Friday, December 26, 2014

Emergency Tip: Best Apps for that New Holiday Device

Don't forget to add the weather and emergency alert apps
to that new device! 

Congratulations on your new phone and/or tablet!

During this holiday season, many of us will receive a new smart phone or tablet and will instantly start filling the new gizmo up with apps for Facebook, Twitter, Minecraft, etc.

Don't forget the really important apps - the ones that can really help your family in a crisis.

Best Apps to Keep You and Your Family Safe

A) First off, let's start with Weather Apps - these are useful every day.  Here are my 2 favorites, but searching in your device's App Store for "weather" will provide dozens of great ones.  Important: Make sure your app has push alerts for weather emergencies.
  1. WeatherBug - Nobody else (besides the National Weather Service) has their own commercial-grade weather and lightning observation network in the United States. 
  2. AccuWeather - This app has a very unique interface with hour-by-hour forecasts right on the main screen.

B) Next up are Emergency-specific Apps. My favorite series of apps in this category are from the Red Cross. Searching in your device's App Store for "Red Cross" will produce a dozen apps that are very helpful and very specific to regional emergencies.
  1. Red Cross Mobile Apps - They have apps for First Aid, Blood Donations, Floods, Earthquakes, Wildfires, etc. Download the apps that apply to the emergencies you may face. These apps are US-focused.
  2. For other parts of the world, use the search function in your App Store and look for "disaster alert", "emergency planning" or "emergency preparation". Adding your country or state to the search will most likely result in specific apps for your region, produced by either your government or a private organization.
For my friends in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has produced an excellent alert app: Massachusetts Alerts.
  • Massachusetts Alerts is customized for Massachusetts and in addition to providing alerts and critical information about ongoing incidents and disasters, Massachusetts Alerts will also provide preparedness tips and information, and direct users to online resources to help them prepare for, manage during, and recover from the wide range of natural, technological and man-made hazards that threaten the residents of the Commonwealth.

C) Finally, set up and practice with your device's Texting, Video Chat, and Location Apps. These apps aren't as cool as the one's listed above, but during emergencies, texts may get through when the voice lines are all tied up. Also, being able to locate a family member's phone remotely will provide much needed information and peace of mind during an emergency. Make texting and other methods of communication part of your Family's Communication Plan. 

So enjoy all your new technology this week - and don't forget to add a few helpful apps for when things get really exciting!

Image credit: Copyright Patrick W. O'Connor.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Emergency Tip: Holiday Fire Safety

With REAL CANDLES on our Christmas tree every year,
we have stepped up our fire safety plan!

Having a German mother, I've grow up with candles on our Christmas tree, plus German decorations that use candles and fire such as Pyramiden and Räuchermänner. We learned at an early age that candles are not something to take lightly, but can be very beautiful when you are careful.

I've now continued this tradition in my own home, and while it sounds scary at first, we are just as careful as my parents were, sometimes even more so.

Holiday Safety Tips for Everyone (not just the crazy ones with real candles on their tree!)

The Tree
  1. Buy a fresh tree if you can, cutting one down at a tree farm is the best. See this video comparing the flamabilty of the dry tree vs. a fresh one!
  2. Your tree should be cut at an angle again once you get it home and immediately placed in water.
  3. Place your tree away from sources of heat. (Such as candles!)
  4. Use only non-flammable decorations.
  5. Use only UL-approved lighting.
  6. Inspect your lights for frayed/damaged wires before decorating.
  7. Do not leave your tree lights on unattended.
  8. Keep your tree stand full of water at all times.
  9. Once you notice your tree drying out, be even more vigelant and discard as soon as possible.
DISCLAIMER - Don't Try This at Home: Yes, we do put real candles on our live Christmas tree every year. But the tree is freshly cut, it is a breed that is strong enough to hold the candles, the tree is not trimmed - so there are many branches that stick out - allowing candles to be placed without limbs above the flame, the candles are small and designed to fit into special metal clips, we only light the tree on special occasions with many adults watching the candles, and NEVER leave the tree alone once the candles are lit. 

