September 11th

At Connections Magazine our goal is to provide our readers with practical, useful, relevant, and interesting information. As such we have contemplated how to best address the terrorist attacks and the events which followed. On one hand it would be easy to devote the entire issue to the topic; alternately it would not be unreasonable to proceed as normal with our typical content. Our decision is to take the middle ground.

What follows is our compilation from readers and other sources relating to recent events. It is our intent to remember September eleventh and learn from those events, but not to dwell on them, moving forward in the best way possible. We will start with two first hand accounts, shift to some moving and inspiring email communications, and conclude with a series of germane associated topics.

A First Hand Account: John Calhoun of Receptionist One has offices upon New York Harbor on the seventh floor; he shared this perspective:

We had a birds eye view of the evil events that transpired on September 11th, 2001. We saw the second plane as it flew directly over our building in route to attack tower two; there were no words to describe our horror.

When building one collapsed, the FBI (who is also a tenant in our building) evacuated our building for security reasons. They gave us clearance to re-enter at 5 p.m. I told my staff who could stay, to stick around so that we can help the police, hospital, and the FBI with the telephones.

To my dismay all three of my T-1’s were routed thru the world Trade Center. I immediately went to my backup T-1 only to find that too had been in building number seven, which is a 50 story building that later collapsed as well. Please keep in mind that these buildings were the routing point for nearly half of New York’s telecommunications.

I immediately contacted my colleagues that I had met through ATSI, OEO, and Connections Magazine for help. I called my friend Paula Ford; she just rolled up her sleeves and went to work on my behalf, since I had no phone service. She started contacting the numerous people she knows for assistance; everyone was wonderful; they were all willing to help. The problem is that with over 1800 doctors there were very few options.

After four days without service, the telephone companies let us know that it was going to be a while. As I write this it has been two and a half weeks. through the help of Map Mobile, Teleanser Phone, Act Mobile Communications, Stat Medical, Xact Communications, NDC, and numerous local colleagues, all my doctors are now being serviced.

Many did it without me having to ask. To all of you, thanks. Special recognition goes to Keith Nielsen and his staff at Xact Message for being willing and able to take on hundreds of doctors on a moments notice.

There is a dark side though. While I am without phone service, there are some despicable operations who have decided to take advantage of this tragedy and started soliciting the doctors. I was angry at first but then a friend of mine reminded me that they had to live with themselves and I had other things to concern myself with. I am happy to say that I only lost about ten percent of my doctors and everyday a few are coming back saying they couldn’t stand these lousy services.

New York is a different place today, there are no horns blaring, people are tolerant of one another, and there are no blacks, whites, or yellow, there are only Americans.

Another perspective: Richard Press, President of Alpha Communications, submitted this first hand account. Richard’s office is on West Nineteenth Street in New York city. Richard writes:

On September eleventh, I was in the office when my wife, Anne, called me from her car to inform me that the first tower had been hit. From our twelve story building in Chelsea, only about two miles up Seventh Avenue from the towers, we didn’t hear a sound. My first thought was a small plane had an accident. Within minutes Anne called again to tell me tower two had been hit and I immediately knew it was terrorism.

I ran out to Seventh Avenue to look south and could see only the billowing smoke. The people on the street were stunned and dazed. I returned to my office and informed the staff about what had happened.

I instructed our management team to begin calling our afternoon shift and asking them to come in four hours early. I anticipated transportation issues, as almost all of our staff live in the outer boroughs. The volume of calls began to rise and continued all day. All of our management staff, including myself, logged on and took calls. Our clients include the unions for the Police and Fire departments, both of whom have their offices downtown near the disaster. You can imagine the panicked calls from family members, to the union offices, looking for word on those first to respond.

I took one poignant call from a retired firefighter living in south Florida. He told me his son was in the first Battalion to respond and he was looking for word. He then told me he had lost another child, also a Firefighter, several years ago. I assured him we would send the message to a delegate via alpha-pager. Calls continued to pour in from retired fireman and police offering to volunteer.

That afternoon the scene outside on seventh avenue was surreal. Masses of people were walking up from lower Manhattan. People passing by were covered in soot. One man was bandaged and bleeding; a local Doctor stopped him to see if he was in shock.

Only half of our afternoon shift made it in. I stayed overnight and my managers stayed until quite late. Wednesday morning the trains began operating and all but one employee made it in. Things began returning to normal in our call center – with the expectation of heavy call volume.

