The 2015 Hurricane Season Predictions, FEMA’s Updated Severe Weather Prep “Toolkit” and More: This Week In Business Continuity

Regardless of what pops into your head when you hear or see the word FEMA, the reality is that the majority of the people involved with the organization want to do their best to mitigate the effects of disasters and help restore any interrupted environment to normalcy as soon as possible.  Just like the vast majority of the rest of us.

No, really.  In the spirit of this goal they’ve updated their Severe Weather Preparedness kit which debuted last year.  The kit’s basically a list of different types of online and social media tools to help you keep your people aware and prepared.  Comparing it to last year’s, the kit appears to have only been updated cosmetically but it’s still a handy collection of information to have even in this age when every company in the world wants you to install their own apps and access links on your phone.  The document can be accessed here.  Click on the second one, the .pdf.  Disregard the “[attach graphic]” notations; I don’t know why they didn’t just import those and place them in the doc.  Anybody else know?

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Here’s another nifty list of online BC and related resources and apps that we posted last year.

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I’ll spare you the suspense: “We anticipate that the 2015 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century.”  Every year Drs. Phil Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University release their predictions of the number and types of Atlantic tropical storms they expect . . . and every year the media publishes the report as well as the several updates that the team releases throughout the season.  Why?  Because regardless of the fact that seasonal expectations aren’t nearly as important to prepare for as the one storm that might affect your location(s), the duo is pretty good at giving us a solid idea of the general conditions that we can expect.

least-activeI’ve met Dr. Gray and over the years I’ve come to know Phil pretty well and they’re both seriously dedicated and extremely good at what they do.  And with each passing year the technology improves and the algorithms get tweaked just that much more.  Like any team boldly daring to put their necks on the line about a subject that can have a tremendous impact on so many, they’ve missed the mark a few times.  But they run a tight ship, sans agenda, and both are nearly as talented at seasonal forecasts as is Chris Hebert of StormGeo.

And – segue alert – speaking of Chris Hebert, we’re genuinely honored to have him share his more detailed 2015 Atlantic hurricane season outlook in a 25-minute webinar on May 14th at 10:30 C / 11:30 E.  For more information and to register, click here.  I’ve produced more than 200 webinars since 2006 and I’ve known Chris for 24 years and I can say this: Chris and webinars were made for each other.  He’s one of the two or three best webinar (and live) presenters I’ve ever encountered and his presentations are always very fast-paced, informative and even entertaining.  The webinar is free to attend and, as always, register even if you can’t attend that day so that you automatically receive the follow-up email with the slide show and the link to the recording of the webinar that you can watch any time.

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Will Chris’ outlook be the same or more or less accurate than the one issued last week by Dr. Gray and Dr. Klotzbach?  Yes and no.  From the discussions we’ve had, I expect the specific numbers will be similar but some of the reasoning will be different.  And far easier to digest than the in-depth material in the Colorado State report.

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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.

This Week In Business Continuity: Not the Same Old Hurricane Stuff

“But it’s been so quiet for so long.”  “But they said this year isn’t going to be that active.”  “But this area hasn’t been hit in 15 years . . . “  But, but, but.  Hurricanes haven’t gone away and they’ll be back sooner than we’d prefer; the season starts in just seven weeks.  My hope is that this is the only time we’ll post about the Atlantic Tropical Storm Season this year and, fingers crossed, there won’t be any severe storms to post about later this year.

Clear skies on Monday, landfall on Thursday night. Click to enlarge.

Clear skies on Monday, landfall on Thursday night. Click to enlarge.

But every year at this time I remember that the Houston-Galveston area has been caught by surprise in two different ways in the last few decades.  Once with hurricane Alicia in ’83 which formed up just south of Louisiana as a small thunderstorm but which made landfall near Galveston just three days later as a major category three hurricane.  Note that it was the ‘A’ storm, i.e., the first storm of the season, and yet it didn’t develop until fairly late in what had been a very quiet season.  On the flip side of the surprise scale, tropical storm Allison smacked the same area in the very first week of the season in 2001.  Allison’s winds weren’t high enough to warrant its elevation to hurricane status and yet the devastation it yielded was such that it’s the only tropical storm ever to have its name retired from the list without ever having been a hurricane at all.

Two news items this week also remind us that there’s always plenty to keep up with in the world of tropical storm preparation.

