$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.

Business Continuity Highlights from January Including Where You’ll Soon Be Able To Get Checked In At A Hotel By A Robot

Once again much of the U.S. is in the throes of a severe winter storm with both Chicago and Boston recording near-record amounts of snowfall.  But what about the blown (pardon the pun) weather forecast from early last week that predicted that snow would practically bury New York City and surrounding areas?  I’ve worked in both the media and in the private weather forecasting industry and there are two parts to any severe weather forecast: the data and forecast as stand-alone information provided by the meteorologists . . . and the different ways media organizations decide to communicate that information.  I don’t have a problem with last week’s forecast in and of itself.  They really do their very best and weather forecasting accuracy has advanced light years in the last, um, 20 years.

sky-fallingBut the media abuses the information to boost ratings and inflate their ad rates and that practice isn’t going to change any time soon.  What concerns me is how the public will respond the next time we’re told the sky is falling.  People might decide to heed the warnings and they might not.  The major snowfall last week missed NYC by as few as 30 miles so the forecast was technically fairly accurate.  As for how the media over-reacted and how the local governments indicated the citizens were supposed to respond, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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An interesting side note to the storms last week and this week (the one this week being obnoxiously referred to as both “Darius” and “Linus”) is what’s apparently the new normal of local and regional government entities imposing a flat-out ban on civilian travel on the roadways.  That’s both logical and a little bit scary.  There’s no question that such a ban both reduces the number of weather-associated injuries and deaths as well as the amount of risk and expense incurred by emergency response agencies.  But how often can we expect such similar curfews in the future and for what other reasons might they be enacted?  What do you think?

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Last week was Continuity Housing’s annual retreat and general meeting.  As always it was a good chance to spend time in-person with the entire team considering that we’re based from coast to coast and quite a few places in between.  Achievements were reviewed, new client solutions were discussed and a lot of new goals were set.  One of the more interesting aspects of the meeting came at the very start in the hotel conference room when the captain of the catering department gave the now-standard safety chat.  “There are no fire drills scheduled today so if you hear the alarm, act immediately.”  Nice touch.

Continuity Housing’s Global Account Management team. As always, we needed a bigger conference room this year.

Continuity Housing’s Global Account Management team. As always, we needed a bigger conference room this year.

A new one I hadn’t heard before?  “In the event of a medical emergency, one of you begin CPR, one of you dial the desk with the house phone and tell the operator to call an ambulance and two of you call 911 on your cell phones.  We’ve found that the more people who place calls, the faster the response.”

It’s only a matter of time before instructions on how to respond to an active shooter situation is included in the pre-game huddle but the sooner the better.

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More than a year after publicity and lobbying started for hotels to make it easier for anyone, especially children, to dial 911 from a hotel room – i.e., without having to dial 9911 or wait for the second dial tone, etc. – the vast majority of hotel chains have made the change or are beginning the process.  The process began last year following the death of a woman in a hotel room when her daughter was unable to quickly dial for help after her mother had been shot.  More than 70% of hotel properties, which translates to roughly 7,800 properties, are engaged in the modification and more are expected to do so by the end of this year.

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Kudos to Marriott for doing the right thing and vowing never to block wifi access at properties they manage, a decision announced in a communique to industry professionals and posted on their website on January 15th and updated a few days ago.  Well, never again that is.  A belated move, perhaps, but it shows their willingness to respond to guest concerns.  We salute Marriott for supporting business continuity professionals by making sure that it’s always safe to do business while you’re staying there.

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You can still register for this Wednesday’s Association of Contingency Planners webinar, Bioterrorism Preparedness for Businesses: How to Stay Operational, Even During an Anthrax Attack.  You can get more information and register here for free (as always since the ACP webinar series is sponsored by Continuity Housing).  Go ahead and register even if you’re not available on Wednesday morning so that you automatically receive the link to the recording of the webinar.  [Update 04Feb15: the recording of that webinar is now posted.]

And you can watch the ACP webinar from last week – Recent Developments: ISO/Technical Committee 292, Securityhere on Continuity Housing’s YouTube channel.

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What happens if your email host (be it corporate or generic mass market) tweaks the spam folders and forgets or decides not to tell you?  Take a moment and imagine the problems that could cause, especially if some of your clients or vendors use mass-market email services such as sbcglobal.net or even Gmail.  Email server hosts typically make these and similar adjustments very early on Sunday mornings and over major holidays when traffic is slower.  Consider setting up a monthly reminder to email yourself from several different types of accounts and check which ones make it through and which ones don’t.  Yet another picky little thing to put on the list but one that could pay off large.  And besides, we’re business continuity professionals.  It’s the picky little things that help us sleep at night.