Important: Tree fires get out of control amazingly fast - this YouTube video proves it - keep it watered and free of sources of ignition. If it does catch fire, don't be a hero - get you and your family out and call 911 from outside your home.

Battery-operated flameless candles can look &
smell like real candles.

  1. Candles add a festive mood to your holidays, but be very careful this time of year - wrapping paper and decorations can easily catch fire, depending on where your candles are placed.
  2. If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders, and place them where they cannot be knocked down easily.
  3. Avoid leaving candles burning unattended. Even those in glass containers, such as "Yankee Candles", can be dangerous if something flammable falls on top of them.
      -  Falling asleep was a factor in 11% percent of the home candle fires and 37% of the associated deaths. 
  4. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles. Today's models can look, smell and feel like real candles.

I really hope you have a fun and safe holiday season - we're going to keep the fire extinguishers close and only light the few candles on our tree on special nights, with many adults focused on each candle!

For more information on holiday fire safety, please visit the National Fire Protection Association's Holiday Safety site.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday's Emergency Tip: Kid Plans

Talk with your family this weekend and figure out plans
for various situations. 

Not every event is a major catastrophe, but you should still plan

Back on 9/11, I wrote about Family Communications Plans. These plans were focused on major events and reaching distant family and friends - not the immediate, local family.

But recently I was reminded by a neighbor with younger children that events happen every day that are not real emergencies, but would be much less stressful if a plan was thought out first.

Events such as:
  • Child arriving home to an empty, locked house
     - Do they have a key?
     - Can they stay in the backyard?
     - If it's winter, which neighbor should they go to? 
  • Child lost in a mall
     - Who should they ask for help?
     - Do they know your cell #?
  • Child left at school
     - During normal hours, there are always administrators with family contact info, but what about after hours: sports, drama club, band?
     - How can your child call you? Do they have their own phone or can they borrow a friend's?
     - Should they go home with a neighbor? 
  • Child hurt outside
     - If there are no adults present, what will they do?
     - How will your child get help or help the other injured person?
  • Fire at home
     - This is a real emergency that must be planned for.
     - When was the last time you held an actual fire drill at home?
     - Does every room have 2 ways to get out?
     - What if an adult is not home? Do your children know what to do? Where to go?

These are just a few events to think about and plan for. Each family and home is different, so every family's planning process will be different. The important thing is to regularly talk about possible events and how you and your family would deal with each one.

There are many excellent family emergency plans out on the web. I've linked to a few below:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday's Emergency Tip: Protecting Your Documents

Store your important docs in a waterproof file folder case.
Then they are organized, protected and portable.
When an emergency hits and you have to get out of your house in a hurry, do you have all your important documents ready to go?

I'll have to be honest - we have some of our important documents together in a file folder - but many other important items are scattered in various filing cabinets around our home.

The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit

21 Page PDF with checklists you can fill out
and then save or print.
I recently found this extremely well written and organized document from FEMA: the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit

Download this file and use its various checklists to build a complete collection of family information and important documents. You can then store the completed PDF digitally in a secure online location or print it out and add it to your document case (see first image at top of this page).

It's also an excellent practice to make copies of your main personal and financial documents. After using the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to gather all your prime documents together, visit your local library or copy center - just remember to check the backside of your documents for important info that may need to be copied as well. Then seal them in a large document envelope and have either your lawyer or a trusted friend/relative hold onto this package for you. 

I hope this info helps you with your document prep efforts. I know I'm going to use this new "First Aid Kit" tool in the upcoming week to really fill up what's in my portable document case. 

For additional emergency preparation tips, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's site @

For my Massachusetts friends, please visit the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's site for excellent preparation info and updates.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday's Emergency Tip: Power Plans

Our trusty 5,000 watt gasoline generator that ran 8 days
straight during Massachusetts' 2008 Ice Storm!  

