The 2015 Hurricane Season Predictions, FEMA’s Updated Severe Weather Prep “Toolkit” and More: This Week In Business Continuity

Regardless of what pops into your head when you hear or see the word FEMA, the reality is that the majority of the people involved with the organization want to do their best to mitigate the effects of disasters and help restore any interrupted environment to normalcy as soon as possible.  Just like the vast majority of the rest of us.

No, really.  In the spirit of this goal they’ve updated their Severe Weather Preparedness kit which debuted last year.  The kit’s basically a list of different types of online and social media tools to help you keep your people aware and prepared.  Comparing it to last year’s, the kit appears to have only been updated cosmetically but it’s still a handy collection of information to have even in this age when every company in the world wants you to install their own apps and access links on your phone.  The document can be accessed here.  Click on the second one, the .pdf.  Disregard the “[attach graphic]” notations; I don’t know why they didn’t just import those and place them in the doc.  Anybody else know?

severe-weather

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

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I’ll spare you the suspense: “We anticipate that the 2015 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century.”  Every year Drs. Phil Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University release their predictions of the number and types of Atlantic tropical storms they expect . . . and every year the media publishes the report as well as the several updates that the team releases throughout the season.  Why?  Because regardless of the fact that seasonal expectations aren’t nearly as important to prepare for as the one storm that might affect your location(s), the duo is pretty good at giving us a solid idea of the general conditions that we can expect.

least-activeI’ve met Dr. Gray and over the years I’ve come to know Phil pretty well and they’re both seriously dedicated and extremely good at what they do.  And with each passing year the technology improves and the algorithms get tweaked just that much more.  Like any team boldly daring to put their necks on the line about a subject that can have a tremendous impact on so many, they’ve missed the mark a few times.  But they run a tight ship, sans agenda, and both are nearly as talented at seasonal forecasts as is Chris Hebert of StormGeo.

And – segue alert – speaking of Chris Hebert, we’re genuinely honored to have him share his more detailed 2015 Atlantic hurricane season outlook in a 25-minute webinar on May 14th at 10:30 C / 11:30 E.  For more information and to register, click here.  I’ve produced more than 200 webinars since 2006 and I’ve known Chris for 24 years and I can say this: Chris and webinars were made for each other.  He’s one of the two or three best webinar (and live) presenters I’ve ever encountered and his presentations are always very fast-paced, informative and even entertaining.  The webinar is free to attend and, as always, register even if you can’t attend that day so that you automatically receive the follow-up email with the slide show and the link to the recording of the webinar that you can watch any time.

2015-forecast

Will Chris’ outlook be the same or more or less accurate than the one issued last week by Dr. Gray and Dr. Klotzbach?  Yes and no.  From the discussions we’ve had, I expect the specific numbers will be similar but some of the reasoning will be different.  And far easier to digest than the in-depth material in the Colorado State report.

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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: Truly Productive Cross-Industry Collaboration; Mitigating Calamity With Clever Architecture

Based in Atlanta, the Southeast Business Recovery Exchange (SEBRE) was founded as “a nonprofit organization that promotes the interaction of persons involved in, or responsible for, business continuity planning/disaster recovery in their respective organizations.” The group meets twice a year, once in Atlanta and once in some other southeastern city, to discuss real business continuity strategies, lessons learned and ideas.  Interestingly and constructively, companies that sell BC/DR solutions aren’t eligible for membership but representatives from such companies are occasionally invited to speak, and at the meeting a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther was that fortunate individual.  Full disclosure: in exchange for the honor, Michelle got to treat the entire group to dinner.

membershipSays Michelle, “I went because it’s a targeted group of leaders and because of the timeliness of this meeting of companies in the southeastern U.S. as hurricane season approaches.  SEBRE’s mission dovetails very well with Continuity Housing’s services and our overall philosophy that a continuity plan is never done – there’s always something that can be added or enhanced to make it stronger and make your company that much more resilient.

“Membership is limited to just 30 representatives from different types of industries, about half of which are financial companies, which is good because that’s designed to foster the exchange of real ideas and the most creative ideas in strategy innovation.  These are senior level, decision-making, empowered individuals [take a look at their executive committee at the bottom of their website] and most have been members for a long time.  They follow the Chatham House Rule, a great idea for the purposes of this type of group, so I wasn’t privy to any of their meetings except for my presentation.  They asked a lot of questions about the details and how they could apply Continuity Housing’s principles to their own specific circumstances.  I love it when a presentation evolves into an interactive discussion and think that’s the best case scenario for attendees in that it yields a more interesting and productive exchange where everyone takes home at least a couple of good nuggets.”