  • Despite a relatively quiet period over the last several years (depending on your location), “the insured value of property along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts jumped from $7.2 trillion in 2004 to $10.6 trillion in 2012” due to the continued explosion of growth and development of real property and infrastructure along both coasts. “Too many people are in denial about the risk,” says surge-problemSteven Weisbart, chief economist for the New York-based Insurance Information Institute.  “The population has decided it’s not afraid of being exposed to hurricanes and storm surge.”  That’s a problem.  And remember, more than half of the population of the U.S. lives within 50 miles of a coastline, although tropical storms aren’t usually that much of a problem for the West Coast.  Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder that if you live in a coastal zone that experiences frequent or even just occasional tropical activity, it’s not the season that you prepare for – it’s the one storm.  This applies to both your personal/residential circumstances and your professional situation.  And with more and more neighbors moving in each year, you’ll need to be even shrewder in improving your response plan in the future.
  • On the brighter side of the news, in an effort to enhance forecast precision of the potential effects of a storm, starting this year NOAA will for the first time issue separate warnings and watches for the categories of wind speed and storm surge. Why?  Because by far the flooding caused by storm surge is not only more damaging to property than high winds but surge also kills far more people than high winds do.  (If you’re a coastal native, “hide from the wind, run from the water” is even more a part of your genetic makeup than “hunker down” is.) Higher wind speeds don’t always result in more severe surge and vice-versa, so splitting those categories into two different types of watches and warnings should help improve the accuracy of the forecasts and, hopefully, make people heed the warnings better than they sometimes have in the past.    If nothing else, at least it will give all of us in business continuity something more concrete to work with when our executives look to us for recommendations about whether or not to trigger a deployment.

hurricane-webinarJust what do the experts think the 2015 season will bring?  Continuity Housing hasn’t hosted a season outlook webinar in a while so we asked Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecast with ImpactWeather, for a short webinar on May 14th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Here’s more information and where you can register to attend.   I’ve known Chris for 25 years and he’s the undisputed master of both seasonal and storm-specific hurricane forecasting in addition to being a skilled and entertaining presenter.  This Continuity Housing webinar is, as always, free and you’re welcome to invite whoever you’d like to.

Do you have an interesting business continuity-related topic or solution that you’d like to host a webinar about?  Email me.  If your topic is compelling, your content is solution-oriented, your presentation style is superior and your presentation is NOT a sales pitch, Continuity Housing may be interested in hosting and publicizing your presentation at no cost to you.  When we share what we’ve learned, we all benefit.

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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.

This Week In Business Continuity: Truly Productive Cross-Industry Collaboration; Mitigating Calamity With Clever Architecture

Based in Atlanta, the Southeast Business Recovery Exchange (SEBRE) was founded as “a nonprofit organization that promotes the interaction of persons involved in, or responsible for, business continuity planning/disaster recovery in their respective organizations.” The group meets twice a year, once in Atlanta and once in some other southeastern city, to discuss real business continuity strategies, lessons learned and ideas.  Interestingly and constructively, companies that sell BC/DR solutions aren’t eligible for membership but representatives from such companies are occasionally invited to speak, and at the meeting a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther was that fortunate individual.  Full disclosure: in exchange for the honor, Michelle got to treat the entire group to dinner.

membershipSays Michelle, “I went because it’s a targeted group of leaders and because of the timeliness of this meeting of companies in the southeastern U.S. as hurricane season approaches.  SEBRE’s mission dovetails very well with Continuity Housing’s services and our overall philosophy that a continuity plan is never done – there’s always something that can be added or enhanced to make it stronger and make your company that much more resilient.

“Membership is limited to just 30 representatives from different types of industries, about half of which are financial companies, which is good because that’s designed to foster the exchange of real ideas and the most creative ideas in strategy innovation.  These are senior level, decision-making, empowered individuals [take a look at their executive committee at the bottom of their website] and most have been members for a long time.  They follow the Chatham House Rule, a great idea for the purposes of this type of group, so I wasn’t privy to any of their meetings except for my presentation.  They asked a lot of questions about the details and how they could apply Continuity Housing’s principles to their own specific circumstances.  I love it when a presentation evolves into an interactive discussion and think that’s the best case scenario for attendees in that it yields a more interesting and productive exchange where everyone takes home at least a couple of good nuggets.”