In terms of our ability to receive and make calls, we were lucky. We maintain T-1s from three different companies. Only one of these T-1s was lost. My understanding is that when the number seven World Trade building collapsed, the local exchange carrier was flooded and damaged. Their central office failed. The cables for my provider’s switch were all routed though the local phone company’s central office, thereby cutting off all communications with the outside world; as a result my T-1 went down. We were able to direct all of our clients, who were using this T-1, to available numbers from our other two carriers.

I received telephone calls from several other call centers asking if we needed help. I greatly appreciated their offers. We also made offers of assistance to others. I received several calls from clients whose service was busied out. I told them I would provide service on a pro-rated basis only until their existing service was up and running, but would not permanently take their business. However, on the flip side, before we could re-route all of our lines, several of our clients caught in the T-1 failure, made other permanent arrangements with other centers who don’t appear to share my sense of ethics.

Several of our staff have expressed fears resulting from the terrorist attacks. We have tried to reassure them and also reminded them that if they give in to fear, the terrorists victory will have obtained what they wanted. All in all, life is returning to a semblance of normalcy in the City. New York’s economy will take a long time to recover, but we are all okay and we are thankful.

Industry List Serves: The email list serves for the various industry associations communicated much in the way of vital and poignant information in the aftermath of the attacks. Here are a few examples:

“All of us here in NY are expecting to know someone who may have perished today.” – Randy Stewart

“We are ready to pitch in to help should someone experience failures and need help. If anyone needs help or support during this crisis please do not hesitate to contact me.” – Gary Pudles

“If you expect extreme high traffic when … you can obtain calls again, we [can] provide temporary remote operator services” – Jeff Farber

“We, too, have a remote already set up and can help from St Louis. Please let us know if we can help. Since Jeff, I, and others are already doing this, there is almost no learning curve and we can react very quickly. This is unfortunately a lesson for all of us to be more prepared.” – Jim Marchbank

“We too, are here to help if anyone needs it!” – Ann Garrett

“We also are currently using remotes and would be willing to help. Just let us know if you need it.” – Laurie Torvik

“I am horrified and will do whatever I can for anyone needing assistance. We are locally going to see if donating blood in our area will help. Please pray for our country and our world.” – Nancy Duncan

“We are also ready and willing to provide remote op services if needed. Please do let us know if we can help!” – Kelli Harrigan

“The folks at our new parent company were stunned to hear that people were ready to log into our system remotely to take calls. That does not happen in their industry (Personal Emergency Response). Thanks again for that.” – Angus Campbell

“Angus, Thanks for keeping us informed, Anything we can do for you let us know. Will continue with the prayers.” – Dee Gatward

“My office would also be able to assist with remote ops if you feel it would help. Other than that, our prayers will continue to be with you and all the families affected.” – Connie Almand

“Add our name to the long list of those willing and able to help out. We have available toll free numbers and some excess capacity. We will be happy to take any calls, just let me know. It’s pretty quiet in Muncie, Indiana, just a little panic gas buying yesterday afternoon, but that’s about it. Muncie seems like a better and better place to be than ever before. Our thoughts are with all those affected, which, I guess is almost everybody in one way or another.” – Brad Wagnon

“As hard as it may seem, business “as usual” is our best revenge. We won’t let [them] win!” – Jef Block

“To all of our American neighbours, good friends and families: I have been trying for two days to come up with the words that would express how all Canadians are feeling. No words come close. We are emotionally choked and tear filled.” – Paul Lloyd

“Our thoughts are with you – we are still in shock at the events taking place down there.” – Desiree Bombenon

And a Tribute: “To all our industry friends: It is with great sadness that I learned late yesterday that a business associate and friend to the teleservices industry, Peter Hanson of Timetrade along with his family was aboard United Flight 175 on a pleasure trip to LA. Time Trade has posted a tribute to their friend and colleague. – Ray Shaw

Dealing with Bomb Threats: Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks have caused an increase in bomb threats around the country. Betty Porter of Ansaphone Service, Inc. in Quincy, Massachusetts has had some direct experience dealing with bomb threats and recently shared her insight on the ATSI list serve. Here are some of her comments:

We have had bomb threats to our building – in which case we evacuate – and take critical material with us. We have our entire client contact database on a couple laptops so we have the information needed to be able to reach clients from off premise.

We have also had threats to clients. In one very severe case, the client was forwarding calls from three different locations, one local, one in Chicago, and one in California. We actually notified police in all three cities, gave them the addresses, and continued to reach our clients.

The police in each city responded and cordoned off the buildings until they “swept” each location. Now of course, with ANI, we could determine which location the call forwarded from.