As you read in my earlier posts, my main concerns during storms are power issues.

And as our friends in Buffalo,NY, New Hampshire, and Maine can attest, winter's here!

For those of us still with power and not totally covered in snow, it's time to get planning - ASAP.

Everyone needs a "Power Plan"

A Power Plan is a vital part of your overall emergency plan.

You need to be prepared with a plan on how you deal with heating issues, preventing frozen pipes, food storage, etc. when you lose power.

For this article, I'm going to focus on a Home Power Plan. Business power plans will be covered in a later post.

Your Power Plan Requirements break down into two categories:
  1. Critical Needs
  2. Comfort Needs

Critical Power Needs
  1. Keeping your home from being damaged due to burst water pipes.
  2. Keeping your home warm enough to shelter in place.
  3. Preventing your food from spoiling.

Comfort Power Needs
  1. Lighting your home.
  2. Being able to cook.
  3. Powering entertainment devices. (You'll need to keep the kids from rioting during a long storm.)

If your home or office has a generator, the planning process is a little easier, but still requires some thought.

No generator equals some increased creative planning to minimize the effect of power loss.

Power Plan Template for a Location with a  Generator
Things to consider:
  1. Testing & Maintenance: When was the last time you ran the generator? With gasoline and diesel models, the fuel can go bad fairly quickly. Even propane models should be tested periodically. Also, when did you last change the oil in your generator?
  2. Keeping the generator running: Do you have enough fuel on hand to keep it running for at least 48 hours? Do you have oil and supplies to change the oil (if needed) during that first 48 hours?
  3. Location: Where is the generator stored? Is it ready to run right there or does it need to be moved?
  4. Electrical connection: Do you have a Transfer Switch or will you run extension cords to all your important devices? Have you actually tested the transfer switch or actually run all your externsion cords to the devices you need - do they all reach?    
Power Plan Template for a Location without a Generator
Things to consider:
  1. Does my neighbor have a generator? Are we close enough for me to run a heavy duty extension cord over to my house - just to power my furnace?
  2. Can I borrow a generator?  Do friends or family have a generator that I can borrow? How do I get it from them? When should I get it - before a big storm or after, once the weather clears? What else do I need to connect this generator to my home? (See points above in the " with a Generator" section.)
  3. Where will my family go if we don't have heat for an extended period? Do we stay with neighbors that have power/heat? Do we stay at a shelter? Do we leave the area and stay with friends/family?
  4. How will I prepare my home during the winter if we must evacuate due to power/heat loss? Do I need to drain my heating system or let my faucets run a little to prevent burst pipes?
  5. What will I do with my food that may spoil? Can I cook on my grill? Can I put food in coolers outside in the snow? Can I bring food to my neighbors who have power?

IMPORTANT: If you are relying on neighbors or friends to help you during a power loss, involve them now in your planning process. Having conversations such as: "We have no heat, can we sleep on your living room floor?" or "Can we borrow your extra generator?" are much easier to have when the weather is good vs. during a winter emergency. Also, it will give you the peace of mind that all these details have been sorted out before a winter storm hits. Finally, reach out to those whom you depend on prior to each major event, just to check that your agreements are still valid. You'd hate to rely on a neighbor that is away on vacation or has lent his generator to someone else last week, etc.

I hope you are warm and safe during this Thanksgiving week. And for that matter, for the entire winter season as well.

For more information on how to prepare in advance for a power outage, please visit the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's site.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday's Emergency Tip: Winter Car Kits

What I carry in my Jeep during the winter - I need to add 
another sleeping bag and more water & food...

All the reports of people stuck in their cars in Upstate New York and the Great Lakes area due to this week's freak snow storms got me thinking: 

"Are we ready to be stuck in our car for up to 24 hours?"

