Over a Year Since Sandy: Two NYC Business Center Executives Share the Latest

Manhattan during the Hurricane Sandy blackout (source: Alec Perkins)
Manhattan during the Hurricane Sandy blackout (source: Alec Perkins)

It’s hard to believe that Sandy hit over a year ago. Especially when we continue to hear reports about areas, such as Staten Island and businesses in lower Manhattan, which are still digging out.

OT covered some of the amazing efforts made by local business center owners and operators to accommodate the businesses that were dislodged from their offices and to help them stay connected to their employees and customers.

Now that over a year has passed, we asked James Williams of NYC Office Suites and Laura Kozelouzek of Quest Workspaces to share what they’ve learned and any advice they could pass along to businesses in New York to better prepare for the next disaster.

Business center owners and operators should take heed and proactively reach out to local businesses and provide their own “to do” lists to help businesses create disaster recovery plans and prepare for events that could provide costly disruption to businesses.

Toxicity

James Williams, Director of Corporate Development for NYC Office Suites, cautions that the fallout from Sandy is not over.

“People are starting to forget that many basement-level oil tanks broke away in the flood water causing lasting toxicity in the walls, on the streets, in the soil and in the air of lower Manhattan.” He goes on to note that there have been other events in New York which may not be as spectacular as Sandy but had devastating effects on local businesses, such as water main breaks, steam pipe explosions and crane collapses. Businesses need to be prepared for any potential threat to their operations.

Williams suggests that any Manhattan company located in the Flood Zone make an investment in a virtual office at a historically safer location. “Many clients, hobbled by weak traditional leases and insufficient insurance policies, found themselves forced into a game of ‘musical chairs’,” he said. “Those clients with virtual offices were the first to be accommodated. Virtual offices are very economical, so it makes sense to buy one. For the best protection, ask for a workstation availability, pricing and service guarantee. Many Class A location Midtown buildings, including ours, enjoyed uninterrupted service during Sandy. These outlays are well worth it,” he said.

Working through the night

Laura Kozelouzek, president and CEO of Quest Workspaces, opened Quest’s doors in the middle of the night to companies such as Foursquare, Guardian Life and Aflac, who were in critical need of office space. Laura identifies three areas for businesses to focus on to be ready when the next disaster strikes:

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Have a communication network: Utilizing multiple communication channels for the instant dissemination of company information to employees is vital. In addition to the traditional group notification system of the phone tree, update employees’ contact info to include personal email addresses, and approved social media accounts where they can be messaged. Maintain updates on the company’s internal intranet site, utilize text messaging services, company Facebook postings and even Twitter depending on the circumstance.

Protect your digital property – the identification, protection and availability of important data files is critical to conducting “business as usual” despite the disruption. Regularly back up vital electronic files, especially billing, payroll records and client lists, and store backup copies on an external hard drive in a secure off-site location. Also, back-up files to a cloud computing system for easy off-site access if Internet is available.

Identify a list of nearby business centers and facilities: There’s only so much working from home can accomplish. Lack of access to servers, phones, internet, printer facilities and other amenities can make employee productivity difficult. Establish personal contacts and create a detailed list of nearby executive business centers and shared office space facilities that can be called upon to provide temporary work stations during disaster displacement situations.

How can business centers make sure their names are on that list? By helping their clients and other businesses to develop disaster recovery programs to ensure that they are able to adapt and continue operating when nature (or other extreme conditions) come knocking.

In closing, it bears mentioning that opening your doors to businesses in need may bring additional rewards. Williams notes “Many of the displaced businesses we accommodated stayed with us. They now recognize the great value of office business center flexibility.”

Image source: Alec Perkins, Wiki Commons

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