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.

The Curse of ‘ICYMI’ – Yes, I DID Miss It and I’ll Probably Survive Anyway

It’s too easy to roll some word play for this so I’ll avoid the obvious and plainly state that recently the New York Times ran an opinion piece that justly vilifies the rampant overuse of the ‘ICYMI’ tag/invocation.  If you’re lucky enough to not be on the internet that often – specifically Twitter – the acronym stands for In Case You Missed It, the idea being that yet something else happened and was reported on or discovered or revealed or taught that, by golly, you better be current on.

It’s okay if you missed it.

clipping-serviceIf it was important enough, you’ll hear about it eventually and probably many, many times over.  In addition to the annoying reality that ICYMI is a marketing gimmick invented primarily to increase clickthroughs, its existence serves as yet another tool that masquerades as being helpful but which is instead detrimental to us in that it adds more and more items to the list of stuff that we think we’re behind on.  Or, as was much more efficiently summarized in the Times piece, “The shorthand betrays an anxiety central to the Internet epoch. There is simply too much readable, viewable and listenable data for anyone to stay abreast of.”  Especially those of us in business continuity planning whose professional success relies on us keeping well informed.  Blood pressure.

Usually at this point I’d insert a bullet point segment with multiple expert suggestions for how best to deal with the issue.  Lucky for you it’s a lot easier than that.  Practice and perfect the act of intentionally decompressing.  Don’t fill every free moment by checking the latest news.  Set aside five minutes several times a day to let your mind wander.  Please pardon my hypocrisy but take a look at why this is important.  And use a clipping service like Google Alerts so that you’re not reacting to what others are telling you is important.  I have 11 of them set up and yes, they do clog up my IN box a bit but at least I’m getting information about what I know for a fact is important to me.  Be proactively selective, picky even.

And while you’re at it, if you aren’t already (sorry – that was disturbingly close to ICYMI), if you find yourself habitually needing to keep up with local or national news broadcasts, start using your DVR more productively by recording news programs and skipping over the parts you know you’re probably not going to care about.  In my case that would be any segment having to do with being a smarter consumer, any entertainment ‘news,’ sports and The Heartwarming Story of The Day.  I record the local hour-long morning news and on average have now whittled it down to about 11 minutes.

When I was in college in the ‘80’s, in addition to a number of other jobs I had, I worked as a legal assistant at a small law firm.  I remember how overjoyed we were when we got our first fax machine.  No more begging the attorneys to finish their motions by 3:00 so we could get them typed, proofed, edited and then race downtown to get them time-stamped by the court clerk by the 5:00 p.m. deadline.  (Not so shockingly, lawyers always file at the very last minute.)  I also remember the first time one of the senior partners watched me gleefully fax in a motion just a few minutes before the deadline.  He shook his head and said, “This thing is going to make life a lot worse, not better.”  I asked him why and he said, “The faster the information can be transmitted the faster we’ll have to respond. And the more information we’ll all have to deal with.”

I’m thankful that I had the chance to work with him because he’s one of the wisest men I ever met but how often I’ve wished he’d been wrong about that.  Either way, if it’s important enough, you’ll hear about it.

Posted by Fred Rogers on 19 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.

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.

Holiday Travelers Beware: New Third-Party Scams Target You Right In Your Hotel Room

Every once in a while, network news unwittingly contributes significantly to the safety and efficiency of a potential business continuity deployment.  That was the case Monday morning when ABC aired a segment on new scams being perpetrated by con artists on holiday travelers staying in hotels.  Watch it.  It’s less than three minutes long, and ABC gives you some simple and practical ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.  And the piece doesn’t just apply during the holidays.  The same scams can happen to anyone traveling and staying in a hotel at any time anywhere.  Specifically, four different new scams to be aware of:

  • holiday-scams

    Click to play.

    Professional-looking fake pizza delivery flyers that get slipped under your door, show up on your car windshield, etc. You call in to order a pizza and they ask for your credit card number.  I’d never heard of this one before and I have to say that it’s every bit as clever as it is annoying.

  • A phone call that’s supposedly from the front desk informing you that due to some type of outage, they’ve lost your credit card information and they need you to give it to them again over the phone.
  • Hacker-installed wifi access posing as official hotel wifi service. Log on and they can read everything on your computer including passwords, bank access information, etc. Always confirm with the hotel which wifi access is actually theirs.
  • Wireless key loggers installed on seemingly innocuous zip drives. Never share your zip drive or use one provided by anyone other than someone you know and trust.

