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What we learned from the fire at ClearPoint House

On Friday 26 May just after hosting our annual Pink Shirt Day morning tea, our business was suddenly disrupted by a fire event. The alarms sounded, smoke confirmed it wasn’t a drill and we immediately set about evacuating all our people and visitors.

It’s been just over a month since a fire broke out on the 4th floor of ClearPoint House. While it’s been an interesting challenge, we’re pleased to say we’ve got through it relatively well.

As we’re now settling back into ClearPoint House, we’ve been reflecting on our experience and are keen to share some of the challenges we faced and lessons learnt.

We hope our learnings will inspire you to start conversations in your business about how you could be impacted by an unexpected disaster and what you can do to help minimize disruption.

What we learned from the fire at ClearPoint House

  1. Having a strong business continuity plan is essential

As leading software developers being able to consistently and continually deliver to our customers is at the very heart of what we do. One thing which helped us get back up and running quickly was having a strong Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

Our plan is stored in the cloud, so we were able to access it from mobile devices while standing on the footpath watching events unfold. Within minutes we’d invoked our disaster recovery plan, nominated an exceptional BCP leader (Martin Bridges, our Chief Operating Officer & Head of Build), and assigned all subsequent roles to the appropriate managers.

Over the course of the weekend, our management team held several meetings via Google Hangouts as we set about smashing our way through the plan.  While we still had to tackle some unexpected challenges, having a solid BCP plan meant we were able to front foot our recovery and were fully operational again by Monday morning.

  1. Cloud technology minimised our downtime

We’ve been users of cloud tech solutions and services since day one and this event firmly reinforced the advantages of being able to access files from anywhere, at any time, on any device.

While the Friday afternoon immediately after the fire was understandably a bit of a write off, overall there was very little downtime. Having files in Dropbox and Google Drive means our teams were able to access everything to crack on with things, and from Monday morning it was business as usual.

Cloud business solutions also enabled us to deliver timely and effective communications to our teams, clients and key stakeholders, so everyone was kept informed of developments. Channels like Slack, Google Mail and Google Hangouts enabled internal communications to flow, while Salesforce, Mailchimp and social channels made it easy for us to communicate.

  1. Flexible work locations foster adaptability

By lunchtime on the day of fire, the decision was made to invoke our working from home policy. Being shut out of our building for three weeks meant some of our teams had to work from home, while others were kindly taken in by the wonderful clients along with the crew at BizDojo. Although it felt like we were dispersed in different locations, we learned we’re a pretty adaptable lot and everyone adjusted exceptionally well. We believe this is testament to flexible culture we’ve managed to create, where what matters is getting things done, regardless of where you are.

  1. Quality internal comms is key

People respond to disaster situations differently and we tried to be mindful of this throughout the weeks that followed the fire. We were careful to deliver transparent and timely communications via Slack and email, including daily progress updates on the state of the building and information about recovering all the personal effects which were left behind following the evacuation. Wherever possible we shared images of the progress being made in recovering items and building repairs.

Most importantly, our managers made sure they were available to chat to or provide additional support to anyone who needed it. At times we didn’t have all the answers, however in these instances we searched out the answers and delivered them quickly. We also kept morale up by doing sweet little things like sending donut drops out to our teams around the place.

The fact we had a record turnout at our company meeting held a few days after the fire and our overall Officevibe engagement score improved, shows the power of open, timely and transparent comms.

  1. Our team and business community rock!

While our team were amazing in getting on with the job of looking after our clients, we were also absolutely blown away by the support and offers of support we received from the technology and business community.

Within a day we had sorted temporary spaces for our teams with clients or at BizDojo in the city and Takapuna. To all those who provided and offered support, we are humble and extremely grateful.

Of course there were many other things we learned and we’re currently doing a post fire review which will help us improve and tweak our BCP plan, so we can be better prepared for next time (although fingers crossed there isn’t one!).  For anyone interested in having a chat to us about our learnings, please feel free to get in touch as we’re always happy to share our insights. Fire an email to lou.eaton@clearpoint.co.nz or call 027 925 3912.

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