The SEBRE meeting format reminds me of a series of post-Ike meetings I was involved in coordinating that included more than 180 individuals (we met in small groups over a series of weeks) from companies in a wide variety of industries, all of which had been severely impacted by the storm.   What could the VP BCP of a financial organization learn from the manager of a petrochemical plant about business continuity?  A whole lot.  One example: during a wide-scale emergency, National Guard units in different states have different ideas about what constitutes “private property” when it comes to things like generators and potable water.  I’ve had plant operators look me in the eye and tell me that they have to hide everything from generators to televisions so that they don’t get ‘borrowed’ by National Guard troops and several instances when such items were appropriated “for the sake of public safety.”

As always, the goal with such meetings is to find out what works in business continuity and, more importantly, what was supposed to work last time but didn’t.  Trust and a clearly stated understanding that open communication is mutually beneficial combine to go a long way towards generating solutions that can help everyone out next time.

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The American Institute of Architects Houston chapter offers an outstanding series of regularly scheduled walking tours and two weeks ago I, along with a dozen or so other folks, mostly tourists, went on the one that focuses on the Texas Medical Center.  Why?  For the same reason I went on the boat tour of the Houston Ship Channel last summer: because I thought I might learn something valuable about better business continuity planning overall.  The walking tour was outstanding, lasted three hours, spanned about a 2 ½-mile route and required a short hop on the METRO rail that runs through the middle of the huge Med Center complex.

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Fancy pedestrian traffic dividers (on the left)? Nope. Rotating flood locks. Click to see full size.

The most fascinating part of the tour was learning about how architects were able to, in most cases, elegantly incorporate flood-abatement mechanisms into the structures – sometimes decades after construction of the individual buildings were completed – following the disastrous blow that the Medical Center suffered as a result of tropical storm Allison.  Something else we learned is how incredibly obsolete most of the older (circa 1945 to 1990) buildings are for use as medical facilities simply because of the modern IT and air circulation infrastructure demands.  Back in the day, each floor was only 12 to 16 feet in height because the space between floors was so short, maybe a foot of two, whereas today the average overall height of each and every floor runs about 21 feet with a full five-foot crawl space between each floor to house all the additional wiring, medical supply tubing and a/c mechanisms.  Analyses of utility are constantly in motion: whether to tear an older building down and replace it with something more modern and usually taller or convert it to an office building or teaching facility.  (At any given time, more than 5,000 physicians are in training somewhere in the complex.)

IMG_0484

Same flood gates at the top of the steps but the pretty ground-floor panels to the right surround the building and are also interlocking flood gates. Other types of gates include humongous round submarine-style pressure-lock doors. Location: Michael E. DeBakey Library/Museum.

Another interesting point is that although many modern buildings are now being built to LEED standard, few companies are interested in actually obtaining actual LEED certification because it’s so cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive to do so.  And if companies can say their buildings have been built to LEED standard without spending the time, energy and money required for the actual certification, isn’t that the best of both worlds?  Juxtapose that against the value of obtaining a CBCP, MCP or similar accreditation owing to the genuine value of those certifications.  The LEED issue reminds me of a decision we faced at Continuity Housing about whether or not to obtain accreditation as a woman-owned business.  Ultimately, the potential value and benefits didn’t justify the cost and hoop jumping.  The logo and certificate are nice but neither enhances our services, our reputation or the value we bring to our clients.

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unfinbus-large

Source: iStock.

You know those cringe-worthy stock photos you see of enthused, engaged, almost outright tickled-pink-to-be-there corporate employees in meetings that you see on company websites and in print materials?  You may have heard that actor Vince Vaughn starred in his own set of similarly awkward stock photos over the last few weeks as part of a marketing campaign for the movie Unfinished Business.  (I was going to include a link to the trailer but then I remembered a lot of you might be in the office right now.)  It’s outstanding marketing because they generated a huge amount of free buzz (guilty as charged) by commandeering a mildly humdrum private media resource that actually dovetails the theme of the movie.  We like Vince Vaughn so we started kicking ideas around for captions to the different photos in the series.  We particularly liked this one: “It’s a phone tree, people.  Ugh!  I can’t believe they think that’s a continuity plan.  Look how excited they are!  Are they serious with this?  I’m going to have to kick it up a notch, and I know just the way to do it . . .”  Take a look at this one and share your funniest caption with us.  We’ll run them 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.