Based on my own decades of business travel, I’d like to add a few more tips on what to do and not do while you’re staying at a hotel.  Some of this advice came at much greater expense than I’d like to remember so please consider each one.

  • never-wear-badgeIf anyone calls your room asking you to meet them in the lobby and you don’t know the person, call hotel security and ask them to escort you until you give them the all-clear. (If you’re meeting the security guard in the lobby, make it easier on her or him by describing yourself when you call to make the request.)  This sounds like overkill but it’s simply common sense and hotel security will be happy to oblige.
  • Never, ever, ever wear your conference/convention badge or company photo ID in public. Obviously there are exceptions for people like utility company employees but if you’re required to wear a photo ID at work, put it in your purse or pocket the moment you step out the door at the end of the day.  If you’re attending a seminar or convention, trade show or conference, never under any circumstances wear your attendee badge (“Hi! My name is Distracted Traveler!”) anywhere but where it’s required for access.  For that matter, don’t hang it on your rear view mirror or leave it anywhere else in your car. Why?  Because at just a momentary glance, anyone can learn what you look like, your name, the company you work for and which car is yours.  Based on a particularly bad experience during a business trip to New Orleans in 1994, I feel so strongly about this matter that I used to fine my employees in the form of docking their per diem a full $100 if I caught them wearing their convention badge anywhere in public.
  • Use all the locks on your door when you arrive even if you only plan on being in your room for a few minutes.
  • Traveling with valuables? That safe in the closet in your room?  Use it.  Or arrange with the hotel to keep your valuables (within reason) in their safe.
  • No matter how late you arrive or how tired you are or how early you have to get up, don’t just plan at least two escape routes – WALK both of them before you turn in for the night. Even ‘official’ escape routes on clearly marked signs might be temporarily blocked during your stay.  And if you don’t like where your room is relevant to your ability to make a quick exit, request a room change.
    • The same goes for any meeting room or convention ballroom or theater or office space that you’re meeting in.
  • Don’t wear shoes that you can’t run in. I realize that one’s a whole lot easier for men than it is for women but if I can’t skedaddle in a pair of shoes, I don’t wear them.  In fact, except for fishing waders and cowboy boots, if I can’t run in a pair of shoes I don’t own
  • This one’s a little off-topic but always make sure you’re parking your vehicle in the right place and that you’re paying the right person. Embarrassing myself for the sake of your safer, happier travels, that parking lot employee where I parked my truck at the Georgia World Congress Center in 1997?  He wasn’t a parking lot employee.  My lack of attention to detail cost me $385 in ‘oversized vehicle’ towing charges and several hours in a part of town I didn’t have the time to be in.
  • Use common sense. Even if you’ve stayed at a particular property before and are very familiar with it, you’re still in unfamiliar waters when you’re traveling.  Be on your guard.

What did I miss here?  What safety tips do you actively practice?  Let us know in the comments and we’ll share them in a follow-up.

Arrive safely, get your work done, enjoy yourself to the greatest extent possible and get home intact.  And if you’re traveling for the holidays, pack a little extra patience and have fun!

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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.

ACP South Texas Chapter Holiday Luncheon: No Dancing Bears, Otherwise Awesome

Luncheon.  Not a word anyone gets particularly excited about.  Industry association luncheon . . . you’re beginning to lose me.  Industry association holiday luncheon?  Okay, now I’m listening.  The South Texas Chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners hosted its annual holiday luncheon on Tuesday and here’s why it was great:

  • The annual recap was helpful and informative, including a report on a 20% increase in membership.
  • The outlook for next year’s events, including a Big New Idea, was motivating.
  • New connections between professionals were made, established connections were solidified and business got done.
  • The chocolate cake was stellar.

ACP-luncheon-pull

The luncheon was held at a nice restaurant in the Galleria area and despite the season, traffic wasn’t terrible and one of the things I really get a kick out of at ACP events is that, by golly, they start on time and they end on time.  That’s BC people for you.  After the half-hour hangout, we were promptly seated and fed and then for the next hour, various board members made informal presentations about the state of the chapter.