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Here’s something to look forward to, maybe.  A Japanese firm will open a theme park hotel this summer staffed up to 90% by robots “Robots will provide porter service, room cleaning, front desk and other services to reduce costs and to ensure comfort.”  Comfort?  They’ve evidently never seen Westworld.

robot

“Checkout is at 11:00. Enjoy your stay!” Photo: telegraph.co.uk

The hotel will also utilize facial recognition for guest room door access thereby eliminating the need for keys.  I’m usually an early adopter of new technology but I don’t know if I like that any more than I do the idea of using your smartphone as a credit card.  At least your IT folks will like it when it’s time for a fail-over deployment.

Off-peak single rooms will only run about $60 a night with that cost doubling during the busy season, although the theme park utilizes “actual-sized copies of old Dutch buildings to bring the experience of the Netherlands to Japan” and I’m not quite sure when the busy season is for that.

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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.

Posted by Fred Rogers on 03 February 2015.

Texas Ranks Lowest In Disaster Preparedness, FEMA’s Not Ready And Other ‘Highlights’ To Keep You On Your Toes

A colleague recently forwarded me an article detailing the results of an interesting study* that estimates how well the citizens of each state in the U.S. are prepared to survive a natural disaster versus how prone each state is to suffer natural disasters of different types.  Vermont ranked as “most prepared” and Wyoming as “most safe” whereas Texas came in dead last in both of those rankings.  (Texas ended up in the exact middle of last year’s analysis of how well each of the states would be able to resist a zombie apocalypse.  Certainly welcome news for those of us who live here.)  Frankly, I was a little surprised by the results.  Considering the number of hurricanes and tropical storms that have impacted the Gulf Coast over the last 130 years – not to mention the constant threat of severe flooding and tornadoes – I’d always thought of those in the region as being a fairly well-prepared bunch.

job-securityWho is prepared?  Evidently people who live in states where heavy snowfall is a much more common occurrence.   Folks in Wyoming, Illinois, Vermont, New Hampshire and Alaska ranked among the most prepared.    Annual blizzards are a fact of life in those states so preparedness is a lot less about an event and much more about a wise lifestyle overall.  Relevant to other types of severe weather – which is the single highest cause of significant business interruptions according to yet another study published last week in The Washington Post – especially with regard to how people calculate the odds of experiencing another severe hurricane, most tend to fall within one of two highly diverse camps: those who think “we just had a bunch of those so we’re probably safe for a while” and on the other end, the “we haven’t had a hurricane in forever so I’m just not worried about it” crowd.  Both equally wrong and dangerous.

That same study ranks Houston as one of the most disaster-prone cities in the country (although Dallas, which is much more prone to hosting tornadoes, was evidently in the crosshairs four years ago) with 27 declared disasters of a wide variety – hurricane, flood, fire, one tornado – more than any year since 1964.  Several other areas, including Los Angeles with 54 disasters in the same time span, fared even worse.  It’s enough to make you think that our forebears intentionally chose some of the most dangerous places in the country to set up shop.  Other places to leave immediately include central Oklahoma (for severe storms), northern North Dakota (floods), Florida and the Mississippi River Delta (hurricanes).

All this punctuated by yet another study published by the GAO itself and reported on elsewhere that says that despite their huge budget, relatively recent experience and odious public relations history (remember Katrina?), overall FEMA is still not prepared.  According to the report, the Agency should stipulate specific policies for local communities to follow.  But that’s simply another reminder that crisis preparedness and response are best handled by local and regional authorities.

What does all this mean for business continuity professionals?  In a nutshell, job security.  But also yet another reminder that thorough preparedness is a mindset and not event-specific.

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There’s still time to register for the first ACP webinars of the year:

  • Recent Developments: ISO/Technical Committee 292, Security this Thursday the 29th.  Register.
  • Bioterrorism Preparedness for Businesses: How to Stay Operational, Even During an Anthrax Attack which is next Wednesday, February 4th.  Register.

More information and links to register (free, as always) are here.

Posted by Fred Rogers on 27 January 2015.

* 02 February update: After I posted this piece, the methodology of the survey indicated was called into question by quite a few business continuity professionals for a number of reasons.  Similar to how “America’s Fattest City” is annually awarded based on a loose estimation of the number of fast food restaurants versus the much lower number of fitness clubs in that year’s so-called fattest city, I concede that the way the results were derived in the disaster survey indicated may not have been the most scientifically irrefutable.

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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.

2015 Starts With 2 New ACP Webinars: Bio-Terror Prep for Business, ISO/Technical Committee 292

The Association of Contingency Planners Webinar Series has been very successful and is now entering its fifth year.  Since the series began in 2011, thousands of business continuity planning professionals have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn about a large range of continuity topics from many of the best BCP experts in the country.  (BTW, kudos to the ACP on their sharp new website.)  Continuing our promise to provide valuable content that’s always worthy of your time, the series is kicking off the new year with two very solid webinars:

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

As always, ACP Webinar Series presentations are sponsored by Continuity Housing.  They’re always free and most run between 35 and 50 minutes with additional Q&A.  Need more reasons to attend?