The SEBRE meeting format reminds me of a series of post-Ike meetings I was involved in coordinating that included more than 180 individuals (we met in small groups over a series of weeks) from companies in a wide variety of industries, all of which had been severely impacted by the storm.   What could the VP BCP of a financial organization learn from the manager of a petrochemical plant about business continuity?  A whole lot.  One example: during a wide-scale emergency, National Guard units in different states have different ideas about what constitutes “private property” when it comes to things like generators and potable water.  I’ve had plant operators look me in the eye and tell me that they have to hide everything from generators to televisions so that they don’t get ‘borrowed’ by National Guard troops and several instances when such items were appropriated “for the sake of public safety.”

As always, the goal with such meetings is to find out what works in business continuity and, more importantly, what was supposed to work last time but didn’t.  Trust and a clearly stated understanding that open communication is mutually beneficial combine to go a long way towards generating solutions that can help everyone out next time.

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The American Institute of Architects Houston chapter offers an outstanding series of regularly scheduled walking tours and two weeks ago I, along with a dozen or so other folks, mostly tourists, went on the one that focuses on the Texas Medical Center.  Why?  For the same reason I went on the boat tour of the Houston Ship Channel last summer: because I thought I might learn something valuable about better business continuity planning overall.  The walking tour was outstanding, lasted three hours, spanned about a 2 ½-mile route and required a short hop on the METRO rail that runs through the middle of the huge Med Center complex.

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Fancy pedestrian traffic dividers (on the left)? Nope. Rotating flood locks. Click to see full size.

The most fascinating part of the tour was learning about how architects were able to, in most cases, elegantly incorporate flood-abatement mechanisms into the structures – sometimes decades after construction of the individual buildings were completed – following the disastrous blow that the Medical Center suffered as a result of tropical storm Allison.  Something else we learned is how incredibly obsolete most of the older (circa 1945 to 1990) buildings are for use as medical facilities simply because of the modern IT and air circulation infrastructure demands.  Back in the day, each floor was only 12 to 16 feet in height because the space between floors was so short, maybe a foot of two, whereas today the average overall height of each and every floor runs about 21 feet with a full five-foot crawl space between each floor to house all the additional wiring, medical supply tubing and a/c mechanisms.  Analyses of utility are constantly in motion: whether to tear an older building down and replace it with something more modern and usually taller or convert it to an office building or teaching facility.  (At any given time, more than 5,000 physicians are in training somewhere in the complex.)

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Same flood gates at the top of the steps but the pretty ground-floor panels to the right surround the building and are also interlocking flood gates. Other types of gates include humongous round submarine-style pressure-lock doors. Location: Michael E. DeBakey Library/Museum.

Another interesting point is that although many modern buildings are now being built to LEED standard, few companies are interested in actually obtaining actual LEED certification because it’s so cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive to do so.  And if companies can say their buildings have been built to LEED standard without spending the time, energy and money required for the actual certification, isn’t that the best of both worlds?  Juxtapose that against the value of obtaining a CBCP, MCP or similar accreditation owing to the genuine value of those certifications.  The LEED issue reminds me of a decision we faced at Continuity Housing about whether or not to obtain accreditation as a woman-owned business.  Ultimately, the potential value and benefits didn’t justify the cost and hoop jumping.  The logo and certificate are nice but neither enhances our services, our reputation or the value we bring to our clients.

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unfinbus-large

Source: iStock.

You know those cringe-worthy stock photos you see of enthused, engaged, almost outright tickled-pink-to-be-there corporate employees in meetings that you see on company websites and in print materials?  You may have heard that actor Vince Vaughn starred in his own set of similarly awkward stock photos over the last few weeks as part of a marketing campaign for the movie Unfinished Business.  (I was going to include a link to the trailer but then I remembered a lot of you might be in the office right now.)  It’s outstanding marketing because they generated a huge amount of free buzz (guilty as charged) by commandeering a mildly humdrum private media resource that actually dovetails the theme of the movie.  We like Vince Vaughn so we started kicking ideas around for captions to the different photos in the series.  We particularly liked this one: “It’s a phone tree, people.  Ugh!  I can’t believe they think that’s a continuity plan.  Look how excited they are!  Are they serious with this?  I’m going to have to kick it up a notch, and I know just the way to do it . . .”  Take a look at this one and share your funniest caption with us.  We’ll run them next week.

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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.

$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.