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 . . .


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  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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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 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?


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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?


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.


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.


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:


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.”


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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Snow in Boston this week. Photo:

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.


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.


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.