Call Trees: A Maintenance Nightmare?

No one wants to be contacted at home by work and asked to come into the office because of a disaster, and no one wants to be sent somewhere else to work because their office is not available.  Of course, if that someplace else is in the tropics you usually get a higher level of participation (at the detriment of their partners anger and jealousy). J

            To receive that kind of fantastic instruction – to head to the alternate site in the tropics – the corporation needs to be able to get in contact with their staff.  It’s not as easy as people and vendors make it out to be.  Sure, applications can make multiple calls at once – and that is a blessing let me say – but that doesn’t mean it’s the ‘end all’ of disaster call trees and getting in touch with people.  There are some underlying problems with DR call trees, which if they aren’t addressed or at least considered, will make the call trees a nightmare.

            Here’s just a few of the things to consider when developing DR call trees.  Keep in mind, these are from the perspective of management (those who will have to use/exercise them) and employees (those who have to provide their personal numbers and receive ‘those’ calls).

  1. Privacy – I don’t want people seeing my number.  With call trees they sometimes end up all over the place and people don’t want their number viewable – and available – to just everyone.  Just be careful who has access to the information cause no matter what, someone has to see it to be able to use it.
  2. Using and Auto-Dialler – If you can upload a call list – or employee list – to an auto-dialler but then where are the lists coming from?  Who is giving it to you and how are they maintaining it?  You also want to know how often you’re going to replace the list for the auto-dialler.  Will it be 1 week after the lists are updated themselves?  And who gets to see this list and upload it to the auto-dialler.
  3. Human Resources – Usually, or rather hopefully, people provide HR their contact information when they move or something about it changes.  So who else is better to get the information and hold it?  If a continuous review is performed then HR is a great area to start to build you call trees or contact lists.  Why try to recreate the wheel.  Sure, there’s the argument that sometimes people don’t provide updated information, or they forget, but that’s going to happen no matter what its really not a good argument.  HR has a huge chunk of the information so start there and get people to review their contact information and before you know it, bam! you have updated lists.  Oh, and if you have an application for call outs and notifications, you still need to get that information from somewhere and HR is the place to help with the application loading (of contact information) as well.
  4. Smaller Trees – If someone is responsible to make a call, you want to keep it short and sweet.  The bigger the lists the longer it will take to get a hold of people.  Don’t make a call tree so large that it can’t be managed.  I once worked with a client who had a single person responsible to do the call outs.  We calculated it out and it giving each call 5 minutes (assuming you got a hold of everyone on the first call and spoke to them) they would not have been finished for over 48 hours.  Oh, and this is with no bio-breaks, sleep or breaks of any kind.  I don’t think that’s too workable, do you?
  5. Notification Applications – If you have one at your organization, they can be very helpful and they can do multiple functions; like calling only specific teams or departments.  Remember though, it takes work to get them set up right and you have to keep the information in it – the contact numbers etc – up to date.  Don’t forget, you might be able to get the information initially from the HR department, as they should have some sort of contact information for employees.  Hey, it’s a place to start. 
  6. The Manual Call Out – Just read the last couple of sentences above in #4, as it really captures the thoughts here.
  7. The Privacy Crutch – Some use privacy as a crutch for not doing a listing – they think people will get mad but won’t ask people for the number because privacy can be used as an excuse not to update lists.  Don’t let privacy be an excuse not to be in contact with people.  If something happens you just know they’ll be the first who’ll be asking why they weren’t contacted so help them understand why the contact information is needed…but don’t forget to address their concerns. 
  8. The Intention – If you explain the intention of a DR list then people will understand – even heard of a place that used a disclaimer for staff to sign if they refused to give a number – they couldn’t go and complain because the corp did everything they could to get in touch with someone
  9. Maintenance / Relevance – Keeping the list updated is key to being able to be in contact with people – if not, then you never know where they are and it may be that those you really need are simply sitting at home waiting to be called but since you don’t have the right information you can’t reach them.  Make sure you have some sort of maintenance process in place to keep information updated.  Also, if you have a notification application make sure it’s maintained with contact information and exercise it so that you know it works satisfactory and that information is valid.

These are just some high-level considerations for call trees; there are more but you’ll at least get the idea of what to consider when managing them.  Remember, in a disaster the demand for communication goes up and the amount of time you have to communicate goes down; so, really consider the various ways to manage your call trees and notification lists.  It could mean the difference in getting things up and running or having people up in arms because they don’t know what’s going on.


 “Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility” and “Made Again Volume 1 – Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs”

by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3

Available at, &


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s