This Week In Business Continuity: New, Potentially Dangerous Wifi Hack Risk for Hotels, Guests; Free Active Shooter Response Webinar

Word’s been getting around for the last several days about the potential for wifi hacks at hotels and convention centers around the world that could have a serious impact not only on hotel property operations but also on individual guests.  This article explains the situation in comprehensive detail with a good deal of technical language but here are the basics:

  • HamasIt’s a very serious threat for wifi users at many hotels and conference centers that use a particular brand of wifi router in the U.S., U.K., Europe, Singapore, the U.A.E. and elsewhere.
  • The threat to property networks mostly affects the ability of hackers to potentially access the property management system which operates different aspects of the facility, manages room and material goods inventories . . . plus codes the room access key cards and manages individual guest payments. The threat to guests’ computers is more generalized and typical: you think you’re on a safe wifi network but you’re not and your files and computer are both subject to unauthorized access, corruption, etc.
  • The potential damage to both guests and hotel property management systems – including the ability for hackers to reprogram key card access thus allowing illegal entry into guest rooms – is significant.
  • How to protect yourself? When you book regular travel, find out if the individual property you plan on visiting uses the particular types of routers mentioned here, several models of InnGate routers made by Singapore’s ANTlabs.  If you can’t find out or don’t have a choice on where to stay, limit your exposure by limiting your access.  Better safe than sorry.  And always, always use all three door locks when you’re in your room, report anything suspicious and don’t ever enter your room if you suspect something is amiss.
  • At the very end of the article, you’ll see that the router manufacturer released a patch last Thursday – which I found here – to hopefully fix the issue.

The chances that you’ll be affected by the issue before the issue is corrected is fairly remote but still – reprogramming key cards to allow illegal access into your room?  It gets your attention.

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The next Association of Contingency Planners Webinar Series Blog is An ACP Webinar – Active Shooter: How Do Your People Respond In Your Workplace?” on Tuesday, April 7th at 11:30 Eastern, 10:30 Central.  As always, these webinars are educational, interesting, relatively short, free and you don’t have to be a member of ACP to attend.  For more information and to register click here.  Register even if you can’t attend so that you’ll 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 planning session, let us know.

This Week In Business Continuity: Hack Prevention Follow-Up, Ditching Daylight Savings and Lots of Great Webinars

What I posted last week warning about the need to include a comprehensive, proactive plan for minimizing a business disruption as the result of your system getting hacked – regardless of what business you’re in – generated the most feedback I’ve ever received on a topic.  The best one by far was a comment in the ACP LinkedIn professional group from Dr. Ed Goldberg.  Many readers will recognize the name since I’ve mentioned Ed before and with good reason:  he’s CBCP stock, an ACP member and former national board member, Manager, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery and Threat Assessment at Eversource (formerly Northeast Utilities) and he’s on the adjunct faculty at Capella University.  I.e., he knows a bit.  His input?

“Fred wrote ‘It’s a good reminder to start or refine your continuity plans relevant to a possible hack because it can happen to any company without any warning and, seemingly, without any cause.’  Sage advice, but I’d go a step further: Assume you’re going to get hacked.  Assume it’s inevitable.  THEN put a plan together to deal with the resulting issues, required notifications, cost of making clients whole, managing reputation, etc.  It’s a LOT to do in a very short time, all the while under the media microscope.  And there’s no way to plan it and do it after a breach/hack.  Some of it is basic – sending a letter to each of your clients potentially affected by a breach.  Who has the capacity to print and mail letters to all of their customers?  Might need to arrange for a 3rd party’s help for some or many of those action items post-breach.  Bottom line is that we see the Sony-like breaches all the time, and we tend to focus on prevention.  Well, they probably all had and have good IT people, good cyber security practices, etc.  If someone is bound and determined to hack your organization, they’ll succeed. Plan as it is inevitable!”

This is a no-brainer but few people think about it enough to take a few simple precautions that could prevent some major, even very costly, hassles.  Because computers?  They make our lives so much easier.

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online-griefOn a related topic, be careful how and where you wifi when you’re traveling for business and any time that you’re not at home or at the office.  For starters, accidental online grief is much more likely when you’re logged in to unsecured connections.  ConferenceDirect recently posted about what harm your laptop and/or entire IT system might suffer but also, quite neighborly, included tips on how to avoid the problem altogether.  Make “safe wifi” a part of your business continuity planning by educating your potential deployees – and all employees, for that matter – about the dangers of browsing around unprotected, especially while concurrently doing business.  Firmly impress upon them that their digital security practices are a vital part of the company’s digital safety net.

