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 Lessons from Sandy: Planning internal communications protocols ahead of the next disaster

As Hurricane Sandy gathered strength in the Atlantic Ocean and prepared to wreak havoc on the East Coast of the US, businesses in its projected path prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. While businesses were unsure of where the storm would hit they could be certain of one thing: their recovery would depend in large part on how well they communicated before, during and after the storm.  

"To be ready for any type of disaster, companies should have a well thought out plan in place for internal communications," said Rod Thorn, director of communications, PepsiCo. "They should not be designing a recovery plan during the disaster, but have protocols in place that can be executed and modified depending on the circumstances."  

A speaker at the upcoming marcus evans 2nd Annual Internal Communications & Situational Messaging Conference, Thorn went on to say: "Many of our employees were in the path of Hurricane Sandy. People needed to know if they could get to work, and if they would have power and access to the Internet. In addition, a redundancy plan is necessary to be able to operate even if a facility is damaged or without power. In our case, if one location is impacted we can still source food and beverage products from our other locations and get them to the market. But this has to be planned in advance."  

Thorn added: "Responsibility must be assigned, so that people know who will be in charge of every aspect of the plan. If the problem occurs in the North East region of the US, then people in other parts of the country should be in charge. Ownership and accountability is very important. You cannot have people wondering who is doing what when the disaster strikes." 

Every disaster is different, so Thorn recommends that companies have as many channels of communication and points of connectivity as possible. In PepsiCo's case, that meant using satellite phones as well as land lines and cell phones, and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.  

Thorn concluded: "If you think you are communicating too much, you are still not communicating enough. In times of crisis when water is rising and fires are raging, you need to be told what is going on. Over-communicate as much as possible."

The marcus evans 2nd Annual Internal Communications & Situational Messaging Conference will take place in Boston, Massachusetts, December 3-5, 2012. For more information, visit the event website

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