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.
But 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Security – here on Continuity Housing’s YouTube channel.
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.
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.
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.
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.