Winter Car Kits

You should always carry in your car some basic tools, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and your cell phone charger - but during the winter, it's time to ramp things up.

And I'm not saying you should rush out and go on a shopping spree at your local Army/Navy store. You probably have many of the following items already, just not in your car.

And they don't have to be in a huge duffle bag either - all the items shown above fit easily into my Jeep - by spreading all these things around and utilizing the spaces under seats and the corners of my trunk.

Here's a great list that I borrowed from MEMA that you can use to build your own kit:
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Charged cell phone/automobile charger
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Necessary medications
  • Pocket knife
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Extra clothes (include rain gear, boots, mittens, socks)
  • High-calorie, non-perishable foods (dried fruits, nuts, canned food)
  • Manual can opener
  • Container of water
  • Windshield scraper & brush
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Shovel
  • Sand/road salt/cat litter for generating traction
  • Tire chains or traction mats
  • Basic tool kit (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Tow rope
  • Battery jumper cables
  • Road flares/reflectors
  • Brightly colored cloth to utilize as a flag
  • Road maps
If you're missing an item or two, make a gift to yourself this month when you're holiday shopping, either at the mall or online!

For more tips on safe winter driving, visit the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) site.

Photo credit: Patrick W. O'Connor

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday's Emergency Prep Tip: Automatic Power Failure Lights

One of our Sylvania LED Power Failure Lights.

Today I'm starting a new series of tech tips focused on inexpensive items that really help during an emergency.

We All Need Light

What's your most immediate need at night when the power goes out?
Light of course! 

Background: I was sick of having to feel my way in the dark to the one flashlight in the house only to find out the batteries were dead.

A few years ago, I found this light at Lowe's.  I was so impressed, I returned the next week and bought 6 more.

Sylvania Power Failure Light with LED Technology 

This unit's main feature is that it's a LED nightlight with a rechargeable battery and flashlight built in.

  • It's nightlight has an automatic on/off sensor and is cool to the touch.
  • It has built-in rechargeable batteries and the flashlight turns on automatically if the power goes out.
  • The flashlight, once charged, will last up to 7 hours unplugged. (And you can turn the flashlight off when not in use to save the batteries.)

Now, whenever we lose power, every nightlight in the house turns into a downward-facing power failure light. Since they are in all our hallways, moving around the house is much easier and safer, plus we can pull any one of these units out of the socket and use as a LED flashlight to deal with our power issues.

I highly recommend this light. Yes, I have other flashlights in my home, but it's very comforting to know these lights are always charged and ready.

You can find the Sylvania Power Failure Light with LED Technology at most home improvement stores and online at Amazon. (Note: several other companies make similar lights, shop around for the best price.)

For more information on how to prepare in advance for a power outage, visit the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's site.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Is Your Data Ready for Winter?

My backyard after Massachusetts' 2008 Ice Storm! 

With today being Halloween, many of us think of scary things such as goblins, ghosts and witches.

Not me: what truly scares me is losing my data!

October is the anniversary of two major weather events in the Northeast: The October nor'easter of 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012Additionally, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

How does this tie into my fear of losing my data?

While most of us generally plan for what we will do in the event of a storm or natural disaster - buy extra food, buy a generator, keep the car's gas task full, etc. - most people don't think about their computers and all the important information and memories that are in these pieces of technology.

With winter approaching and power loss / power surges almost guaranteed, is your data properly protected? And this is important for everyone: home owners, small businesses and even large organizations.

I can't count the number of times either a hard drive crash, a power surge, or even a fire has destroyed valuable data. Sometimes you can get it back, but the cost may be in the thousands of dollars.

You Need a Data Emergency Plan

Think about the information that is on your computers and other devices in your home or office. What would you do if all those family pictures or business records & projects were gone?