  • Again, they’re free.
  • They’re also 98% free of any advertising. The ACP webinars have never been and never will be sales pitches.  Which makes the time you spend attending the webinars that much more valuable.
  • Along those lines, you won’t get a bunch of follow-up emails asking you to join the ACP or soliciting your business otherwise. You’ll get a single short follow-up email from me that only includes the link to the recording, a copy of the slide deck and, if available by the time that email goes out, a description and link to the next scheduled webinar.free-puppy
  • You don’t have to belong to the ACP to attend. You should join the Association anyway, but you don’t have to be a member to attend.
  • Never, ever, ever will the Association sell or otherwise share your email address.
  • We carefully select the webinar topics for relevance and timeliness as well as genuine professional and/or personal utilization and applicability.   We have meetings about this stuff.  It’s almost always information you want to know and very often it’s content you need to know.  The first two webinars this year are great examples of that.
  • We also carefully vet the presenters to make sure that they’re not only knowledgeable on their respective topics but also experienced (and hopefully at least slightly entertaining) presenters.
  • We practice each and every webinar before the attended presentation in order to help ensure that each minute of the presentation is as educational as possible.
  • You can invite anyone you’d like. Just forward the registration link(s) to them.
  • Can’t attend on the scheduled dates? That’s never a problem.  Register for them anyway and we’ll automatically send you a link to the recorded version of the webinar on Continuity Housing’s YouTube channel, usually within a day after the scheduled presentation.  You can watch at your leisure, share the recordings with colleagues and go back any time you’d like for a refresher or to finish watching if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing.
  • Most importantly, attending these webinars increases your value as a business continuity professional to your organization. And your boss should know each time you choose to attend.  Job security is awesome.

The first webinar of 2015 – Recent Developments: ISO/Technical Committee 292, Security – will take place from noon to 1:00 CST on Thursday, January 29thRegister here.  About this one:

This webinar will familiarize the attendees with the main points and value of emerging standards, ISO 22317 Business Impact Analysis and ISO 22318 Supply Chain Continuity, as well as ISO’s transition in January 2015 from ISO/Technical Committee 223, Societal Security, to ISO/Technical Committee 292, Security, and the projected next steps.

The presenters will be George Huff with the ACP, Duncan Ford with Corpress, LLP and Brian Zawada with Avalution Consulting.  George is an ACP Board Director, member of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC 223 and a member of Project Team 4 for ISO 22317 Business Impact Analysis. Duncan is ISO/TC 223’s Project Team 5 Leader for ISO 22318 Supply Chain Continuity. Brian chairs the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC 223 Societal Security and is Project Team 4 Leader for ISO 22317 Business Impact Analysis.

The second webinar is Bioterrorism Preparedness for Businesses: How to Stay Operational, Even During an Anthrax Attack and it’s scheduled for Wednesday, February 4th from 10:30 to 11:30 Central.  Register here.  More:

Since 1999 the nation has stockpiled lifesaving medications to be quickly distributed to local health departments in the event of a bioterrorism disaster. In the last few years, there has been a concentrated effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to encourage local public health departments to partner with large employers in the community to distribute that medication directly to their employees and their families during a bioterrorism event such as a regional Anthrax attack.

Many employers across the country are already part of this program, which is called a Closed Point of Dispensing Network, or Closed POD Network, but many are not even aware of the program’s existence. This presentation will explain the benefits of the program and show both public and private employers how they can better protect their workers and remain operational in the wake of a bio-terrorism attack.

The CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is comprised of antibiotics, masks, gloves and other medicine. These supplies will be utilized by the government in the event of an emergency, with appropriate medications delivered to public health departments in the affected region. The health department’s responsibility is to dispense these lifesaving medications to the entire community within 48 hours of a disaster declaration.

Becoming a Closed POD directly benefits an employer by assuring its workers are protected against a lethal biological agent and also helps achieve a company’s business continuity goals by encouraging workers to report for duty and keep the company operating.

This presentation will fully describe the entire SNS program, from the national to the local level, and show attendees how they can participate in this valuable preparedness initiative in their communities.  The presenter is Harlan Dolgin, co-owner of Bio-Defense Network.

Sign on up.  And submit any questions you have about either topic so we can answer them during Q&A.  Finally, send us your suggestions for future webinar topics.  This process thrives on your input and where else can you get great information from a group of the country’s best BCP professionals for free?  And no, we will not send you a puppy if we select your topic.  But free, genuinely valuable knowledge is better.  Although I admit, puppies are nice.

Posted by Fred Rogers on 07 January 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.