MVP Rich Bruklis. Photo: John Small

MVP Rich Bruklis. Photo: John Small

And that hour flew by like a shot as we heard all about the year in review, board announcements, who won the annual MVP award (presented to the much-deserved Rich Bruklis of CloudReplica for the outstanding job he did organizing so many great events this year, many of which I blogged about previously), a membership spotlight, educational updates, the presentation of the certificate of appreciation, a massive housing discount arranged by and the results of the very successful “bring a guest” campaign.  And of course the requisite raffle.  There were five different prizes and they were all great, except for the part where I didn’t win any of them.  But mostly it flew by because the content was outstanding and the future looks bright for the South Texas Chapter, including plans for a new and significant half-day symposium at the end of March.

Our 2014 goals were set and achieved, new goals have been set for next year, the chapter is growing and motivated and then we were all late getting back to work because almost all of us hung out for too long afterwards catching up and doing actual business.  Business that benefits our careers, our organizations and the people we’re responsible for.

A great holiday turnout. Photo: Fred Rogers

A great holiday turnout. Photo: Fred Rogers

So if you get the chance, and even if you have to go looking for one, make time for one of those industry association holiday luncheons.  BCP folks don’t slack and those meetings are worth going to.  And if you find out they’re serving chocolate cake, you just might see me there.

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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.

BCP Smart: Make Early December Count So You Can Enjoy The Holidays (and 2015) Even More

It’s only early December but many of us have already experienced a substantial winter weather disruption from last week’s near-historic snowfall and then flooding in the Northeast U.S. And then there’s this week’s crazy amount of rain on the West Coast.  Barring any other similar problems, here are a few ideas to make the most of what’s usually a slow month so that you can leave the office AT the office when the holidays start.

  • buckleSpend a day summarizing this year’s numbers: quantify results and subjectively but accurately reiterate the value to your organization in terms of dollars saved and the crises – big and small – that were avoided or successfully mitigated. Give your boss, and your career, a boost with a short summary of why intelligent BCP counts for your company.
  • Finalize your 2015 budget and consider those previously unconsidered solutions that could very well make 2015’s year-end report even shinier. [Insert shameless plug for the wild range of solutions and savings provided by Continuity Housing here.]
  • After you get those two done, if you find yourself with a little free time on the clock, as always go for some professional self-improvement. Check out Continuity Housing’s YouTube channel for videos on a wide range of topics that you may have missed this year.   We’re always working to help make your job easier and your value to your company even more bullet-proof, and this is where we keep the good stuff.  Well, except for the secret sauce.  We don’t put that in writing anywhere.
  • Ponder a new certification or two for 2015 and think about how you could get the company to co-sponsor or fully fund it. And not all CE efforts have to be ‘official’ in order for them to make you a more valuable contributor to your organization.  Explore CERT training – search local options available by ZIP here – or some of the options available via Ready.gov, which can be a bit on the remedial side for most of us but a little recurrent training never hurt anybody.
  • Consider a life skills or survival course. Get yourself and all of your key, cross-trained managers updated with an in-office, half-day CPR and emergency response course.  The Red Cross offers training but in many regions of the country there are even more in-depth immediate response courses available at a fairly low cost.  What skill have you always admired in others but never tackled yourself?  Make that an achievable resolution for next year as a gift to yourself.
  • If you’re not yet a member, take 5 minutes and go join the Association of Contingency Planners. It’s not expensive, you will benefit from it and . . . it looks good on your LinkedIn profile and résumé.
  • Make your New Year’s resolutions. Admittedly, I never make them.  Bear with me here…  I prefer systems to goals in order to create patterns that lead to success.  But resolutions can be good for thinking outside the box.  (For instance, I’ve long wanted to come up with a replacement to the phrase ‘outside the box’ because it’s tired.)  How about you consider making just two resolutions for how you can better yourself and the processes your coworkers use to increase the value of all of you to your organization?  Easy enough to do, and it involves the whole team (for those of you lucky enough to have one of those).
  • Finally and right before you head out the door for the year, consider hosting a “best new suggestion” contest with your coworkers for what your group might explore in the new year to make your business continuity plan more resilient. No need to award a trip to Tahiti or even an iPad; in general, people get pretty excited about a $25 cash card.  I know I do.  Free money is awesome.
  • All this just a little too ambitious? At the very least, learn something valuable while you’re surfing the web waiting for the 20th or so to get here!

I’m certainly not saying you have to do all of these things, but I hope you’ll pick (and do) your two or three favorites.  Then buckle down for the next couple of weeks and say goodbye to 2014 with a confident smile.

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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.

