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.

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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.

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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.”

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

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

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

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

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

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

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

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

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

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

face-palm

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

Oh.

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

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

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Click to play. Opens on YouTube.

Click to play. Opens on YouTube.

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

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

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

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

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

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

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

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

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

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

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

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Click to watch the segment.

Click to watch the segment.

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

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

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

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning sessionlet us know.

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

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

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

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

Photo: wn.com

Snow in Boston this week. Photo: wn.com

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

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

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

Posted by Fred Rogers on 10 February 2015.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.

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.