Be Prepared, Not Alarmed
It’s so easy to take technology for granted. We assume we’ll be able to look up whatever we need on our computers, smart phones and tablet devices. So what happens when your computer isn’t working, your internet connection is down, or the power goes out completely? It’s sure to happen sooner or later, but don’t pull that alarm just yet. The answer, as any Boy Scout will tell you, is to be prepared.
What does that mean for your child care business? How do you create an “Emergency Management Plan” to keep you running even when your high-tech gadgets are on the fritz? Well, that’s what we’ll attempt to answer in today’s post, specifically with regards to key information stored in your Child Care Management Software.
There are a number of possible things that might help, depending on the situation. Let’s start with the basics.
The Kids are All Right
If you’re a music fan you might be thinking of the classic rock song by “The Who”, but seriously now, the children always do come first. Make sure you have something ready for them to do in the event of a power outage. Have your flashlights at the ready and perhaps a few blankets, then circle up for story time. Board games or an outdoor activity might work too, depending on the weather and time of day. Having a ready supply of non-perishable snacks such as granola bars, crackers and raisins may also help keep everyone feeling all right.
A Battery Backup
To help keep you running, in the event of a power outage, consider getting an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and connect it to your cable modem, router, monitor and main computer. The battery power will keep you going for a short time, allowing you to quickly complete any crucial computer tasks and shut the system down normally.
Payments & Receipts
Purchase a paper receipt book at your local office supply store. As parents pay, simply write out receipts the old fashioned way. You can always enter them into the computer later on. You may also want to print (or save as a PDF) ahead of time, one of the Account Activity reports showing everyone’s balance with totals of recent charges, credits and payments. You could do this at the end of each week, so you always have a recent list available.
If you’re using Tuition Express to process payments electronically, one of these ideas may work:
- Submit a batch of payments ahead of time, choosing a date (up to two weeks in the future) when they will be processed. Just set “Allow Processing Date Change” to True when you Configure Tuition Express.
- Allow parents to make their own payments online. Even if the internet is down at your center, parents could still make payments from home. See: Enable Online Payments
- If you are using a Data Hosted version of Procare, Install the Data Hosting Client on another computer that does have internet access and process your payments from there.
- If you are not Data Hosted, you could install Procare (from CD) on a computer that does have internet access, Restore a Backup and process payments as usual. Note: You may need to Contact Procare Support to get the alternate computer temporarily registered as your Primary Database.
Record Check In/Out Times
As long as you still have phone service (or wifi), and are a Procare Data Hosting customer, you can check children in with a free web app for your smartphone or other mobile device. See: Procare Web Apps are Here!
Another option, if your check in computer is down, but you are still able to run Procare Software® from another computer, is to use the Receptionist feature where a staff person checks children in/out for the parent. See: Plan “B” for Check In
If all computers are down, you can use a manual sign in or roll call sheet. Get in the habit of printing one out at the end of each week (for next week) so you’ll have it available. Or, you could just use a sheet of notebook paper to keep track of people signing in.
Be prepared to write paychecks by hand, if needed. Don’t worry about the taxes. Just treat it as a Payroll Advance for the approximate amount of their normal take home pay. You can sort it out in the computer later.
Emergency Contacts & Other Reports
Another web app, for Procare Data Hosting customers, gives you access to emergency contacts from your smartphone or tablet. Again, see: Procare Web Apps are Here!
It’s also wise to regularly print up-to-date reports of emergency contacts, Allergy Lists, etc., so the information is easy to access when you need it. You could label a 3-ring binder as your “Emergency Kit” with your center’s own Emergency Plan and printed copies of any reports you would need.
For a more high-tech solution, you could save reports in PDF format. Even if the internet is down or your power is out, you could still access them via your cell phone connection. Just use apps, like Dropbox or iTunes, to transfer PDFs from your computer to your handheld device ahead of time. See article: How to Move Files to Your Smartphone, iPad, etc.
Here’s hoping your power stays on, your internet is ever functioning and your computers always work!
Until next time, cheers!
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tags: disaster preparedness, disaster recovery, disaster planning