And of course never, ever enter your personal or corporate credit or debit card number to buy something online while you’re outside of a network that you aren’t 100% certain is secure.

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In other news of IT in peril, a relatively recent survey claims that the cost of a full IT outage caused by a denial-of-service (DOS) attack averages around $5,600/minute which, according to math, translates to $336,000 per hour.  Keep in mind that this is an average and that the cost varies widely in each direction and from company to company.  Also note that this was a private study which is being publicized by a company that specializes in preventing DOS-style threats.  Interpret accordingly but either way, that’s a huge potential loss.

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Texas, ever willing to buck national trends, wants to ditch Daylight Saving Time.  (Yeah, the missing ‘s’ has always bugged me, too.)  State Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton introduced the bill last week and it’s currently in committee.  Why get rid of it?  A number of studies have indicated the increase in traffic accidents, migraines, general unpleasantness and even heart attacks in the days following the bi-annual time change.  I watched an interview with Flynn wherein he described having asked people for their input over the last several years (the vast majority were against the constant time changes) and he put to rest the idea that the farm and ranch communities were big proponents of keeping the practice intact citing that milk production at dairy farms actual decreases for a short period following each time change.

If the bill is passed and signed into law by newly-minted Governor Abbott, Texas would stay on the current schedule and simply not set clocks back during the next time change in November.  The coveted “extra hour of evening daylight” would remain in place during the summer hours but Texans will have to get used to darkness persisting into the mornings during the mid-winter months.  The only argument I’ve heard for keeping DST is that getting rid of it would put the state out of synch with the rest of the country, although Hawaii and Arizona opted out of the practice a while back and they seem to be doing fine.  What do you think?  Is there really any value to keeping DST in place in this day and age?

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Here’s the updated (today!) list of upcoming ACP webinars that you should attend, all of which will be educational, informative, free, in most cases entertaining and 96.7% free of any advertising.  You do not need to be an Association of Contingency Planners member to register and if you can’t attend but want to see the webinar, register so that you receive a one-time follow-up that has the link to the recording.  A synopses of each webinar is available on each of the respective registration pages:

  • “The Threats We Face” at 11:00 Eastern on Thursday, March 26. More information and to register.
  • “Active Shooter – How Do Your People Respond in Your Workplace?” at 11:30 Eastern on Tuesday, April 7. Info and register.
  • “Business Continuity in Times of Civil Unrest” at noon Eastern on Wednesday, April 15. Info and register.

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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.

This Week in Business Continuity: Geotagging Your Every Move, Cyberattacks Here To Stay and The Real Cost of a Snow Day

An article in the Economist online about the recent Business Travel Show in London highlights a key issue for any business traveler: the future of geotagging devices and, more importantly, their place of prominence in each of our futures.  It certainly bears consideration.  A company’s ability to track each of its employees’ specific locations is becoming more and more an available option and will become, at least for willing participants, ever more ubiquitous within a very few years.  Those who aren’t willing to participate, it is assumed, will be invited to seek employment elsewhere.

Geotagging has been around for a while now but it was previously relegated to other activities such as geocaching and naval and aerial real-time navigation.  Now days the technology is being used to show each of us how to get where we’re going, to provide a host of locally available and even automated services for our convenience . . . and to track us.  Even as I type ‘geotag’ in the Word file as I write this, it’s telling me that the auto-correcting spellcheck is just fine with the word.

geolocationNot that the tech is without upsides.  One company is exploring sourcing real-time travel data directly from air traffic control even before the airlines announce any delays to passengers and using the information to proactively rebook connecting flights and/or book a hotel for those employees who will be affected.  A little spooky, sure, but definitely handy.  Or how about an app that gives you step-by-step (literally) directions from the jetway to a cab that’s already been booked for you upon landing?  Or this one:  “Once at the hotel, beacons that can recognise (sic) travelers’ phones will mean that there is no need to check-in at reception; the device will guide a traveler straight to his room, where, in concert with that room’s BLE transmitter, his phone will also act as his key. Once he is ensconced in his chamber, establishments can keep tabs on whether he has remained there (in which case they can offer deals on dinner and the like) or left the building (in which case they can send the maid up to clean the room).”  Change happens quickly these days.

