What Prison Escapees and Lost Space Station Supply Ships Have In Common; Plus What We’re Stealing From Hotels These Days – This Week in Business Continuity

The two big stories of the weekend were the final end of the New York state prison escape and the dramatic loss of the third ISS resupply cargo ship in the last eight months.  Considering the alleged involvement of the two prison guards in the escape of the prisoners, that’s a story we’ll be hearing about for a long time to come.  The more important story, however, is the loss of the SpaceX cargo ship on Sunday morning; the three crewmembers have enough food and water through October but the string of failures in resupplying the station casts much greater doubt on its continued successful operation.

borrowingWhat does either situation have to do with business continuity?  Lots.  The considerable lockdown of the upstate New York area during the search for the prisoners reminds me of what happens a lot of times after a severe hurricane or terrorist attack: the National Guard and/or other authorities impose travel restrictions which in turn hamper the progress of employees trying to get back to work as well as roadway shipment of cargo, including resupply for companies that need new feedstock.  The supply ship explosion is a ready-made reminder that even with redundant backups, sometimes resupply will be hampered – although ‘hampered’ doesn’t seem nearly strong enough a word when you’re talking about spaceships delivering vital hardware and food to a space station.

Which is why you might want to consider adding the concept of tankering to your business continuity plan.  Tankering is an occasional commercial, military and corporate aviation practice of uploading more fuel than is required just for the next leg of the flight in case there’s a quality or availability issue with the jet fuel at the next destination, or if the fuel is much more expensive at the first destination than at the second one.  It can be a relatively expensive strategy: more fuel onboard means a heavier aircraft and reduced fuel efficiency.  It’s an expensive concept for industry, too – more raw materials mean greater risk, more required storage area, etc.  If possible, however, think downline and explore the possibility of ordering not only the resupply of your next required batch of whatever but also the batch you’ll need after that.  In the spirit of constantly borrowing business continuity concepts from industries other than the one you’re in, it’s worth considering.  Spread the risk.  Always.

***

Speaking of spreading the risk, here’s another way you’ve probably never considered doing so: with your housing.  Specifically, your desire to keep everyone under one roof if possible during a deployment, and the corresponding action of establishing a relationship with (only) one hotel to assist you when you activate your plan.  “That’s exactly the opposite of what actually works the best,” says Continuity Housing’s Michelle Lowther.  “For a company that typically selects one preferred supplier for each critical category in its supply chain, it may seem counterintuitive and even inefficient to spend time setting up relationships with several hotels.  But from a risk standpoint, it’s the only thing that makes sense.  With multiple hotels in your arsenal you spread your risk, making it much more likely that the hotels you’ve selected in advance will come through for you at crunch time.  Remember that for a hotel a room night is a perishable good, so outside of a formal housing program, there’s no guarantee that they’ll have a room available when you need it most.  A good rule of thumb is one hotel ‘in your pocket’ for every 10-15 rooms you’ll require.  That may seem like a lot, but if you ever have to put it to the test, you’ll be glad you did the work up front.”

***

Also speaking of preparing for a disaster, what about interruptions you never thought you or your company would have to deal with?  I asked some of Continuity Housing’s Global Account Executives to tell me about the last disaster, big or small, that they’d never planned on dealing with.

Stacey Sabiston’s was Tropical Storm Faye in Florida in 2008.  What’s unplanned about a hurricane in Florida?  “I moved here in 2007 and had heard about many of the big named hurricanes that had come through the state in 2004 and years prior.  When we bought our home it came with hurricane shutters, we bought the hurricane insurance, we bought the generator, etc. . . . the one thing we did not buy was flood insurance.  We don’t live on the water and we’re not in a flood plain so we didn’t see the need for it.  And then Tropical Storm Faye came and dumped 30 inches of rain in 3 days. [Note: Faye actually made landfall four separate times.]

Faye

Faye’s fairly annoying path. Graphic: Wikipedia

“It came down in buckets and never let up.  I have never seen anything like it.  We took the dog out for a walk and there were fish swimming down the streets.  It was the most bizarre slow moving storm I’d ever witnessed.  By the third day, the water had nowhere else to go and started creeping up toward the front door and back door of the house.  Since it wasn’t a hurricane, this type of damage would not have been covered by our hurricane insurance and since we did not have a separate flood policy, our homeowners wouldn’t cover it either.  We were panicked.  Fortunately the rain slowed down and the water receded, but it was a very scary experience.  Schools and businesses were closed for a week and there was lots of clean-up afterward.  I never thought a tropical storm could cause more damage than a hurricane until I moved to Florida.

“And yes,” Stacey says, “now we do have flood insurance, too!”

Account Executive Casey Judd shared his “never imagined that happening” experience which also involved the weather.   “A few weeks ago we actually had a funnel cloud in the small Idaho town that we live in and just across the border in Utah there were also funnel clouds. There were no tornadoes but even funnel clouds are really strange for us to get here.  It’s been an incredibly windy and rainy spring.  We actually had enough wind to blow down several trees in my neighborhood and take out part of my fence.”  Again, what’s so unusual about that?

“I did a little research and Idaho and Utah both average 2 tornadoes a year which is probably within the bottom 10 in the U.S. The last time someone was killed from one in Idaho was in 1936 so they are not something that we deal with seriously very often.”  Maybe not often but obviously not never.

Always at least consider the unimaginable or that which is very unlikely.  How would you respond?

***

The next Association of Contingency Planners webinar series presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, July 22nd at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Entitled “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism,” this will be a presentation by Harlan Dolgin, JD, CBCP, co-owner of Bio-Defense Network and adjunct assistant professor of Business Continuity Management at Saint Louis University.

This session is a follow-up to a popular ACP webinar presented in February that addressed “Protecting your Workforce During a Public Health Emergency Through a Partnership with Local Public Health.” (You can watch that one here.) That session discussed the benefits of becoming a Closed Point of Dispensing (Closed POD) by partnering with your local health department, and provided details of this national program. This session will expand on that by reviewing the highlights of the Closed POD program and using case studies from successful implementations of the program.  During this session, attendees will learn:

  • A short review of the Closed POD program.
  • How employers can benefit from this free program.
  • How communities in Texas, Missouri, New York and California have successfully implemented this program.

Register even if you can’t attend the live presentation so that you automatically receive the link to the recording as well as the presentation slides.  The ACP webinar series is sponsored exclusively by Continuity Housing.

***

stealingHave you ever stolen anything from a hotel room you were staying in?  If not, you’re in the minority.  What are the most popular items to grow legs and walk out of a room?  According to this admittedly goofy ‘news’ segment from earlier this month, it’s toiletries, pads, pens, paper, slippers and key cards.  None of which explains the elegant Motel 6 lamp that’s on my desk.

