etc.   Does your family know who to contact about your business if you do pass on?

Sometimes you just can’t get to work, but the Cobblers universally agree that you should have a plan in place (preferably written down) for the days when you’re just not going to make it into the office.


Storm Preparedness for Commercial Buildings
from Guernsey Tingle Architects

Many of our clients have experienced major storm events in their buildings, while some have not.  Many of you have full-time maintenance and facilities staff that are much more experienced than we are at preparing for storms.  For those of you that may not, the following is a list of items to help in your storm preparations.  Add it to your other storm readiness lists.

  • Enclose or secure all outside furniture, planters, trash cans, etc.
  • Check all gutters and downspouts for clear drainage path.
  • Check all membrane roof areas for leaves, debris and other items that may clog roof drains.
  • Secure all operable windows – make sure they are locked; not just closed
  • Check outside doors for closure at threshold and astragal (where double doors meet at the center).  Most commercial doors are not designed to withstand direct wind driven rains – temporary storm closure or blocking may be needed.
  • If you have sump pumps or emergency pumps (such as elevator pits or basements), check battery backup or emergency power.
  • If you have a grinder pump, check battery backup or emergency power.
  • Check outside drain inlets to insure clear drainage path.  Look for leaves, debris, etc. that could clog drains.
  • Check security system for operation in extended power outage.  Verify emergency contact information with your security company.
  • Back up all computer programs and store backup medium offsite.  UPS systems will only last for brief power outages.
  • Check other “intelligent” systems for operation during extended power outages.

After storms and extended periods of power outage:

  • Reprogram thermostats & replace batteries.
  • Reset telephone system.
  • Reset computer servers.
  • Verify all U.P.S. systems are still functioning correctly.
  • Test emergency lights, exit signs & other emergency egress items for proper operation (note:  look for a red reset button next to fluorescent lights – these may be your emergency light fixtures).
  • Check roof drains for clear drainage path.
  • Clear out all site drain inlets
  • Check with elevator maintenance company on post-outage elevator operation.
  • Test sump pumps & grinder pumps.