How do you feel about all this tracking, even if we’re fairly powerless to stop the evolution and adoption?  Is the admittedly considerable convenience offered worth the sacrifice of yet a little more privacy in a world where privacy in general is becoming little more than a quaint historical notion?  And how might it apply to your organization’s continuity plan and communication protocols?

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In other mildly disquieting news, fending off cyberattacks and potentially resultant disruptions will soon become a permanent and growing priority for chief information security officers and business continuity managers.  We all remember what happened to Sony last year.  It’s a good reminder to start or refine your continuity plans relevant to a possible hack because it can happen to any company without any warning and, seemingly, without any cause.  As well as a reminder to always, always keep your own digital nose clean, not only on the job but also on any social media you engage in.

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And what’s the real cost of a snow day . . . or a whole series of them?  How about a billion dollars?  That’s the amount that IHS Global Insight estimates was lost in wages and profits this harrowing winter just in the state of Massachusetts alone.  Massachusetts, the seventh smallest state in the U.S.  Share that one at your next budgeting meeting should anyone question the need for a solid continuity plan.

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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.

Business Continuity Webinars Including “Active Shooter: How Do Your People Respond In Your Workplace?” – Registration Now Available

active-shooterThe Association of Contingency Planners and Continuity Housing have several interesting and highly educational webinars coming up and registration is now available.  As always, the webinars run 20 to 40 minutes, it’s free to register and they’re available to anyone who wants to attend them.  Register if you’re interested even if you can’t attend on the day of the live presentations so that you’ll receive automated notification with the link to the recorded version that you can watch any time on Continuity Housing’s YouTube channel or in the Members area of the ACP website, although you don’t have to be a member to register to attend any of the ACP webinars.

  • March 26: Another great ACP Webinar Series presentation by the Business Continuity Institute: “The Threats We Face.” Register here. Severe weather, cyberattacks, fire, power outages, supply chain failures; the media is full of stories of disruptions that befall organizations, disruptions that could devastate the organization if plans aren’t in place to manage them.  But what type of disruption provides the greatest level of concern for organizations? The BCI’s Horizon Scan survey has shown that for the last three years, IT/telecoms outages, cyberattacks and data breaches have consistently been the top three threats and the latest edition of this report was no different – except that the number one threat has now changed.  Andrew Scott and Patrick Alcantara of the BCI will go through some of the findings and answer any questions you have.
  • April 7th: “Active Shooter: How Do Your People Respond In Your Workplace?” (register here) presented by Bo Mitchell, Police Commissioner of Wilton, CT for 16 years who retired in February 2001 to found 911 Consulting which creates emergency, disaster recovery,
    Image: Houston Police Department video

    Image: Houston Police Department video

    business continuity, crisis communications and pandemic plans plus training and exercises. Active shooters strike malls, high rises and factories as well as campuses. There have been four times more active shooters since Sandy Hook than in the five years before. How will your employees, contractors and visitors respond? Response is dramatically different in a high rise than in a mall or on a corporate campus. This session will give you insights on how you and your employees should plan, train and exercise for this growing and foreseeable emergency. We’ll profile the likely perpetrator and likely motives and then how you should plan and train your employees to stay safe.

  • Registration will also be available in the next week or so for the next couple of ACP webinars: “The Value of Business Loss Insurance” in May and a follow-up in July to the great presentation about protecting your work force during a public health emergency that Harlan Dolgin of the Bio-Defense Network made last month.
Chris Hebert. Photo: ImpactWeather

Chris Hebert. Photo: ImpactWeather

In addition to the ACP Webinar Series presentations, on May 14th Continuity Housing will host “The 2015 Atlantic Tropical Season Outlook” presented by Chris Hebert, an outstanding veteran presenter and TropicsWatch manager and Lead Hurricane Forecaster at ImpactWeather.  Have the tropics really been quieter than usual over the last couple of years and is that trend expected to continue?  Register now.

Take advantage of these free, educational and usually very entertaining webinars by telling us what in the (business continuity) world you’d be interested in learning more about that we could add to the webinar roster.  Email me or leave a comment.  And don’t forget to email me any questions you might want answered during any of the webinars but don’t forget to let me know which webinar(s) you’re asking the questions about.

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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.

