JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At the age of 5, I experienced the eye of Hurricane Camille. Images are branded in my brain – the dead stray dog flying through the air when my parents let us peek out the window, the large tree that sliced through the neighbor’s home, and long lines at the water truck to fill our buckets. To a 5 year old, it was an exciting adventure. Looking back and watching the devastation of storms like Katrina and Sandy, I’m grateful we survived.

Hurricane Matthew bears down on the southern United States. (NASA)
Hurricane Matthew bears down on the southern United States. (NASA)

At my home and at my planning firm, Life Planning Partners, in northern Florida, we have spent the last couple of days preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Matthew. My husband took care of our house, filled up the gas tanks, tested the generator and took care of all potentially flying objects outside. I was in charge of our food supply. I keep a well-stocked pantry and only had to top off our milk and buy ricotta cheese to make lasagna before the power goes out.

Adviser Carolyn McClanahan protects her computer by bagging the CPU tower.
Adviser Carolyn McClanahan protects her computer by bagging the CPU tower.

At the office, my co-workers developed a disaster plan that they test regularly. On Thursday, they quickly put it into action. In addition, I have never been so grateful for compliance.

A folder that holds all disaster recovery plan details.
A folder that holds all disaster recovery plan details.

A few years ago, we made the strategic decision to use only web-based software. Salesforce, Sharefile and eMoney were our first additions. Thankfully, we just finished converting our portfolio management software to Black Diamond. We also use Microsoft Exchange so email is easily accessible.

We weren’t happy with web-based Office applications, so we continue to use Microsoft Office desktop. Work that has been delivered to clients is placed in Sharefile, so the only thing that resides on our desktop is work in progress. For this, we have three backups: a Drobo for all the computers, MozyPro for the main computer where everyone deposits ongoing work and a thumb drive backup of the main computer.

We use Constant Contact to send out mass messages to clients to inform them of our status. On Thursday morning, we let everyone know we will be closed Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. Our office manager backed up the main computer on a thumb drive and then we all bagged up our computer towers and elevated them above floor level. And then we went home.

What happens if our office is wiped out? Our office manager has four pieces of paper with her and I have a copy in my phone.

  • The first details how to update our website home page to let everyone know our office has faced a disaster.
  • The second explains how to call our phone provider to forward our phone number and how to restore files using MozyPro and our thumb drive backup.
  • The third is a list of all our vendors.
  • The fourth is a client list with contact information.

We really don’t need the paper, but it will be easy to get to if we have to set up somewhere else when Matthew has finally moved on and we confront the aftermath.

Carolyn McClanahan

Carolyn McClanahan

Carolyn is the Director of Financial Planning at Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.