Step 1: Backup and then Backup Again

Local backup: We use Western Digital "My Passport" 1TB external USB drives to backup our home office laptops, but any external HD will do if it has these features:

  • Automatic backup - don't rely on you remembering to back things up - schedule a backup nightly - better yet, buy a HD that automatically mirrors your data immediately after every save. 
  • Encryption - make sure your data is safe from theft. Very important for businesses, but also vital for home owners who store bank or tax info on their systems.
  • Enough capacity - buy a backup HD with 50% to 100% more space than your current system's HD. 
  • Portability - get a portable HD that's easy to carry and simple to set up.

Important: Local backup is great until you lose that portable HD or it's damaged in an accident. Then Cloud Storage looks much more attractive...

Cloud backup: As a backup to the backup, you should also consider cloud backup services, not just for business data, but your home files as well.

Cloud backup plans start at around $50 / year and go up as you add storage space and features. The #1 benefit of Cloud backup is your data is protected from theft, fire, etc. If there's a natural disaster, there's nothing to carry out the door because your data is safely stored in a data center offsite.

A Google search for "cloud backup" yields a host of companies that can keep your data safe.

The way I personally use these 2 technologies:

  • I backup all my data locally using external USB drives.
  • I backup my "greatest hits" - favorite family pictures/videos plus important financial files to the Cloud. (I may start relying less on my external USB drives as the cost of Cloud storage continues to decrease. Right now it doesn't make sense to back up 3 TBs of data from multiple computers to the Cloud.)

Step 2: Work in the Cloud

Another way to keep all your important files safe is to make the Cloud the place where you work.

  • You can use Google Drive or Dropbox to automatically store and share your important data across multiple platforms.
  • If you have Microsoft Office, use the free online document storage for your most important work.
  • You can also store and share important pictures and videos on image storage sites like FlickrPhotobucketSnapfishShutterfly, or Picasa Web Albums.
  • And of course if your company hosts it's own wiki or IBM Connections site, posting your work and files there will protect them from data loss as well.

Step 3: Plan on what you will do with your computer assets in an emergency 

When a winter storm hits, don't forget your computers and other electronics.
  • Protect: Make sure you have all your sensitive electronics connected to high-quality power strips with surge protection.
  • Unplug: If you lose power, remember to unplug all your sensitive electronics - TVs, DVRs, stereos, and computers - so when the power does return, your equipment isn't damaged by a possible power surge. (I unplug my power strips - even the ones with surge protection - I don't want to take any chances.)
  • Remove: If you have to evacuate due to a winter emergency, plan on which electronics you will take.
      -  If we can drive away from the emergency - I plan to take all my phones, tablets, laptops, and backup HDs plus all needed cables. I also plan to take my desktop computers - only the cases, leaving behind monitors, keyboards, etc.
      -  If we can't drive away due to the roads being blocked, then we'll take all the portable electronics and place the desktops in the attic to protect them from flooding, etc.

I know this is a long list of items to digest - just make sure you add "protecting your data" to your family's emergency action plan today!

Happy Halloween!

For more information on how to prepare in advance for a power outage, visit the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's site.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

America's PrepareAthon is Today! Get Involved! Become Prepared!

It's the last day of September's National Preparedness Month. Are you better prepared? It's not too late - join in today's National PrepareAthon! Day!

America's PrepareAthon! is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

National PrepareAthon! Day focuses on taking the time to prepare for these six specific events:

Campaign Goals
The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of individuals who:
  • Understand which natural disasters could happen in their community
  • Know what to do to be safe and minimize damage
  • Take action to increase their awareness and preparedness
  • Participate in community resilience planning and training

What can you do?
  • Register to participate in America’s PrepareAthon! and provide details about the activities you’re planning.
  • Plan your own local community or organizational preparedness event
  • Participate in discussion forums online with like-minded community members
  • Learn the actions to take for disaster preparedness and practice them regularly

Where can you find more information?
There are many great resources on the FEMA site:

Stay connected


Communicate with Peers:

On the web:

So don't wait too long to visit these resources and start your planning activities - for us in the Northeast U.S., winter storms are right around the corner!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's 9/11 - Do You Have a Family Communications Plan?