Business Continuity: What’s Your Elevator Speech? Also: BC Webinar Lineup Announced

If you work in business continuity, chances are that even your spouse doesn’t fully understand what you do for a living.  In a previous life, I worked for an international corporate aviation service management provider and my family and friends didn’t understand what I did back then, either.  Raise your hand if you know what it feels like to be Chandler on Friends.

A while back we posted about $#@! business continuity people say and there was a common thread in the majority of the responses which can be summed up by the following:

face-palm

Which makes me wonder if there’s a similar theme in the more common elevator speeches about what our profession encompasses.  So what’s your elevator speech?  Continuity Housing’s tagline runs at the bottom of this posting but it contains some BC-specific jargon that most of us probably strive to avoid when we’re trying to explain what we do to, say, a doctor or an architect.  So mine goes like this: “If anything makes a business temporarily close, there’s a good chance they’ll never reopen and a huge chance that if they do, they’ll fail within two years.  We help ensure that our clients don’t ever have to close.”

Oh.

temporarily-closeAbout a quarter of the time, they’re interested (or just polite?) enough to ask a few questions and most non-BC/DR people are surprised to learn how perilous even a temporary suspension of operations can be for the company and, most importantly, for the employees.  No company, no job.

Share how you handle this situation.  We might all snag an “ah-ha” moment out of it and walk away with a somewhat easier way of describing our mildly indescribable realities.

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Click to play. Opens on YouTube.

Click to play. Opens on YouTube.

In preparation for this posting, we wondered if there was an easier way to define what we do very quickly.  So we came up with this (same as the link to the left).  Take a look and let me know if we were successful.  And be blunt.  Blunt is good when it comes to refining better ways of describing what we do and how we do it.  Not just to our family and friends but sometimes even to the board and stakeholders.

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The 2015 schedule for the webinar series that Continuity Housing sponsors for the Association of Contingency Planners is shaping up and here’s a sneak peek at what to expect over the next several months.  We’ll make sure that the registration links are available as soon as possible and way in advance of each presentation.

  • March 26: Another great presentation by the Business Continuity Institute. Specifics will be announced very soon, hopefully this week.
  • April 7th: “Active Shooter: How Do Your People Respond In Your Workplace?”
  • May, date TBD: a Rentsys presentation, “The Value of Business Loss Insurance.”

In addition to these, on May 14th, Continuity Housing will host Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecaster at ImpactWeather, with the “2015 Atlantic Tropical Season Outlook.”  Cold as it is for many of us now, it’s time to start thinking about the tropical season.  (You know you work in business continuity when normal annual milestones like birthdays and major holidays get replaced by seasonal threat prep deadlines.)

Have an idea for a business continuity webinar or a topic that you’d like to present yourself . . . or you just want to make sure you’re on the list to receive notification of upcoming webinars and links to register?  Send me an email.  And have a great 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.

This Week In Business Continuity: Crazy Stolen Hotel Items, Striking Dockworkers Create Shipping Woes and the Worst Passwords of 2014

c|net, the venerable website that publishes news and reviews on all things tech, recently reported on a survey that revealed the worst passwords of last year.  And they’re pretty terrible if somewhat humorous: at the top of the list are “123456” and “password.”  But the news is not all bad.  “Online security expert Mark Burnett assisted SplashData with the study” and reports that the top (or bottom) 25 bad passwords represent only 2.2% of all the passwords studied, a decline in the use of bad passwords from previous years.  The takeaway?  It’s not too late to make a new year’s resolution to update your passwords to make them more secure and remember to change them often.  Make a game out of it by coming up with a recipe that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else and then changing your passwords a few times a year.

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The White House is set to intervene in the dockworker’s strike on the U.S. West Coast as it begins to stretch into its fourth month after a “work safe” slowdown was initiated by the International Longshoreman and Dockworkers Union after failure to renegotiate a contract which expired on July 1st of last year.

port-strikeHow does this effect business continuity?  More than 40% of the nation’s containerized cargo trade – an estimated 12.5% of the nation’s GDP – moves through the ports currently involved and the U.S. auto industry, for one, is beginning to experience slowdowns in manufacturing due to a lack of resupply of parts.   And shipping rates are beginning to climb across the board as cargo ships marshaled offshore and still waiting to be unloaded continue to be unavailable to ship other materials.  How is your supply chain affected and, perhaps even more importantly, what about the supply chain to your main suppliers and vendors?  Could an upstream interruption turn a rolling snowball into a snow boulder for your customers?  Even if the current situation isn’t harming the output of your company, it’s a good reminder that the only thing better than a Plan B is a Plan C.

