Can't Connect

Practical Resilience: I Can’t Connect! 5 Key Steps to Restoring Comms in a Crisis

I have a confession.  I find it amusing when the WIFI stops working at the house and my teenagers immediately think the world is ending.  It usually evokes a story from me that starts with, “When I was a kid…”, which results in immediate eye-rolling and some retort about dinosaurs walking the earth.

A little less amusing is when it happens in the workplace and everyone is frantic that they can’t connect.   Even worse is when it happens and there is an imminent life safety issue (e.g., tornado, fire, earthquake, security event, etc.).

As a society, we’ve become hyper dependent on ‘connectivity’ to communicate information and many have forgotten (or never learned) what to do when our digital connection is severed.

Luckily, there are a few steps you can take in your personal or professional life should you find yourself in this place, especially during an emergency.

Here’s 5 key actions:

  • Get perspective. Don’t assume. Immediately determine the scope/scale of the issue you’re dealing with.  Too many times I’ve watched as people assume the issue they are experiencing is the same for everyone around them.  Seeking to understand is a lost art.  During a crisis, we should be in a constant state of trying to understand how big and broad the issue is and whether it’s getting better or worse.  Do this by checking as many available sources quickly and constantly (e.g., self-observation, asking others, media, etc.).  Constantly, because the situation will change and we need to refresh our picture of the problem.  Don’t forget to share what you know.
  • Unleash your inner rapid tester. Solving problems during a crisis is all about mindset and ability to shift focus quickly.  Things aren’t normal, so entering into an accelerated action state of trying something different, learning from that, reapplying, and/or redirecting will help you get to a solution quicker.  SIDE NOTE – leaders that do this well often set a positive tone and example for their teams to also enter this solution-oriented state when stuff is hitting the fan.
  • Change channels or make one. Humans have been communicating for, well, as long as there have been humans and we’ve developed lots of ways to do it.  Sometimes it’s as simple as trying an alternate channel or source.  Cell signal down?  Switch to a WIFI based communication tool (e.g., iMessage, What’s App, etc.).  WIFI down? Switch to a cellular supported tool – SMS, email, social media.  There are lots of ways to communicate today as long as you have the conduit to communicate through. During Hurricane Katrina, we found old landline pay phones in the ‘black out zone’ that were still working that connected us to the outside world.  During Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we rapidly installed VoIP phones at our business locations using satellite instead of regular telecom.
  • Go old school. At some point, waiting for the signal to come back may just not work and you may just need to do things manually and walk or drive to a location and relay information in person.  Sometimes that’s a mile, sometimes it’s dozens or even hundreds of miles.  In leading countless large-scale crises, I can’t tell you how many times that “going old school” and setting up manual communication relays or “the pony express” (as I like to refer to it) worked really well in the moment.  The communication was much slower, which required a lot of expectation setting with stakeholders, which was often the bigger challenge in our age of instant information.
  • Rinse and repeat. There will always be a next time. Remember what you went through, document it and teach that to future generations.  Put knowledge and concepts into your and their toolboxes and remember to check it occasionally so that the next time it happens (whatever “it” is) you have a broad toolset to solution from.

What does your organization do when they can’t connect?

More About The Author:

Jason Jackson is a highly respected executive and thought leader in security, safety and crisis management and is appreciated for his ability to bring people together when developing innovative, forward-thinking strategies. Jason’s experience includes leading Walmart’s global emergency management and business continuity teams, where he developed a vision for and launched forward leaning technology and operating platforms to improve the company’s ability to mitigate and manage crises. He most recently served as the Chief Security Officer for Bass Pro Shops family of companies with responsibility for security, safety and regulatory compliance to include cybersecurity, business continuity, and crisis management.  

In his role as the Vice President of Customer Experience at Infinite Blue, Jason develops customer experience excellence by driving holistic thinking and making continual progress with customer alignment throughout Infinite Blue. Working closely with Product Management, Customer Success, and Account Management, he is the consistent voice of the customer throughout Infinite Blue.