A dilemma occurs if the call comes in on a DID line; how are we to know whether it is forwarding from the client’s phone number or if the perpetrator called our DID number directly? This is another really good reason to move to newer technology which has caller ID technology available. At least you could know whether the caller was threatening your location or your client’s!

Another issue is that sometimes we cannot reach anyone who is really in charge, so we have started to compile information on all of our clients such as the administrator, office manager, and other emergency contacts. You don’t usually want to page the doctor or the maintenance man on these types of emergency situations; you need to get to someone who is in charge and has authority to make decisions and to act.

It is also really good to develop a “critical” client list – so that you know which clients would need to be contacted and in which order to contact them should you have to evacuate your premises.

It is important to have these procedures in place, so that if and when you do receive a bomb threat, you will have already determined how to react and what to do.

Check Your Business Interruption Insurance: When Connections Magazine asked Gary Pudles, of AnswerNet Inc., about what could be done for businesses directly impacted by the terrorist attacks, he mentioned that the owners of the effected businesses should look to their insurance coverage to see if they had “business interruption insurance.” Here is what Gary put together for us:

Every year, hundreds of businesses suffer losses as a result of significant catastrophic events such as the disaster that hit us in September. No matter how good you plan, a business owner can still be faced with a mess that needs to be cleaned, facilities that must be rebuilt, and a business that must be reestablished.

According to Brad Murlick, National Director of Insurance Claims Consulting, of Deloitte & Touche, LLP 312-946-2967, “It is critical for the insured to act quickly after an event to provide themselves with the best opportunity to recover. Key activities include setting up loss accounting procedures and systems to support the claims preparation. The establishment of an appropriate system to account for loss-related expenditures can greatly simplify and expedite the claim and cash advance process. Claim preparation is the responsibility of the insured.”

A properly prepared and documented claim can be time consuming, burdensome, and confusing. Murlick suggests using an outside firm. “Our experience suggests that outside assistance is necessary to make the insurance claim process as smooth, expeditious and painless as practical so management can concentrate on the business’ critical issues following the loss.”

Whether you prepare the claim yourself or use an outside resource such as Deloitte & Touche, the need to check your policy and to make and document a claim still exists.

And for those businesses whose operations were not interrupted on September 11th, you are well advised to review your insurance policy now in order verify that you are insured to the extent that you need to be covered.

Reconsider Your Spare Parts Inventory: Jim Esser, Systems Product Manager with Amtelco, points out the need for everyone to re-evaluate their stock of spare parts.

Some users have a minimal complement of spare parts, and some even go without, trusting their vendor to be able to do emergency shipments if the part is needed. Jim points out that in the past the quickest way to accommodate this need was for vendors to do a “counter-to-counter” shipment from their warehouse to the customer who needed the part. (This involved delivering the package to an airline who would put it on their next flight; the customer would then pick up the package at the airport.) This served as a back-up source of spare parts in the event of component failures, even though in recent years and months it has been more and more difficult to get a package onto a flight.

Unfortunately, after the events of September 11th, and the subsequent increase airline security, doing a counter-to-counter shipment will be all but impossible.

Jim encourages each system owner or manager to carefully audit their equipment and operating philosophy. Then consider which components and functions are critical to their operation and whether they have the necessary spares to operate their business at an adequate level in the event that a component fails.

This is different for each user, so as such there is no standard list. For example, for one center, voice mail may play a minor and incidental role, while for others it may be an indispensable part of every call. As such, the first center may elect to not have any voice mail spares, willing to accept a day or two of down time, whereas the second site may opt for a complete and functional spare system; most operations will opt for something in-between.

Now is a great time to re-evaluate your spare parts inventory. Carefully consider what parts you can’t do without, as well as which ones would add a nice level of comfort. Your vendor will be able to assist you with your assessment.

If your list is long, as it is for many who have re-evaluated their complement of spare parts in light of recent events, you may not be able to buy all of the spare parts you need at one time. If this is the case, don’t despair and certainly don’t give up on it either. Make a commitment to buy one new spare each month, until you have a full complement of spares.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts, reflections, and ideas regarding the events and aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. We, at Connections Magazine, send our thoughts and prayers to everyone, both those directly impacted and the rest of us who are indirectly effected. Things will never be the same, but they can be better. Let’s all pledge to remember what is really important; to make families our priority, to truly appreciate and cherish our friends, and to be thankful for what God has given us.

[From Connection Magazine – November 2001]