Just kidding.

***

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.

Plan For Hidden Threats After A Disaster; Odd Storm Prep Behavior – This Week In Business Continuity

Over the last several weeks the general media has been describing the recent severe flooding across many parts of the central and southern U.S. with adjectives like ‘historic’ and ‘phenomenal.’  That’s debatable but it has been bad enough to cause considerable primary damage and destruction of property.  I say primary because now we’re beginning to see some of the after-effects of the original damage in the form of house fires caused by electrical problems brought on by the original flooding from the Memorial Day weekend storms.  Adding insult to injury, “The potential for fire after a flood can be traced to the wires, circuit panels, switches and outlets that were submerged in water.”

submerged-wiresWhen repairing, renovating or restoring your office, home, car or any other property after it’s been damaged in a similar event, never skimp.  Get the best, the bonded, the highest reviewed and consider what might be a higher repair cost to be an investment in the future.  And your peace of mind.

CenterPoint Energy has a great resource page full of links to storm-associated safety considerations to be aware of.  And while you’re at it, take a look at this fantastic and fairly short video about “Staying Alive When The Power Lines Come Downthat we produced last year and share it with anyone you care about.

***

In advance of that received considerable media coverage, city and county officials along the Texas Gulf Coast urged citizens to take the standard storm precautions, prepare for the potential of outages and to gather storm supplies while they may.  Gather they did, emptying some stores of bottled panic-shoppers-billwater, beer, bread, batteries and other items.  The relative panic was such that midway through a normal grocery shopping trip, a friend of mine had her half-full shopping cart ‘appropriated’ by another customer because there weren’t any carts left to use.  Unfortunately, after the storm had passed both the mayor of Houston and the Harris county judge poked fun at the overreaction, moves that probably won’t inspire much confidence in either of them the next time they send out the call for people to get ready for a tropical event.  To quote Houston Chronicle Science Editor Eric Berger from an article the other day, “Politicians don’t understand weather.“

The U.S. Census estimates that around 3,000 people move to the Houston area each month, although I’ve heard numbers that range closer to 10,000 per month.  Splitting the difference, that means that in the 81 months since (the neighborhood’s last significant tropical event) nearly 530,000 people have move to the area.

That’s a lot of newbies, and a lot of people within that group who’ve never experienced a tropical storm or its attendant media hype.  No wonder they over-reacted to news reports about an event that, for many of us, turned out being just a couple of fairly rainy days.

Human behavior.  Always remember to take that into account when you’re refining your company’s organizational response plan.  It’s the most difficult aspect to prepare for but definitely one of the most important.

***

We’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the senseless church massacre in Charleston last Wednesday night.  Unfortunately such shootings continue to be an increasing reality in our lives.  If you didn’t attend either of the recent Association of Contingency Planners webinars on preparing for and responding to an active shooter, we’ve posted them for you to watch and share with anyone you’d like to.  Part one from April 7th is here and part two recorded last week is here.  The presenter is outstanding and both webinars are about as full as they possibly can be of useful information and instruction.

If you don’t have the time to watch both or either of the webinars, there’s also the much shorter video produced by the City of Houston in 2012 and it can be found here.

Our thoughts and heartfelt prayers continue to be with the families and friends of those killed and injured.

***

watch

Image: Apple

I don’t have one (yet?) but here’s another reason to consider getting one of the new smart watches: “Members of Marriott Rewards program who have purchased the Apple Watch will be able to use it globally to access check-in and check-out, get real-time room-ready alerts, view the nearest hotel and next reservation, and see rewards account details.”  Details are available here.  Starwood and Hilton worldwide are also rolling out similar watch-based amenities.  Yet another example of the best and brightest hotel chains providing guests with new and appealing options in an ever-competitive environment.

***

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.

Proactive Pet Preparedness; Marriott to Offer Netflix – This Week in Business Continuity

June is Pet Preparedness Month.  If you have one or more pets, chances are that you love them more than anyone else could understand.  And with good reason.  Dogs and cats especially bring more to our lives than non-pet owners realize but they also have special needs.  That’s why it’s important to be proactive, both as a pet companion and as a BC/DR professional, in taking some serious but easy steps to make sure they’re taken care of in the event of a disaster, whether you end up being deployed because of a business interruption or not.  (Speaking of which, Gulf Coasters are keeping an eye on what the National Hurricane Center will probably upgrade to tropical storm Bill which is slated to make landfall along the Texas coast some time this evening.)

Hotels and shelters are more commonly willing to allow pets these days, so consider putting together a go bag for your pet(s).

Hotels and shelters are more commonly willing to allow pets these days, so consider putting together a go bag for your pet(s).

To help people make sure their pets are ready, the Houston SPCA is offering a discount-priced vaccine and microchipping combo every weekend this month.  Most of you don’t live in Houston so check with your local humane societies and challenge them to match the HSPCA’s deal or see if they offer any similar type of program.  Either way, the Houston Society has also posted a great page full of information and pet prep recommendations on their website.  They’ve even posted a preparedness page about taking care of farm animals.

Which leads us to this week’s important hotel deployment contract term: the pet policy.

account-for-petsAh, the pet policy.  A simple one or two lines in your 15-page hotel contract that can literally make or break your housing success during a deployment.  “If you’re moving entire families as opposed to just the employees themselves, then you absolutely, positively have to account for pets,” says Continuity Housing’s Michelle Lowther.  “Pet owners consider their pets to be part of their family, and many will not relocate without them.  If a member of your critical function team travels with a pet and the room you have secured for them doesn’t accommodate that pet, you can be sure that employee will either stay elsewhere or simply elect not to go.  If they stay somewhere else, then the worst for you is that you risk paying twice for their room.  But if they decide to stay back altogether, then we’re talking about critical functions that won’t be performed, and most of our away teams are far too lean to tolerate that.  Part of the job just won’t get done.”

So how to address this in your hotel contracts?  “Just ask,” says Lowther.  “Most hotels who don’t typically accept pets are willing to make exceptions during emergency circumstances.  Be prepared to pay pet fees and sign damage waivers, all of which vary by hotel.  And most importantly, make sure you agree upon any restrictions such as species, weight or breed that the hotel imposes, so you can communicate properly to your critical team and assign the right people to the right hotels.”

***

Speaking of preparedness, the next ACP Webinar Series presentation will be next week: “Getting the Most Value From Your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solution” on Tuesday, June 23rd at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central.  In a nutshell, it’s about more effectively utilizing your BC/DR assets even when there’s not a disaster in progress.  You know the drill with these webinars: short(ish), free, valuable information, not a waste of your time, not a commercial.  Sign up and share the link.  Doing so will make you look good.