Can't believe it's been 13 years.

I can remember that morning like it was yesterday and the main thing that sticks in my mind was the amount of confusion and worry that day.

We all didn't know what was happening in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. We all wanted to know our family and friends in those areas were safe. But many phone systems in those areas were either down or jammed with call traffic.

The good news is that today there are many more options to keep in touch and stay informed.

Communication Plan - make one today.

With the advent of smart devices and social media, getting the word out that you are OK or contacting loved ones to check on their status is much easier, but it still requires some thought and planning.

1) Determine the best ways to let your family and friends know you're OK in an emergency. Here's my ranked list:

  1. Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+
  2. Text messages
  3. Voice: cell or landline

  • I chose social media as my first method due to it's redundancy and one-to-many communication method. Any one of these channels can let your family know you're OK and can also be used to query loved ones on their status. You can also access these channels from multiple devices - if WiFi is down, but cell service is still working, you can still communicate through your smart phone.
  • Text messaging is a good back up to social media, especially if you need to communicate with family and friends who may not be tied into social media or unable to access it from work, etc. You can use group texts to contact multiple people more efficiently.
  • The phone call or message is my last resort, mostly aimed at my older relatives and friends who don't have smart phones and don't live on social media like I do.
     - I'm assuming that my status is "OK". If I'm in trouble, a phone call to my local police or fire department would be my first choice.
     - Also, have important phone numbers written down - when your cell phone dies or is lost, that speed-dial function is going to be useless.

2) Make sure your family & friends know how you're going to let everyone know you're OK.

  • If you're going to use social media, let everyone know that's your plan. Worst case, a friend or relative outside of the emergency area that saw your update on social media or spoke to you on the phone can let others know what's going on through various methods.

3) Have backups in your plan. For example:

  • What will you do if your cell phone dies, is broken, or lost? (Borrow a neighbor's phone?)
  • What if the cell service is down or locked up due to excessive traffic? (Can you still get on the Internet? Use social media?)
  • What if the land lines are down? (Use Cell or Internet?) 

I realize that having a communication plan is not a silver bullet to solving an emergency crisis, but being able to easily communicate your status or check up on a loved one's condition will give you a greater peace of mind, enabling you to focus on more important tasks during an emergency.

Get started now with this great planning resource from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

September is National Preparedness Month, visit FEMA's site for more info and excellent resources.
For my readers in Massachusetts, visit MEMA's site for additional local preparedness info.

(Image courtesy of

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are you ready for Arthur? How about the next storm?

OK, it's time to put my National Guard, Emergency Management hat on.

June 1st was the official start of the Hurricane Season for the Atlantic Ocean. While many forecasters predict a below-average 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, all you need is just one hurricane to ruin your day (or ruin your life).

For us in the Boston area, it appears that the Northeast will be spared most of Arthur's effects. See for the latest, official forecast.

So what can the average citizen do to prepare for this storm or the next one?

Be alert
In today's social media, TV-everywhere society, it still shocks me to see people surprised by weather, especially tropical storms and hurricanes.
Additionally, many towns also have fire and police social channels. Either search your favorite social media app for your town's account or check your town's website for its channels.

This all may sound like overkill, but being informed and alert is your first line of defense in these types of events.

Be prepared
Now I'm not saying we should all go out and become Doomsday Preppers, but all families should have a plan, loose or written down, for weather emergencies. Having a plan will give you a much greater sense of confidence going into a weather event and greatly improve the outcome should you experience an actual weather emergency.
  • For my friends in Massachusetts, visit MEMA's "Ready Massachusetts" site - an excellent source of information and plan outlines. For other states, entering "<your state here> emergency management" in any search engine will get you to the correct local resources. 
  • FEMA also has an excellent Family Emergency Plan that can be downloaded and filled out.