ACP Webinar “The Importance of a Resilient Supply Chain” – Recording Now Available

The last Association of Contingency Planners Webinar Series presentation of the year – The Importance of a Resilient Supply Chain – was yesterday and there were a lot more attendees than I’d expected given that it’s Thanksgiving week.  As usual, about 55% of those who registered for the webinar actually attended so, as always, we recorded the presentation and posted it here so that anyone who couldn’t attend can watch it whenever they want to.

supply-2The presentation was made by Patrick Alcantara and Andrew Scott, both with the The Business Continuity Institute, and details the results of The BCI’s annual Supply Chain Resilience survey, just how big an impact these disruptions can have and how frequently they occur.  Because, as the webinar description reminds us, it’s no longer enough to ensure that you have your own contingency plan in place, it’s vital to ensure that everyone within your supply chain has one, too.  The recording runs just under 36 minutes and the ACP Webinar Series is sponsored by Continuity Housing.

Click to view the recording on YouTube.

Click to view the recording on YouTube.

We’re already working on the first two webinars of the new year and I’ll post about those in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Arrive safely, eat a little more than you should and make some great memories!

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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.

Giving Thanks for All Things Great and Small . . . and Especially for Business Continuity In General

Last year I posted about the sheer Wonder Of It All being a great reason to really give thanks on Thanksgiving (see below for a reprint of that one or read it here) and having re-read it recently, I realized that there are a few more specific items that any BCP professional should ponder gratitude for and on a constant basis.  Why?  Because doing so helps us stay focused, keep current and remember why this is a truly great profession.

leanerFor starters, be thankful for and TO your employeesLet them know that without them and their very best efforts, the entire business fails to do its best on behalf of your employees, their families and your customers and that it therefore fails overall.  If something’s worth doing it’s worth doing well and that’s true especially in business continuity.

Next, there’s your actual job.  Few things make you feel more wonderful and immortal than knowing you’ve been genuinely productive, have worked both harder and smarter and have successfully completed a project.  Think about the last big event you had to manage and how good you felt when it was a hit and when it was OVER.

The greater BCP community and the organizations that help make us leaner and meaner and better every time we come into contact with them.  Certainly I’m thinking of the Association of Contingency Planners but I’d also include the Business Continuity Institute, Continuity Insights, the Disaster Recovery Institute, the Disaster Recovery Journal, the Edison Electric Institute and the World Conference on Disaster Management not to mention the countless city, county/parish and state/province organizations that host regional preparedness and continuity conferences of all shapes and sizes.  Each with its own agenda but each a successful and productively meaningful realization of the emergence of real BCP and what it has to offer.

Most importantly, our families, our families of friends and our pets.  You give, you receive, you are your own community of support.  And that’s the stuff of life, the whole reason for it all.

Finally, the entire notion of business continuity itself.  Most of us have watched this industry evolve from being just a pretty good idea into a thriving network of systems and processes that help us help our organizations and others on the job.  But it’s more than just that.  Together we’ve helped save countless millions of dollars, an incredible number of actual jobs and an unimaginable number of human lives.

Are you genuinely thankful yet?  Good.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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Don’t forget to register for the last ACP Webinar Series presentation of the year, The Importance of a Resilient Supply Chain, Monday, November 24th at 11:00 Eastern / 10:00 Central. Register here and be sure to register even if you can’t attend so that you receive the link to the recording afterwards.

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Last year’s Thanksgiving post, 15 Billion Reasons to Give Thanks for Pretty Much Everything:

It’s a slow business week in the U.S., so slow that you’re probably not even reading this because you’re busy getting ready for the holiday.  Either that or you’re trying to make several work-related deadlines before the long holiday weekend and really don’t have time to read this.

micrometersBut on the off chance that you are, we’d like to wish for you a very happy Thanksgiving and give you some food for thought (pun intended) on why we all have so many reasons to be genuinely thankful.

Both the existence of this blog and the very reason you’re reading it is because of our shared belief in the utter necessity for continuity, specifically planning for business continuity.  But another type of continuity comes to mind and has on at least a weekly basis since I took summer camp-style astronomy classes at Rice University in the ‘70’s.  And that is the unimaginable size and continuity of flow of the universe . . . and the endlessness of time.