***

Last chance to register for tomorrow’s Association of Contingency Planners webinar, Active Shooter in Your Workplace: Tactical Planning and Response.” Find out more and register by clicking here.  The webinar will be at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central but if you can’t attend, register anyway so that you receive the automatic follow-up email with the link to the recording of the presentation.

***

Last week we posted about the flooding that’s been happening around the country.  Shortly after that I came across this outstanding 52-second animation that explains just how bad it is to even think about crossing moving water in your vehicle.  I’ll admit I’ve been in a floating car and it’s terrifying.  You’re only reading this because I got very, very lucky.  Don’t be as dumb as me and don’t chance it.  Turn around, don’t drown.

***

Cheers to Marriott which is now giving guests the option to download Netflix content to their rooms.  This makes the free cable that the industry first began offering in the ‘80’s look like the banquet of four local TV stations we had to choose from when I was a kid . . . and, until about ’73, on a black-and-white TV.  Yes, Netflix on an LCD is much better.

The move acknowledges two major changes in how different industries are responding to consumer demand.  By offering the service, Marriott continues to acknowledge that competition is fierce and that guests respond to increased options.  Just as importantly, Netflix’s continuing expansion reflects the evolution of the home entertainment industry away from traditional television programming.  Which reminds me of the joke about the millionaire who went broke and was asked how it happened.  “Slowly at first,” he replied, “and then all at once.”

***

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.

The Real Cost of Credit Card Fraud: Your Time; Plus, Not Paying For Hotel Rooms That You Don’t Use In A Deployment – BUSY Week In Business Continuity

May was Texas’ wettest month in recorded history – and now, according to NOAA, the wettest month in U.S. history – and the flooding nightmare was an extended event.  More than 30,000 cars were flooded out, a smaller number were substantially damaged by hail, more than 1,400 homes in the Houston area were either damaged or destroyed and residents of watershed and river valley regions throughout a huge portion of the state had to wait days for rivers to crest and recede.

In the face of weather that can kill, it’s simple.  If there’s enough time and a safe route, evacuate when instructed and never, ever drive through standing water.  At the very least, you substantially increase the chance of damaging your vehicle but you also run the risk of not getting out of the water alive.  For those who would refuse to evacuate – or those might decide to chance driving through standing water – it’s too risky a gamble.  Moving water that’s just six inches high can knock you over and carry you away.  Just a foot of water can have the same effect on your car.  Just a single foot.  Turn around, don’t drown.  Dinner, that important meeting, the kids at school – it can all wait.  Let the water subside before proceeding.

lifehamIf nothing else, think about what else is in the water that’s also panicked or, at the very least, not in a good mood.  Fire ants.  Snakes.  Alligators.  A few other tips:

  • Buy one of these (photo at right) for each vehicle in your family. Every member of my family has one of them mounted to the driver’s side of the center compartment divider near the dashboard so that we don’t even have to bother opening the center console or glove compartment in an emergency.  If your car accidentally goes into high enough water, the pressure imbalance will keep you from opening the doors and/or you’ll lose power window and lock control from the electrical system shorting out.  Do I think my car will ever be in deep water?  No, but no one ever does.  Buy one of those.  And go to a junk yard and – with permission – practice using it.  I won’t tell you what I learned when I did so but it’s important enough that you should do it.  Bonus: it’s fun.
  • Keep a go bag handy. If you’re worth your salt as a BC/DR pro, keep a go bag in your car trunk, too.  Even if you live out in the middle of the New Mexican dessert where you never get any quakes or floods or plagues of locusts.  Watch the two-minute video on the right that I borrowed from the local ABC news affiliate.  Apologies for the production quality.

***

A few weeks ago, some kind soul somewhere on the planet decided to borrow a five-figure amount of money from one of my bank accounts.  I figure he or she thought I was a nice enough guy that we didn’t need to bother with any silly application process.

I didn’t lose any money in the deal.  My bank, like most these days, detected the attempted transaction and stopped it before it was processed and then extremely promptly cancelled my credit card.  So promptly that I didn’t receive notification until the next morning at breakfast when my card was declined at the coffee shop.  The last time my card was declined was a loooonngggg time ago when I was in high school and it deserved to be declined.  (When it happened recently, I knew immediately the card had been declined for any reason other than nonsufficient funds but it’s funny where your head goes in that split second after they tell you your card’s no good.  Kind of like when a cop pulls you over and you know you weren’t speeding.)

What I did lose was time, more than 2 hours of it getting the situation sorted out with the bank and then visiting a branch outlet the next morning for a temp replacement card, not to mention the continuing follow-up time spent updating the billing information of the online accounts I fund using that particular card.  And yeah, two hours of time is money lost.

Moral?  Always have a backup form of payment and always have a very well hidden stash of cash ready in the event of an emergency, if you have to bug out or both.  Remember that in the event of a disruption that turns the lights out over a large region, ATM machines don’t work.  Never mind the high demand by the non-pre-planners on those ATMs that do work.  How much cash depends on your specific needs but imagine what you’d need to have on hand if you all of a sudden found yourself on the move or at least temporarily displaced for three to five days.  And also how uncomfortable you don’t want to be.

***

Hotel Contract Term of the Week:  calculation of attrition damages.  From Continuity Housing’s Principal, Michelle Lowther: “Let’s say you have some slippage in your hotel performance.  (For those who missed our previous post, that means you don’t use as many room nights as you say you will in your contract with the hotel.)  If you absolutely, positively have to pay for unused hotel rooms, who decides how much?

“On the one hand, the hotel has missed out on potential ancillary revenue (such as internet access, dining, parking, movies, etc.) that they might have received if you’d occupied all of your rooms.  On the other hand though, the hotel didn’t have any hard cost (such as electricity, housekeeping, wear and tear, etc.) on your rooms that went empty.”  So is it fair to pay the hotel the full, contracted room rate for each unused room night as damages?  For Continuity Housing clients, the answer is no.  “A good rule of thumb is to base damages on the hotel’s estimated lost profit on your unused rooms – typically 75% – 85% of the contracted room rate.  And remember to deduct your allowable slippage from the total room nights owed.  So on a contract for 150 rooms nights where you only end up using 105 room nights, instead of paying the hotel the full room rate for 45 empty room nights, you pay 75% of that room rate for only 15 room nights.”  And the effect is cumulative, bringing larger savings for larger contracted room blocks.

I hope it goes without saying, but always include the specifics around calculations of damages in your hotel contracts.  Agreeing to fair terms up front will alleviate myriad headaches on the back end.  Not to mention how it alleviates pains IN the back end.

***

Here are our next two informative, entertaining and educational new webinars.  Register and attend both and even if you can’t attend on the scheduled day, you’ll automatically (but only if you register) receive a link to the recorded version(s) in the follow-up email.