And being prepared doesn't mean going into overkill mode, it just means carefully thinking about what you should do before, during and after an event.

Act early
Being informed and prepared will then allow you to respond to a weather event in a timely manner.
Some tasks you should do earlier rather than later:
  • Secure outdoor furniture and loose items to prevent additional wind damage.
  • Fill your car's gas tank.
  • Shop for food and essentials. (In a perfect world, we'd all have enough canned food and water on hand to not have to do last minute shopping...)
  • Determine if you are going to "shelter in place" or leave the area.
Once again, your actions should be part of your family's overall plan.

Well, I have to go and start securing my yard in advance of Arthur. For those on the east coast, I hope this storm doesn't ruin your holiday week and more importantly, I hope and pray for a very uneventful 2014 hurricane season.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We Did It! IBM is one of the Ten Best Web Support Sites of 2014!

We Did It!
IBM has been recognized as one of the Ten Best Web Support Sites of 2014 by the Association of Support Professionals!

One of my last projects I completed before leaving IBM was to lead the application team for IBM's entry in this year's Ten Best Web Support Sites competition. I can't begin to describe how proud I am of our team of writers, editors and reviewers - all whom ensured the judges were well aware of all the improvements IBM accomplished over the previous year. I must additionally praise the IBM web development team for giving us such a great support site to work with!

Award Background
Now in its 17th year, the annual "Ten Best Web Support Sites" competition is one of the most prestigious awards a company can receive for its online support efforts. It requires a 12 page paper as part of the application process, documenting your company's greatest challenge, how you overcame this challenge, the metrics process used to measure success of your support site and 3 feature highlights of your support site. Then volunteer judges, who are subject matter experts in support site design and functionality, take over a month to score the submitted websites based on 25 specific criteria.

What is the Association of Support Professionals?
The Association of Support Professionals (ASP) is an international membership organization for customer support managers and professionals. In addition to its annual "Ten Best Web Support Sites" awards, the ASP publishes research reports on a wide range of support topics, including support compensation, fee-based support, and services marketing. The ASP also provides its members with discounts and career development services. Visit for complete association details.      

Next steps
In the near future, you'll see a press announcement from IBM. IBM will also place the following logo on its support site in various areas.

Additionally, the ten winning sites will be profiled in a book called "The Ten Best Web Support Sites of 2014", to be published by the ASP in July - I'm looking forward to seeing my name in that book! 
Also, I was one of the judges this year - no, I didn't judge IBM's site...

Overall, very exciting news for my friends at IBM - I can't wait to read the ASP book this summer!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

It's Time for a New Adventure!

I'll miss my parking spot!

Goodbye IBM...

This Spring, I left IBM and now find myself trying to figure out what I really want to be when I grow up.

While I will very much miss being an "IBMer" and I miss my IBM colleagues terribly, I am looking at this change as an opportunity to explore some new things and reconnect with some older interests.

New things

I'm still very interested in social business and all aspects of technology. I will comment on the latest tech news and trends as often as possible. 

Older interests

I plan on returning to the university, focusing on information technology and project management studies. 

I've always wanted to write a book about my parents - they grew up in the Great Depression and personally experienced WW2 and the Cold War. I want to capture those stories before it's too late. Now I have some time to start this project.

I also have a new role in my military career. For over 20 years now, I have been a member of my state's Air National Guard. Recently, I was selected for a new role, concentrating on Massachusetts' emergency management and critical event planning. This is an area that I find extremely interesting and rewarding. Who knows, maybe this will be my new career...

Blog Background

I'm starting this blog because while I've written a blog for IBM Electronic Support for years, it was all about IBM tools and sites, not about the lessons I've learned doing marketing, social business, and emergency management for over a decade now.

I can't promise I'll keep this blog always focused on business - my other love, Jeeps, may sneak in once in a while along with some military articles.

Well, let's see where this takes us - I hope you'll find my ramblings useful and possibly entertaining...

 - Pat O'C