Ten tips for getting through a disaster

Apart from traditional business recovery services, IBM Corp. has a crisis response team trained in humanitarian and disaster logistics that is helping in New York, according to Brent Woodworth, who manages the team from Los Angeles.

Woodworth worked in India after January's devastating earthquake there and has done similar work in El Salvador, Turkey and other countries.

IBM has at least two experts who live in New York on the scene, one who has done logistics management in Rwanda and Bosnia and another who is a former regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The company has also donated PCs and laptops to the American Red Cross working in New York, Woodworth said.

"We can help coordinate receipt and distribution goods and services" such as food, blood, crisis counseling and rescue, he said. .

Woodworth offered 10 rules for getting through a disaster:

-- Remain calm. That means you need to think before taking action. It's sometimes difficult to do that, but think clearly and logically about the welfare of your people, business and customers.

-- Respond decisively. To protect business operations and people, you need to take action. You shouldn't hesitate to move the business forward. It's imperative to return operations to as close to normal as you can, as quickly as you can. No one wants an act of terrorism, or the potential for terrorism, to cripple operations within this country.

-- Don't point fingers. Tempers go up and down, which is normal. This is the time to buckle down and get work done. There will be plenty of time later to pass blame.

-- Show patience and compassion. You need to listen to your employees. Understand their ideas, and respond effectively to their requests.

-- Maintain your sense of humor. This isn't morbid: You need to look at the future and keep people motivated. If you continue to talk about the future and look forward, it will help people get through this process.

-- Tell the truth, and tell it often. You can't overcommunicate in a disaster. Update employees constantly about what's going on at the company. Hold one meeting in the morning, one in the afternoon and another before people go home. Even if the reports are the same, issue those reports. Tell employees what's going. Always tell the truth. People can accept that.

-- Do it right the first time. Do your best work. This is not the time to say that mistakes are OK and someone else will catch it.

-- Build and follow your plan effectively. This is the purpose of mitigation planning. This disaster illustrates the incredible importance of developing a solid plan for IT and all your business -- operations, personnel, IT, insurance, everything.

-- Don't take on too much. Don't be afraid to delegate. You shouldn't try to be a hero. You need to be able to use your team effectively. You need to get some sleep, in essence. You won't make good decisions otherwise.

-- Demonstrate leadership and confidence. People look for leaders to help guide them through this process. Things will get better.

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