  • Wednesday, June 10that 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central: a Continuity Housing webinar, “The 17 Mistakes Organizations Make in Creating Their Emergency Plans & How to Correct Them” presented by former police commissioner and president of 911 Consulting, Bo Mitchell. Many of you will remember Bo from an ACP webinar he presented for us in April on planning for and responding to an active shooter in the workplace (video recording of that one and see below about the follow-up to that webinar).  For now, learn more about the 17 Mistakes webinar and register here.
  • And then next is the follow-up to the active shooter presentation in April, the Association of Contingency Planners webinar, “Active Shooter in Your Workplace: Tactical Planning and Response,” a free, 45-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 16th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Register here.  That webinar will also be presented by Bo Mitchell.

We have two more webinars scheduled for June.  More on those early next week.

***

Finally, here’s the find of the week: from the Why Didn’t We Think of That Before department, how about an interior nightlight that’s motion sensor activated?  Brilliant.  They even make them with battery backup for when there’s a power outage.  A miniature home version of the emergency evacuation lights you see in movie theaters and restaurants but for a whole lot less money.  I installed two of them at home a few months ago and not only do they cut back on electricity costs, albeit in a minor way, but I don’t know how I got along without them before.

***

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.

17 Mistakes Organizations Make in Creating Their Emergency Plans & How to Correct Them – This Week in Business Continuity

Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon, the Aurora, CO theater shooting and Hurricane Sandy emphasize that emergency planning for your workplace can be a matter of life and death and such planning is subject to many federal, state and local laws, regulations and standards. Most who are tasked with creating and maintaining emergency plans are confused or overwhelmed regarding those standards.  Continuity Housing is hosting a one-hour webinar to address these issues next Wednesday, June 10th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Register here.

(As attendees of previous Continuity Housing webinars know, none of the webinars that we ever host either as part of the Association of Contingency Planners Webinar Series or separate from the ACP, is a sales pitch either for or by Continuity Housing or by the presenter or the company associated with the presenter.  Sure, we mention who we are and who they are and what we do but the presentations are always 96.4% free of advertising.  Approximately.)

register-buttonIn next week’s presentation, you’ll learn what laws, regulations and standards apply to your emergency planning, training and exercises and what a lawsuit will do to you if you don’t create a plan to standard. Learn the 17 mistakes organizations make in creating their plans and how to correct them.  Learning objectives for this presentation will include:

  • What are the laws, regulations and standards that control emergency plans?
  • How will lawsuits affect you and your organization?
  • What should be the overriding attitude for managers in re-evaluating current planning?
  • How can your own employees and clients hurt your response to a disaster?
  • What should you expect by way of help from local municipalities?
Presenter Bo Mitchell

Presenter Bo Mitchell

The presenter, Bo Mitchell, was Police Commissioner of Wilton, CT for 16 years. He retired in February 2001 to found 911 Consulting which creates emergency, disaster recovery, business continuity, crisis communications and pandemic plans, plus training and exercises for organizations like GE HQ, Hyatt HQ, MasterCard HQ, four colleges and universities plus 26 secondary schools. He serves clients headquartered from Boston to LA working in their facilities from London to San Francisco. Bo has earned 16 certifications in homeland security, EM, DR, BC, safety and security. He also serves as an expert in landmark court cases nationally.  Bo is a veteran presenter and the material he provides is fast-paced, engaging, informative and educational.  Register now to attend.

***

But wait, there’s more.  Three more, to be specific.  The following ACP Webinar Series presentations will also take place this month.  Click the title links of each to find out more and to register.  All ACP webinars are free to attend and usually last from 40 minutes to an hour, (except for the ACP San Francisco Local Chapter meeting live simulcast which will run about two hours).  As always, if you can’t attend the live event, register anyway so that you receive the automatic follow-up email with the link to the recording that you can watch and share any time you want to.

  • The San Francisco Bay Area ACP Chapter Live Simulcast: Treasury Operations Recovery Planning next Tuesday, June 9th from Noon to 2:00 Pacific / 3:00 to 5:00 Eastern.  “Unplanned technology outages, data breaches and cyber-attacks are facts of life in the 21st century. If they strike your business, you’ll still need to pay employees and vendors, move and invest money, manage accounts and keep the treasury department running. These critical functions are crucial to your company’s survival and recovery. This will be a live simulcast of the ACP San Francisco Bay Area’s monthly chapter meeting.”  Also on the program, “CareerCorner: BC Careers. Access your Marketability, Formulate a Career Path and Always be Networking!”
  • Active Shooter in Your Workplace: Tactical Planning and Response will be on Tuesday, June 16th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  (Note that this is a follow-up presentation to Active Shooter: How Do Your People Respond In Your Workplace which we hosted on April 7th, and which you can watch here, but that you do not need to have attended that webinar in order to benefit from this one.)  “DOJ, FBI and NYPD report that Active shooter incidents quadrupled in 2013-14 versus the previous five-year average. 70% of Active shooters are in workplaces versus campuses. Three people die and 3+ are injured in the average active shooter incident. Active shooters strike malls, high rises, healthcare and factories as well as campuses. Your response is dramatically different at each site. This webinar will turn very tactical. You will learn how to create plans and procedures and how to train your emergency team and rank-and-file employees.”
  • Getting the Most Value From Your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solution – a presentation by Rentsys Recovery Services – on Tuesday, June 23rd at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central.  “When most organizations develop their business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) program, they only consider using the BC/DR solution during a disaster-related event. But as New Hampshire-based Service Credit Union demonstrates, taking a different approach can help you get the most value out of your BC/DR solution.  Join us to learn how, like Service Credit Union, you can get the greatest return on investment from your BC/DR solution.”

***

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.

What and HOW to Learn From the Gang Fight in Waco; More Tips for Contracting Deployment Housing – This Week in Business Continuity

"This is not a Waco problem. This is a nationwide problem because of the amount of activity that's involved in criminal activity with groups and organizations like this." – Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department Image: KTRK

“This is not a Waco problem. This is a nationwide problem because of the amount of activity that’s involved in criminal activity with groups and organizations like this.”
– Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department
Image: KTRK

Another week, another “What in the world???” moment.  Nine murdered, 170 arrested (bail for each one of whom was set at a million dollars), more than 100 cars stuck within the boundaries of the investigation scene and all of it spun out of control even though there were families eating inside the restaurant and pre-deployed law enforcement officers were standing right there.  The motorcycle gang fight in a mall parking lot in Waco on Sunday – a Sunday morning – reminds us that craziness can happen literally anywhere at any time.  As a business continuity professional and, even more importantly, as a person living through these times of ours as best you can, it behooves you to constantly improve on and update your overall survivability awareness.

fbi-permissionThe Red Cross, CERT and other federal agencies offer general safety courses but take the initiative and find out what local resources you can avail yourself of in order to increase your general odds of survival.  Such as the upcoming Association of Contingency Planners webinar, “Active Shooter in Your Workplace: Tactical Planning and Response,” a free, 45-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 16th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Register here.  The situation in Waco on Sunday wasn’t a classic active shooter situation but the event shared some characteristics with what can happen when one or more active shooters are involved.  Note that this is a follow-up webinar to a similar one that the same highly qualified presenter shared with us on April 7th and will actually include information that he had to get permission from the FBI to use.  You do not need to have attended that webinar to benefit from the upcoming webinar but you can watch the video of the April webinar here if you’d like to.