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If you’ve ever tossed an unopened mini-bottle of shampoo into your bag on the way out of your hotel room, you may have started down an interesting path.  BC/DR is all about logistics and the list of craziest items ever stolen from hotels has me wondering how some of that stuff made it out the door unobserved.  A grand piano?  A marble fireplace??  For your own edification, note that certain items such as soaps, coffee packets and notepads are expected by hotels to either be consumed onsite or removed by guests for later use and because many of the items are often logo-stamped and therefore count as a marketing expense, loss on such items is built into the room charge.  Emancipated linens, televisions and plumbing, however, will probably earn you an overcharge on your card at the very least.

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Click to watch the segment.

Click to watch the segment.

Speaking of stealing at hotels, Good Morning America showed this morning just how easy it is to gain access to an open, occupied hotel room by simply picking the room where the maid cart is parked and the door is open.  “Oh, hello.  I forgot my stuff.”  Smile sheepishly, snag the stuff, walk casually out the door.  Their recommended safeguards?

  • Always use the room safe or ask to use the hotel safe.
  • Put locks on your luggage.
  • Turn on the GPS tracker function on your phones and computers.

Okay, but suitcase locks can be snapped off easily enough offsite and even with GPS tracking enabled, your stuff is still gone.  In addition to these steps, Continuity Housing suggests that you tell the desk that you don’t need maid service for the duration of your stay if it’s just for a few days, and reinforce your request by posting your Do Not Disturb sign.  You can request fresh towels, soap, etc. when you need them and if you’d like housekeeping service, schedule it for a time when you’ll be in the room.  Think of it not just as going green, but going home with everything you packed.

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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 sessionlet us know.

$500 Million In Losses In The Last Week. Is Your Company Deployed Because of The Blizzard?

This article in The Boston Globe about massive economic losses due to severe weather is a couple of days old but the only thing that’s not current about it is, ironically, the verb tense.  “Caused” should be updated to “still causing” given that for the third Monday in a row – with a couple of other smaller systems thrown into the mix in the interim – massive amounts of snow are falling in the northeast U.S. causing schools, highways and many, many businesses to shut down.

FEMA-declaresGranted, that figure pales in comparison to the damage caused by a typical hurricane.  1991’s hurricane Bob is the 32nd costliest storm in recorded U.S. history with more than $2 billion in damages but have you ever even heard of Bob?  Nonetheless, $500 million is a lot of money.  And the northeast U.S. isn’t faring any better this week.  Cindy Fitzgibbon, Boston meteorologist with WCVB, said this morning that prior to January 23rd, Boston had only received about 5″ of snow this season but more than 6 feet of it in the 18 days since.

Given that severe weather is the number one reason FEMA declares disasters in the U.S., it makes me wonder how many companies have had to finally deploy staff to fail-over sites in order to ensure division or enterprise continuity.  Similar in scale if not in origin, it reminds me of Continuity Housing’s handling of the urgent, massive and substantially prolonged need for deployment housing following the tragic Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010.  At the peak of the response – which itself lasted four years  – housing management was provided for thousands of people each night – month after month – saving millions of dollars for our client, not to mention sparing them the headache of managing the logistics of whose head was on which pillow in what building, as well as a nightmarish stack of invoices.

Photo: wn.com

Snow in Boston this week. Photo: wn.com

Is your company or organization currently deploying staff to keep operations running smoothly in response to the blizzards?  If so, how’s it going?  Comment (anonymously if you prefer) below.  Business continuity management only improves with each shared experience and that’s the permanent goal: improving the solutions that we provide for our employers, our clients, our vendors, our employees and their families (and even their pets, if necessary).  Here’s hoping the onslaught from Mother Nature lets up in the coming days and weeks.  After all, the spring severe weather season is right around the corner.  And then comes June 1st.

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Both of the most recent webinars in the Association of Contingency Planners webinar series are now up and available for viewing at your leisure.  Complete descriptions for both are available at the links below where you can watch.

  • Recent Developments: ISO/Technical Committee 292, Security. Watch here.
  • Bioterrorism Preparedness for Businesses: How to Stay Operational, Even During an Anthrax Attack. Watch here.

Posted by Fred Rogers on 10 February 2015.

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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.