Lost Skills of the Cowboy Code: The Foundation of Business Continuity Cooperation – This Week in Business Continuity

A very brief undated editorial at americancowboy.com succinctly and eloquently summarizes the hallmark of the cowboy way, the code of behavior that every respectable cowboy has ever lived by, although the article has more of a focus on the days when cattle drives were a far more common occurrence.  It opines on seemingly vanishing characteristics such as stewardship, humility and good manners.  But what struck me most about it was that those same qualities are what build a strong business continuity community, bother intra- and inter-industry, and help our community operate at discriminate-2the highest level of efficiency in the event of a massive localized disruption.  Or as Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther puts it, “Crises don’t discriminate: they put us all on the same playing field where we depend on one another to act for the greater good.”  If you’re a business continuity professional and have never hit an ACP local chapter meeting, give it a shot.


Last week I featured parts of a discussion I recently had with 911 Consulting president Bo Mitchell about the lack of preparedness by many organizations for emergencies.  I asked him to explain what really is required by law and by national standards for Emergency Action Plans.  According to Bo, “We start with OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.34 which states ‘Every employer is covered. Sections 1910.34 through 1910.39 apply to workplaces in general industry except mobile workplaces such as vehicles or vessels.’  So, unless your workplace is on a boat or a truck, you [must] comply with 1910.34-39 which includes Emergency Action Plans (1910.38).

“This regulation covers all workplaces whether you’re a business, non-profit, campus, healthcare organization – every workplace without exception. There are folks out there right now who staunchly believe that OSHA does not apply to them.  They are simply wrong.  OSHA says you shall create and train an EAP.  Period.  Then there is the NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association founded in 1896.  In the intervening 120 years, NFPA has promulgated 300 standards.  These standards are so strong and well-recognized that they are the backbone and majority of every state’s fire code.

“One of those standards is NFPA 1600.  You can download it for free and it’s copyright-free because it is the universally recognized standard for creating your emergency plan.  Recognized by Congress, by DHS, by S&P, by the state legislatures of California and Florida, and by juries where you will be judged when you are sued after an incident.

“On page 17, you’ll find the list of emergencies every workplace must plan for. This could be 20 to 25 different kinds of threats such at tornados, active shooters, earthquakes, workplace violence. Why such a long list?  First, all of the emergencies are what your corporate attorney calls foreseeable circumstances for which you must plan.  Second, you never get the emergency you plan for – Murphy’s Law.  Third, your opinion on what emergencies to plan for is not relevant. The standard is what controls.  OSHA mandates you plan and train.  NFPA 1600 dictates the table of contents.”

Then why don’t more organizations have a robust and compliant EAP?  “It’s all about denial in the C-suite. Denial by your CEO or COO is expressed as ignorance.  ‘I didn’t know that.’  Denial is vanquished once something bad happens at our facility, or the facility next door, or one of our offices in another city.  Then, THEN, we get religion and get out of denial and into planning and training.  My experience is that change almost always occurs because of blunt force trauma from the outside, never by inspired leadership from the inside.”

Bo’s next webinar is “The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – A Train Wreck in 2015 . . . What That Means to You” is Wednesday, August 12th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central and you can find out more and register here.

And don’t forget to register for next Wednesday’s Association of Contingency Planners webinar, “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism” presented by Bio-Defense Network’s Harlan Dolgin.


Speaking of minimizing risk, in our last contract negotiation terminology series post, we shared the concept of spreading risk across multiple hotels in order to strengthen your position in your failover city.  Sounds great in theory, but what happens when you activate your plan and have to deal with that many more hotel contracts as a result?  “Simple,” says Continuity Housing principal, Michelle Lowther.  “Negotiate your contract with each hotel in advance.  Literally comb through the fine print, negotiate all the terms and concessions that would apply to a deployment booking with each hotel, then set those documents aside until you need them.  Be sure, of course, that both parties agree to the document contents in writing.  Then, when you trigger a deployment, simply fill in the dates of your stay and the details of your room type(s), and you’re all set.”  Now why didn’t I think of that?


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 planning session, let us know.