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Next on the roster of ACP webinars, however, is “Blast & Flood Zones, Terrorism and DDoS Attacks: New Elements of a Comprehensive DR Plan,” scheduled for this Tuesday, May 26th at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central.  For more information and to register, go here.

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The 2015 Secure360 conference took place in Minneapolis last week and those people know how to throw a show.  Billed as “The premier educational conference in the Upper Midwest for the information security and risk management industries,” our Michelle Lowther attended as a speaker and says that it was educational and well run, which is high praise from someone with a background in hospitality and convention management.  “The breakouts were refreshing, ranging from active shooter prevention and detection of insider threats to assessment of critical vendor resiliency,” says Lowther.  “The keynotes were especially good.  Ever see the movie Catch Me If You Can?  Our first keynote was the real Frank Abagnale’s insider’s take on identity theft.  Really good stuff.”

The conference was created by the Upper Midwest Security Alliance which was founded in 2004 with the goal to provide a “collaborative, multi-faceted conference” that “presents a unique opportunity to experience a national-quality conference without traveling to Orlando or Las Vegas.”

Our friends at Rentsys hosted a booth on the trade show floor, their third time to do so and according to account executive Mike Manchester, “Secure360 addresses a variety of security and risk management disciplines including Business Continuity, Information Systems Risk Management, Physical Security and Records Management. Being the premier educational conference in the Upper Midwest for the security and risk management industry, the over 800 attendees [of the show] have the opportunity to interact with vendors from the multiple disciplines during the unopposed exhibit hall periods.”  (Unopposed hall hours are a whole lot better than when show management schedules general and breakout sessions during show hours.)

If your organization is headquartered or has facilities in the general neighborhood, consider attending next year when the show will be in St. Paul on May 17th and 18th.  Mark a few months from now to check back to their website; they haven’t updated for 2016 registration yet.

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This week in hotel booking contract terms to know: an extremely important one called “performance” which refers to the number of room nights that you actually consume in a continuity deployment versus the number that you contracted for ahead of time.  “For example,” says Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther, “50 rooms for three nights is 150 room nights.  Hotels allow a certain percentage of slippage (called attrition) in your contracts in the same way you see attrition referred to in the work force – jobs that are lost but not replaced in a certain company or industry.”

She continues, “The hotel industry standard for allowable attrition is between 10% and 20% and will vary based on market demand. Over the last couple of years the market in general has swung in favor of the hotels. They’re actually cancelling bookings now that were made four or five years ago when business was slower and hotels had to offer lower rates and less advantageous (to them) terms in order to book more profitable business as a replacement.  They’ve determined that the financial damages associated with canceling the contracts is acceptable given the higher revenue these new bookings represent  We’ll discuss cancellation at a later time but for now, performance.

“Why is performance vital to quantify?  If the hotel allows 20% attrition, you’ll be held to 80% of what you contract (or 120 room nights out of 150); that’s the minimum number you’d have to pay for.  If you consume 130 room nights, you pay for all 130; if you use 105 room nights, you still have to pay for 120 . . . but still a lot better than having to pay for, say, 140 room nights if you were only able to negotiate 10% attrition.  No one wants to pay for rooms they didn’t use, and there are ways to mitigate your damages if you find yourself in that situation.”  We’ll take a look at how to make that monster less scary next week.

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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 planning session, let us know.

Severe Weather Dominating the News For A While Yet, and Another Hotel Contract Must-Have – This Week in Business Continuity

T.S. Ana. Radar image: WLTX

T.S. Ana. Radar image: WLTX

Revisiting a few topics from last week, tropical storm Ana made landfall Sunday morning as a fairly benign little rainmaker.  But it made landfall on Sunday.  May 10thQuiet season?  One storm.  That’s what we prepare for, every season.

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From coast to coast, the U.S. is squarely in the middle of the usual severe springtime weather season as winter yields begrudgingly to summer.  The current cycle of bad weather is particularly brutal in the Plains States with north Texas being the recipient of the worst of it over the weekend.

I was associated with the weather forecasting industry for a while and severe springtime weather has always struck me as the most fickle and vengeful of the different types of natural causes of business disruption.  Here’s my subjective and really unscientific comparison.

  • tornadoesHurricanes and tropical storms: usually a fair amount of warning, at least a few days and often more than a week but the potential impact on vast regions of coastal and even inland populations can be devastating. Always be prepared.
  • Blizzards: generally a fair amount of warning although impact varies according to elevation and regional conditions but the aftermath can mean loss of power and the inability to even pull out of your driveway for weeks or more. Always be prepared.
  • Map: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

    Map: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

    Spring and fall severe weather, specifically tornadoes: medium-term generalized warnings, some immediately specific targeted warning with impacts that can range from hailstone videos to post on your Facebook page up to large swaths of entire communities erased from existence. Note that tornadoes occur on every continent except Antarctica but the vast majority of tornadoes occur in the U.S. with an average of 1,000 per year (see map; click to enlarge).  Canada is a distant second with about 100 a year. Always be prepared.

  • Earthquakes and volcanoes . . . when Mother Nature snaps: absolutely no warning ever. Potential damage can range from mildly annoying to utterly shattering.  Always be prepared.

I’ve lived in either earthquake or hurricane zones all my life, both of which I’ve experienced many, many times and neither of which I’m particularly afraid.  Tornadoes, however, scare the heck out of me because they’re rabidly surprising and vicious.  My heart goes out to those who live in Tornado Alley.  I honestly don’t know how they do it.  And my message and recurring theme, as always, is always be prepared.

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Last week’s attack at the convention center in Garland, Texas has been discussed enough elsewhere but good business continuity professionals should note the secondary impact of the attack: the convention center was closed for several days afterwards while the investigation continued and many people were unable to even retrieve their cars from the adjacent parking lots.  Regardless of the nature of the disruption and even if your business isn’t directly impacted, a similar delay in restoration of operations could occur at any time.  If your organization’s business continuity doesn’t include contingencies for such a disruption, find out why and fix that.

