What Ceaseless Times Square Can Teach Us About Business Continuity

The week before last I visited New York City to, among other things, make a presentation at the monthly meeting of the NYC Metro chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners.  It was a nice size crowd, not so many that we couldn’t engage in an interactive session, which is just the way I like it.  In fact, I use that to my advantage because I know that each person there is just that much more interested in my message.  It’s also a beautiful thing because it enables me to really drill down into each attendee’s individual needs, circumstances and experiences, and I love it when that happens.

The group was a mix of public and private sector plus representatives from DRI and Continuity Insights (who recapped the presentation in this report).  In other words, a solid bunch.  I got an inside look at the Metropolitan College of New York, the meeting’s sponsor, who generously gave us all our fill of delicious pizza and cane soda.  (Diet be damned!)  And lucky for me my presentation was the only item on the agenda.

As often as I can I open my sessions by asking what people want to learn.  When I’m in an area where there’s been any kind of recent regional event (think Hurricane Sandy for this group), attendees usually bring me lots of questions as a result.  It’s like anything else: once you experience something for yourself, it means a whole lot more.  And when it comes to my area of expertise, I find that once somebody’s been through “the hotel thing” during a deployment and had to wing it as best they can, they are all ears and highly interactive during the session.  Oh . . . and they usually don’t want to go through it again!

Some of the questions from this meeting were:

  • What’s the value proposition for hotels? What do I possibly tell them to make them think it’s a good idea to guarantee that rooms will be available for my clients whenever needed without my clients having to pay for them outright?
  • Can hotels kick people out in order to accommodate others?
  • What about renting private homes if hotels are not a viable/desirable option?
  • How can we avoid hotels’ stiff cancellation penalties?
  • What happens when the hotel itself is involved in [a severe weather] event and can’t accommodate us anymore?

All good questions, and it was clear to me that these folks had come prepared!

crazinessAt the time of my trip, news about ebola was, hopefully, at its peak and the passenger inspections had just begun at JFK.  I flew into Newark so I didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary.  But it’s still an international airport so I’d been a little apprehensive about making the trip in the first place.  I reassured friends and family that I wasn’t crazy for sticking with my travel plans and promised everything would be fine.  I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t at least a little concerned.  Having lived in NYC myself for more than 4 years, I know first-hand just how close you have to get to the rest of the people on the island of Manhattan if you ever plan to walk down the street, much less take a subway or eat out, which in my mind heightens the risk of transmitting something like ebola.

People were out though, just like they always are.  I had dinner with a friend after he got off work in midtown and Times Square was as crowded as ever.  As is often the case, there were tourists EVERYWHERE!  All that makes New York New York was in full swing (see photo just below of my pal Bryan and I).  The sheer normalcy of that made me forget, for the moment at least, any concerns I had about pandemic.

Bryan and me.  Click to enlarge.

Bryan and me. Click to enlarge.

And standing there in the middle of all the Times Square craziness, it struck me.   Resilience.  Not just of business, but of people.  (Too bad my shoes were not quite as resilient when the skies opened up out of nowhere and I stood under scaffolding in Times Square unable to locate ANY available cabs, but that’s a story for another time.)

People say New Yorkers are hard to impress.  Maybe, but in my experience it’s more that they’re hard to unnerve and even slower to panic, forever evolving and self-improving.  Even in the midst of the relative panic about the potential spread of ebola in one of the largest, most densely packed and significant cities in the world, clearly life goes on.  And it does so because there’s a system of myriad sub-systems designed to keep us all going and thriving and, when necessary, enduring and recovering (and learning from our mistakes and thereby constantly improving).

Sound familiar?  It’s because we in the business continuity world do this, see this, think like this every single day.  There are experts in charge: all of us in business continuity.  Through our planning, our research, our threat assessments and our drills, we do our best to keep things going.  And when we retire, I’m thinking we should all move to New York City!

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cyberterrorDon’t forget to register for the next ACP Webinar which occurs at 1:00 Central / 2:00 Eastern on Thursday, November 6th.  The topic is “Business Continuity Management and Cyberterrorism: How it Affects Us and What You Should Be Doing Now” and the presenter is Al Berman, president of DRI InternationalFind out more and register now here.  Register even if you can’t attend so that you automatically receive the link to the recorded version afterward.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.

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