While Spring is finally in the air, this year’s winter storms left millions of people literally in the dark. While the majority of power failures last only a few hours, some blackouts can last days or even weeks, resulting in major threats to business continuity. According to the Department of Energy, power outages cost American businesses as much as $150 billion per year, with weather-related disruptions costing the most per event. An IDC study found that unplanned downtime due to outages can cost a small business anywhere from $82,200 to $256,000.

Since weather-related power outages and rolling blackouts will continue to happen, it’s important to be ready should a blackout strike. Here are 4 important ways to keep your organization running when the power goes out:

1. Stay flexible. During a power outage, particularly one spanning several days or weeks, it may be difficult for employees to maintain peak productivity. To keep workflow on track, consider making telecommuting available for those who can’t get into the office. Remind employees that they can use their phone as a hotspot to continue working or suggest that they go to a coffee shop or store to connect to wi-fi. And for those without power at home, consider keeping the workplace open for longer periods of time so employees have access to heat, water and electricity. Have your organization leaders encourage employees to take advantage of possible downtime by working on offline projects or conducting group brainstorming sessions that would otherwise get pushed to the side.

2. Conduct advance planning. Undoubtedly, the best way to prepare your organization for a power outage is to think through all of the possible scenarios and ramifications in advance. Having clear and consistent procedures in place to manage all consequences can go a long way in making sure processes run as smoothly as possible. Based on our decades of experience in emergency preparedness and responsiveness, putting together a team of key employees with clearly defined responsibilities for what happens when the lights go out will help ensure minimal business disruption. For example, your CIO should think through solutions like uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and standby commercial generators, as well as cloud-based technology that enables workflow continuity (e.g., providing employees with 4G enabled devices with Office 365 or Google Apps). Your HR leader should communicate regularly throughout the outage, including updates on restoration, changes in work-from-home policies and any delays in key departments (e.g., payroll, accounting, etc.). This communication should be handled via multiple methods, such as text, phone and email, to ensure the maximum number of employees can access and read. Above all, make sure all members of the response team are and ready to spring into action as soon as the power goes out.

3. Embrace the cloud. Ongoing communication and accessing key computer files can pose major challenges during a blackout. The good news is that smart phones and tablets can stay operational through power outages with ample charge. With the right connectivity, these devices can connect to the cloud 24/7. In fact, we designed Groupdolists as a cloud-based platform so that it could be accessed at all times, making it easy for key personnel to manage situations like power outages from start to finish. Organization leaders and responders can open the Groupdolists app and stay in contact with one another throughout the blackout. Users can easily access standard and emergency operating procedures whenever they need to. They can assign tasks, track progress and flag concerns to keep business teams working at close to maximum capacity.

4. Put outage plans to the test. Regardless of your organization’s plans during a power outage, you will need to test them regularly to ensure everything runs smoothly when the real thing does happen. If you utilize a UPS or standby generator, you will want to test these out every six months to make sure they function properly. If your organization has special plans for what employees need to do during a power outage, you should run a practice drill on a yearly basis to ensure everyone is up to speed on their duties.

Working during a short- or long-term power outage can be a frustrating and inconvenient experience. But with extra foresight and planning, your organization doesn’t have to go dark just because the lights go out. Consider making Groupdolists part of your emergency preparedness plan. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a web demonstration.