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Hotel contracts can be obnoxious and confusing because they contain terms like guaranteed no-shows, cancellation, early departure, attrition and a dozen more that I won’t list because to many people they’re obnoxious and confusing.  Which is why last week we started a weekly series called Hotel Contract Must-Haves.  This week’s must-have is right of first refusal, a fussy-sounding concept that, if properly executed, can weigh heavily in your favor in any deployment housing contract.  (I always think of Lucy from Peanuts when I think of ROFR.)

Says Continuity Housing’s principal Michelle Lowther, “In a nutshell, when Continuity Housing executes a contract with a hotel for guaranteed rooms, our clients get dibs on those rooms in the event of a deployment unless they specifically release them back to the hotel in writing.  If there’s a major disruption that creates a substantial demand for rooms at their contracted hotel(s), the hotel(s) can give those rooms to other companies but only if they agree to let them do so.  This might happen if, say, their headquarters or other critical facilities weren’t impacted by an event such as a snowstorm that instead took a toll on a region adjacent to theirs.  It’s a great clause that lets our clients be nice corporate citizens without ever having to forfeit their own companies’ protection.”

Alas, there many variations on the adoption of properly inserted ROFR such as limitation of your length of stay and transferability, not to mention term and schedule of renegotiation.  But then that’s why Continuity Housing’s clients like us so much.  We don’t just take the headache of housing off of your plate . . . we make those contracts less obnoxious and confusing. 

Full disclosure: no one employed at Continuity Housing is an attorney and none of the services provided are meant to be construed as legal advice, however we are experts at sourcing and negotiating with hotels.  Any language in any contract you ever sign should always be carefully vetted by all parties involved.

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Don’t miss your last chance to register for a 25-minute ACP Webinar Series presentation, “The 2015 Atlantic Tropical Season Outlook,” this Thursday, May 14th at 10:30 Central to hear what THE hurricane expert – Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecaster for StormGeo, Inc. – thinks we can expect from the coming hurricane season.  Register here now.  Space is limited and remember to register even if you can’t attend the live event so that you automatically receive the follow-up email with the link to the recording of the webinar.

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Finally, last week we also discussed the fact that Continuity Housing works hand in hand with ConferenceDirect and their $700+ million in annual buying power with hotels, exclusive hotel contract terms and an impeccable reputation in the hospitality industry.  Another reason ConferenceDirect is such a positive influence on the hotel and planning industry is their commitment to the goal of educating their clients worldwide on industry trends, technology and other critical leadership and management skills that will support them in saving their organization time and money while better serving the constituents their clients are responsible for (i.e., you).  Which is why at CDX San Diego this September in San Diego will feature Nick Tasler, Best-Selling Author of “Why Quitters Win: Decide to Be Excellent.” According to materials describing the event, “The book shares an imperative message about maintaining focus on the important items that will serve your organization in meeting its goals and not being afraid to walk away from the ones that don’t.”

Which reminds me of the brilliant Michael Jordan quote: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

CDX, by the way, is ConferenceDirect’s exclusive series of educational events for their top customers, associates and partners.  You very probably aren’t eligible to attend but we are and we do and that’s a good thing for you.

Have a great week, even if you fail a little.

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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 planning session, let us know.

Hotel Contract Must-Haves . . . And A Tropical Storm That Can’t Read A Calendar – This Week in Business Continuity

Image: IPS MeteoStar via Eric Berger.

Image: IPS MeteoStar via Eric Berger. Click to enlarge.

You may have heard by now that a tropical storm may form near the Carolinas later this week.  Yes, it’s May and hurricane season doesn’t start for another 3 ½ weeks.  And never mind all the seasonal outlooks up to this point that predict the tropical Atlantic is supposed to remain fairly quiet this year.  Seriously – never mind those.  I like this early blooming storm because it reminds us that it’s not the season we prepare for, it’s the one storm.  Nonetheless, the chances for development are minimal and if it does develop, chances are that it will just be a rainmaker.  And, as my friend and Houston Chronicle Science Editor (and newly-minted certified meteorologist) Eric Berger points out, it’s still expected to be a quiet season.

Not that it’s the season that we prepare for . . .

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In other news, Happy Star Wars Day!  (“May the fourth.”  Get it?)  I know I’m a day late but it lets me tie in how Continuity Housing brings The Force to our clients by leveraging our alliance with ConferenceDirect to the benefit of those same clients.  For those of you who’ve never heard of ConferenceDirect (said Force), they’re the industry leader in providing “professional event management and meeting planning services that save you time and money, guaranteed.”  And if you’ve ever visited the Continuity Housing website you know that we work hand in hand with ConferenceDirect and their $700+ million in annual buying power with hotels, exclusive hotel contract terms and an impeccable reputation in the hospitality industry. End of commercial.  But read on.

A few weeks ago Conference Direct hosted their Annual Partnership Meeting (APM) in Dallas.  ConferenceDirect prides itself in being the one global source for its customers’ meeting needs.  As such, they place tremendous value on being consultative with their customers in matters that relate to meetings and travel.  Which is good because nearly the entire Continuity Housing staff attended the meeting. Their three different annual meetings – APM is the biggest – are part of ConferenceDirect’s commitment to the goal of educating their clients worldwide on industry trends, technology and other critical leadership and management skills that will support them in saving their organizations time and money while better serving the constituents their clients are responsible for.

And, like our webinars, they use interesting, educational and entertaining speakers to help their customers blossom.  This year, for instance, they brought in The ONE Thing co-authors Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, founder and chairman of the board for Keller Williams Realty, to talk about the idea to “Go Big” with your goals and ensure every day you are doing the one thing that gets you to your goal. With all the “noise” of the day, it is imperative to prioritize the things that are getting you towards your goal . . . not distracting you from achieving them.  Read more about their book and the concept overall at the1thing.com.  Conference Direct brought in several other outstanding speakers and I’ll talk about those in the next posting.  Because learning how other people do things really well helps us tighten up on continuity plans on a constant basis.  For now though, suffice it to say that it was time well spent at the APM in Dallas, as literally hundreds of hotels from across the globe came to meet, do business and nurture relationships with the ConferenceDirect, and thus the Continuity Housing, staff.  More on that later, too.

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Contracts are obnoxious and confusing because they contain terms like guaranteed no-shows, cancellation, early departure, attrition, comps, room block audits, direct billing, successors and assigns, force majeure, provision for and allowance of pets, indemnification, liquidated damages, hotel internet service details, first right of refusal and provisions to renegotiate.  In order to minimize the confusion, we’re starting a weekly series called Hotel Contract Must-Haves.  We’ll hit one topic a week and this week it’s the reality that a room night is a perishable good and why, as a business continuity planner, that concept is very, very important to you.

According to Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther, “If a hotel has 400 rooms and 30 of those go empty tonight, they lose forever the opportunity to make money on those 30 rooms.  As opposed to a manufacturing scenario, where a supplier’s production can fluctuate based on demand, hotels have the same number of rooms available every single night.  And once a given night passes, so does the hotel’s chance for revenue on any rooms that sit empty.  Because of that, hotels have perfected the art of bringing in the most profitable guests and group business [10+ rooms per night] to keep the hotel’s RevPAR [Revenue Per Available Room, which is the only way to truly compare hotels’ profitability] as high as possible. It’s like piecing together a puzzle for them.  Based on factors such as historical occupancy over a given period, arrival/departure pattern, current and forecasted occupancy at the time of the reservation request, market compression, client relationship with the hotel, number of days remaining during which the hotel could possibly book other business over the given period, and an analysis to quantify other business which they may turn away by “accepting” yours, hotels come up with length of stay and room rate restrictions to direct reservations into the most profitable buckets.  Which means that just because they tell you they’re sold out on a particular date or dates doesn’t necessarily mean they’re full.  It may just mean they aren’t taking reservations for that exact time period at the time of your request because they’re gambling that they can better optimize their revenue over those dates.  It’s possible that if you change your check-in or check-out date to a day earlier or a day later, voila, there might suddenly be a room available.

“From the business continuity standpoint,” she continues, “when you ask a hotel to hold a group of rooms for your company or even a single room for yourself, there’s no motivation for them to do so without a commitment on your part to pay for that room.  If you’re not going to pay for it, the hotel’s job is to find someone else who will.  So the concept of a room night being a perishable good is fundamental to negotiating any type of contingency arrangement with a hotel.  Once you have that down, there are more than 60 other negotiable terms in an average hotel contract, some of which can not only burn you financially but also impact the success of your overall deployment.  The most important thing you can do is make sure your contract covers ALL the what-ifs.”

Have you ever been denied a room block reservation or arrived to find your rooms aren’t available?  Tell us about it.  And feel free to ask any questions you have about guaranteeing the process so that you don’t have the same problems in the future.  We know a thing or two about it.

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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 planning session, let us know.

The App That Brought Commercial Flights to a Halt, the Art of Negotiating a Discount and Three Great Webinars – This Week in Business Continuity

Happy May Day, a term that means different things in different parts of the world.  In Houston it refers to a relatively new program focusing on a full day of preparedness in light of the start of the Atlantic tropical storm season exactly a month from now.  (Wasn’t it Christmas like five minutes ago?)  I like the idea of the program so much that I’m only very slightly embarrassed to be halfway through this sentence before I realized that the program name is a takeoff of one of several radio voice procedure distress calls.  Anyway, I encourage you to find out what your local community or city government has in the way of immediately local preparedness programs because, as the old saying goes, every disaster is local.  You don’t have a hurricane season in your neighborhood?  That’s no reason not to be prepared.

Mayday fun fact: the term is based, for several reasons, on the word m’aidez (pron. may-day, more or less), French for “help me.”

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hurricane-zelda

A prototype graphic of the new system. Click to enlarge.

Speaking of hurricane season, there’s a new tool to help coastal communities determine where flooding from storm surge might mean they need to take action in anticipation of a landfalling storm.  I remember when NOAA first started working on these maps quite a few years ago.  The short story is that there are a whole lot of variables that need to be taken into account in those maps for each different storm because of variability in wind speed(s), anticipated wave heights, local geography, anticipated hourly rainfall, the depth and slope of the immediately offshore seabed, the direction the storm is traveling, etc. etc.  That NOAA is finally releasing the system for use by the public means that they must have – knock on wood – perfected the system to an extent although even they admit that the tool is still “very crude.”  Then again, 2015 is also anticipated to be a slow year for storm generation so maybe they’re hoping for a rookie to spar against.

I’d provide a link to the new tool – officially called the Experiment Storm Surge Generator – but it appears that the system is still in beta because for now it’s password protected despite the many recent online references available.  I’ll keep checking and update you on the situation in a week or two.  In the meantime, more details are available from NOAA via this .pdf.

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Approach plate for Chicago Midway (KMCW). Not current and very much NOT to be used for navigational purposes.

Approach plate for Chicago Midway (KMCW). Not current and very much NOT to be used for navigational purposes.

On Wednesday, American Airlines announced that 24 flights were delayed on Tuesday and another 50 were delayed the next day due to a glitch in the iPad app that AA pilots use for navigation purposes.  Which you probably already knew – and yes, hundreds of U.S. flights are delayed every day, and that’s on a good day – but it’s a situation that we should stop and think about for a moment.  Dozens of multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art aircraft carrying thousands of busy people on their way to do important things all brought to a screeching halt because of an app?

Modern aviation navigation aids trace back to a wise and extremely industrious pilot by the name of Elrey (sic) Jeppesen.  Among several other aviation firsts, Capt. Jeppesen was the pioneer of studiously examining and recording airports and their surrounding elements from the air – telephone/telegraph poles, variations in geography and topography, radio towers, adjacent roadways, etc. – and studiously detailing them one airport per page in what have long since been referred to as approach plates despite the fact that the maps are printed on small pages of onion skin paper.  Many years ago I worked for an aviation company and I well remember the bulky stacks of plates constantly updated and delivered to pilots reflecting the changing conditions at airports all over the world.  Bulky, time-consuming to replace in their “Jeppesen binders,” lots of which used to take up an entire bookshelf in the cockpit, and very expensive.  I remember when the first modern avionics packages were made available to pilots and thought at the time that constantly updated approach e-plates were just a few years away.  I was about 15 years off.

According to the article, “The airline has estimated the paperless program saves the company at least 400,000 gallons of fuel every year. In all, 8,000 iPads replaced 24 million pages of documents.” That approach plates and other navaids are now available in a near instantaneously updated fashion means that the system is now not only much cheaper and much, much more convenient, it’s also a tremendous safety enhancement.  Nevertheless, the situation this week reminds us that sometimes an old-school backup that works without electricity or an internet connection will definitely come in handy from time to time.  An example that directly applies to you: on my block in the ‘70’s, the Wrights were always the “first family to get ____” family.  Color TV, microwave . . . electric can opener.  I distinctly remember several days into a sustained power outage when their youngest, Susie, came somewhat desperately looking for a manual can opener.  Lucky for her, my parents had held onto ours “just in case.”  Guess business continuity’s in my blood.

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Julie!

Julie!

In “business continuity business” news, this month’s award of distinction at Continuity Housing goes to our Global Account Executive and Team Lead Julie Hicks.  The week before last she used her extensive experience and knowledge of the deployment housing industry – part of the value we bring to both our clients and their hotel partners – to negotiate on behalf of one our larger clients a 5.8% across-the-board discount on their room night rate for upcoming deployments.  In some cases, hotels in the second year of a multi-year contract reduced their 2015 rates after meeting with Julie even though they were not contractually obligated to do so.  One of several programs Continuity Housing manages for this particular client, Julie was working with Gulf Coast hotels to handle ad hoc evacuations for the client’s deepwater drilling assets.  Given the current price of a barrel of oil our client, and consequently we, are looking under every rock for savings.  The entire legal profession prevents us from sharing additional details but keep in mind that the hotel industry in general is in the midst of a 7% overall increase in room rates so the discount Julie negotiated amounts to what is closer to a 13% discount.  For a two-week deployment of 150 critical employees, that means a potential savings of more $14,000.  We like Julie, a lot.  Her accounts, however, adore her.

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Finally, we have three more outstanding webinars coming up and the topic of one of them is, you guessed it, the 2015 Atlantic tropical season outlook.  As always, these webinars are free and worth every minute of your time so remember to register even if you can’t attend ‘in person’ so that you’ll automatically receive the follow-up email with the link to the recorded version.  As always, space really is limited so don’t dally.

  • Thursday May 14th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central: “An ACP Webinar: The 2015 Atlantic Tropical Season Outlook with Chris Hebert of StormGeo.” For more information and to register, go here.
  • Tuesday, May 26th at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central: “An ACP Webinar: Blast & Flood Zones, Terrorism and DDoS Attacks: New Elements of a Comprehensive DR Plan” presented by Christian Lappin of TierPoint. Learn more and register.
  • Wednesday, June 10th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central: “A Continuity Housing Webinar: The 17 Mistakes Organizations Make in Creating Their Emergency Plans & How to Correct Them” presented by former police commissioner and president of 911 Consulting, Bo Mitchell. Some of you will remember Bo from an ACP webinar he presented for us last month on planning for and responding to an active shooter in the workplace, a follow-up to which will take place in June.  For now, learn more about the 17 Mistakes webinar and register here.

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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 planning session, let us know.

Working From Home = Disaster Recovery? Think Again . . . & the Civil Unrest Webinar You Missed – This Week in Business Continuity

There’s a reason I post so often about the webinar series that the Association of Contingency Planners hosts for anyone who wants to attend them and at no charge.  It’s because the topics and presenters and content are all outstanding.  Last week’s was no exception.  Presented by Steve Crimando, principal of Behavioral Science Applications, the topic was “Business Continuity in Times of Civil Unrest” and you can watch the whole thing on YouTube here.  Sure, it runs an hour and 24 minutes which is twice as long as most of the presentations in the series.  But it ranks among the best, most educational and genuinely interesting presentations since the series began five years ago.  The reviews from the post-presentation survey were outstanding and enthusiastic and we’ll definitely have Steve back soon.

Steve Crimando

Steve Crimando

Why watch a business video that’s so long?  This one, like so many of the others in the series, most definitely falls into the category of “stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know” and, as we prefer be the case with each of these webinars, it covers a range of material that you can apply not only to your company’s business continuity strategy but to your own life and lifestyle as well.  For example, did you know that depending on the type of crowd you might find yourself in – whether by choice or by coincidence – escalation from passivity and even celebration to a scenario of chaos can happen very, very quickly?  Or that it just takes five people on one side of you and a wall on the other to possibly result in severe injury or worse?  Still not convinced?  Check out Steve’s bona fides.  He knows and he’s a great presenter.  In fact, he the same material before a live audience the very next day, as was reported in this interesting and very informative article.

Watch it.  Even if you have to do so in stages over a period of days.  It’s the kind of information that you’ll want to share with your coworkers and probably even your family.

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More companies are starting to build telework / work-from-home tactics into their overall BC/DR strategies and that might not be a good idea according to this great article because:

  • Landlines are required to work for at least 24 hours after a power outage occurs but there’s no requirement that service be maintained in such a situation for cell service, VOIP, DSL or other internet connection.
  • If the power goes out at the employee’s home(s), how will they charge their cell phones or laptops? Ditto their modem or wifi router.
  • Post-incident, unsecured bandwidth capabilities, especially in residential areas, will be strained, slowed or even unavailable altogether.

I’ll add one: how many of us even have landlines at home anymore?  Anecdotally (and therefore 100% statistically invalid), I was one of the last of the holdouts in my little circle but finally ditched my beloved (since 1982) landline early last year.  I’d had it since 1982 and I missed it horribly . . . for about a week. But I also well remember the last time we had a sustained power outage after Ike when I thought, with all the modesty and humility I could summon, “Ahhh ha haaaaaa!  They all have their cell phones but the cell towers don’t have power and within a few hours none of their phones will either!  But wise me has held on to my landline – and I don’t much regret having paid more than $300 a year for the privilege – so I and I alone will be able to make calls from home!”  Key word: alone.  A few nights into the blackout I remember the thrill of hearing the old-school dial tone emanate from my landline handset and then realizing that I couldn’t call . . . almost anybody.  Because all their cell phones were dead.

Granted, your setup might be different if you have tiny ones at home or a home alarm system tied to your landline, but if having key personnel work from home is a key or even partial element of your recovery strategy either reconsider or make darn sure that the required infrastructure is intact at each of their homes.

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Finally, this past Monday was the five-year anniversary of the initial Deepwater Horizon explosion which killed 11 crew members and injured 17.  The explosion also caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history and it took crews nearly three months to finally cap the damaged seabed wellhead.  The event is marked in the minds of many of us but it’s particularly memorable for the deployment team at Continuity Housing.  According to principal Michelle Lowther, “In hindsight and with the greatest respect to those who lost their lives or loved ones and to those who were injured, it was both the best and worst professional experience we’ve ever had.  The worst because of the heartbreaking tragedy of the crew and the calamity of the spill but the best from a professional standpoint considering the service we were able to provide crews from all over the world who were deployed to assist in containment, cleanup and remediation.

95000Continuity Housing provided over 95,000 room nights to all kinds of response companies and agencies. At the peak of the response we had more than 100 hotels under contract, we assisted thousands of responders from Texas to Florida with their housing needs, and the full span of our involvement ran more than four years.  So nothing close to a typical deployment.  The contract clauses we crafted to address the unique and fluid nature of this response have become our ‘go-to’ best practice clauses that we now incorporate into all of our clients’ hotel contracts.”  If you’ve ever been on the front lines of a mid- to large-scale response, you know exactly what Lowther means when she says, “An experience like that one makes you or breaks you in this industry.  When you’re in it, it’s hard to see because it’s all about getting the next piece done and there’s always, always a next piece.  Then once it’s over and you have the benefit of hindsight and sleep, you see the way people came together from across disciplines and without ego to support each other and the overall effort.  It was extraordinary.”

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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 planning session, let us know.