More specifically, I think about all of the billions of things that had to go just right in order for me to be sitting here using the most amazing machine* in the universe, the human brain, as a tool to manipulate yet another purely amazing machine, a laptop computer, in order to generate these words that you’re now so very easily reading using the same two machines.  All the while I’m enjoying the sound of gravity-driven precipitation – I love the sound of rain – dressed in comfortable clothing in an overpriced chair in a warm office with hot coffee having just finished a wonderful lunch.  How much continuity was required for me to get to this very moment?  Take 4 minutes and run your eyes along this diagram and you’ll know.

thankfullyThe endlessness that got us to this moment makes me thankful for quite a few other things, too.  My truly awesome sisters and brother, our amazing parents (both gone now but never, ever forgotten even for a single day), kittens, a few hundred good friends, at least three of my last five girlfriends, eyes that see, lungs that breathe and arms that hug.  And lasagna!

Lasagna.

So be thankful.  And wonder in amazement at all that continuity.  Happy Thanksgiving!

* At least as far as we know up to this point.

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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.

Two of the Best Business Continuity Planning Webinars I’ve Seen Now Available on YouTube

I’ve been presenting and producing GoToWebinars (Citrix rocks) since 2006 and on Tuesday I was a small part of two of the best I’ve ever seen, much less produced.  The presentations, part of the ACP national webinar series, were part of a simulcast of the monthly meeting of the Connecticut Chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners (ACP) held at the headquarters of Northeast Utilities in Berlin, CT and they were emceed, as usual, by the ineffable Dr. Edward Goldberg, CBCP, CBCA, Corporate ACP’s Education Committee Chair.  (Hey, other regional ACP chapters!  Interested in doing something like this? Email me.)

grittyBoth of the unusually fast-paced webinars were not only educational but also entertaining and both were, frankly, a bit gritty, by which I mean that neither one pulled any punches when it came to sharing valuable information that any BCP professional would benefit from knowing.  The first one covered the reality of how human responses, especially in the age of lightspeed social media, have the potential to make any crisis a little bit or a whole lot worse and how to stay ahead of the potential spiral that can ensue.  The second webinar was an invaluable snapshot of what you have no clue about relevant to accommodating people with physical challenges – your employees, your coworkers, your friends – in the event of a crisis.  Most of the several presenters are disabled and they weren’t reluctant to share specific pointers about what to do and what not to do when you’re assisting a disabled person in any situation.

If you missed the presentations, we’ve edited them to run individually but I suggest you make the time to watch them both.  If you don’t think you can commit to an hour for each, watch the first ten minutes of each.  Then you’ll understand.  Go watch:

Incidentally, the second webinar had to be cut short so we plan on re-presenting that one in full, probably within a few months.  I’ll post information about that one and the link to register when the time comes.

That Connecticut chapter?  They're a wild bunch. Photo: Edward Goldberg

That Connecticut chapter? They’re a wild bunch.
Photo: Edward Goldberg

We’ve got one more ACP webinar planned this year, The Importance of a Resilient Supply Chain, Monday, November 24th at 11:00 Eastern / 10:00 Central.  Register here and be sure to register even if you can’t attend so that you receive the link to the recording.  More:

Contingency planning goes beyond making sure you have your own plans in place. Supply chains are becoming ever more complex and it is easy to lose track of them, but if you do lose track then you could be opening up your organization to a disaster. A disruption anywhere within the supply chain may well have a significant impact on all the other organizations within it. Results from the Business Continuity Institute’s annual Supply Chain Resilience survey showed just how big an impact these disruptions can have and how frequently they occur. It is no longer enough to ensure that you have your own contingency plan in place, it is vital to ensure that everyone within your supply chain has one too. Presented by Patrick Alcantara, Research Associate at the Business Continuity Institute and Andrew Scott, Senior Communications Manager at the Business Continuity Institute.

Presenters at the ACP Connecticut Chapter meeting.  Back row: Jeff Heisner, Steve Crimando, Cynthia Simeone, Stephen Thal, Keenan the Wonderdog. Front row: Mary Ann Langton. Photo: Edward Goldberg

Presenters at the ACP Connecticut Chapter meeting. Back row: Jeff Heisner, Steve Crimando, Cynthia Simeone, Stephen Thal, Keenan the Wonderdog.
Front row: Mary Ann Langton. Photo: Charles Jones

And we’re already lining up presentations for next year for current and future ACP members to enjoy.  As always, feel free to recommend topics and let me know if you yourself have a presentation you’d like us to consider.  For an idea of the wide variety of types of other BCP presentations we’ve hosted, check out Continuity Housing’s YouTube channel.

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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.