Q&A with Bryan Gonterman
AT&T finding new ways to check on employees after disaster
Q: Several years ago, AT&T set up Yes Okay disaster communications structure to account for the safety its employees after a disaster. Why is that important?
A: Our top priority is to account for each and every employee as quickly as possible, which allows us to more quickly focus our efforts on responding to our customers' needs.
Q: How does the Yes Okay system work?
A: It's designed to automatically contact employees by text and email in locations that have been struck by a disaster. Employees respond to those messages with their user ID — a unique code that each employee uses for internal identification — to confirm the message was received and that they are unharmed. The system automatically compiles reports for supervisors, providing emergency contact information to help them account for impacted personnel and allowing them to focus on identifying and locating employees who haven't yet reported their status.
We hold annual training sessions and conduct mock disaster drills to help our employees and their supervisors understand and use the system. We teach a four-step process; get yourself and family to a safe place, contact Yes Okay, contact your supervisor and continually check AT&T communications channels for updates.
Q: What happens if an employee does not report in?
A: Supervisors try several methods to contact the employee, including contacting his or her emergency contacts, family and friends. We look for recent updates on any known social media accounts and, if necessary, travel to the employee's home. If the employee still can't be located, we will contact area hospitals, emergency shelters and law enforcement. We don't stop until all of our employees are accounted for.
After the May 20 storms, we identified more than 2,000 employees who work or live in the tornado-impacted area. We were able to account for every employee within about 25 hours, 70 percent within six hours after the tornado struck the area.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER