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U.S. Winter Outlook: Warmer North, Cooler South – How Will Your Plan Adapt? This Month in Business Continuity

If you’re reading this you already know that September is National Preparedness Month and if you watch Game of Thrones you know that winter is coming. Both are true and September is a great month to celebrate preparedness given that it’s usually the peak month for hurricane activity and yet fall is right around the corner. And now that we’re close to being on the heels of what’s been another blessedly quiet Atlantic tropical storm season, it’s time to shift attention to prep for potential winter disruptions.

Does your winter plan need to be updated? As you discuss what could be cut and what needs to be added, a great motivator for your team is to ask what lessons were learned from last winter. Depending on where you’re based, records both high and low were set across the U.S. and the nastiest of the truly bitter cold didn’t hit the Northeast until late in January and into February. Were any resources mistakenly re-allocated away from preparedness before the severe punch late in the season? What was the impact on the company and what could have been done more efficiently?

2015-09 Weather MapI’ve watched seasonal weather outlooks evolve in quality and specificity for more than 20 years – trust me, they’ve gotten a lot better at it – and NOAA’s current take on a continuing strong El Niño deserves respect – most of the other outlooks I’ve looked at concur with their position. Short version: warmer than usual in the north, colder than usual in the south and some rain for the West Coast, which can be both a good and a bad thing depending on how you feel about flash flooding and mudslides. Be informed, prepare and build robustness to protect against black swans. (And despite all this, always plan for the event, not for the seasonal outlook.)

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Personal Continuity: The Pros and Cons of Medic Alert Apps

We’ve all had ICE contacts on our phones for years and medic alert apps (link spoiler: awesome stock photo!) have been around for a while but now there are some newer ones that provide even more specific information to medical professionals in case of an emergency that involves, well, you. The good news is that these apps provide a great deal of information about you should the need arise. The bad news is that they provide a great deal of information about you to anyone who gets a hold of your phone. Unless you have a severe chronic health issue, is it worth the risk? Let us know what you think in the comments section. Knock on wood, I’m fairly healthy so for now I’m just sticking to the ICE. So to speak.

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Deployment Housing: Perfecting Your Backup Plan

Last week there was yet another great ACP Webinar Series presentation, this time by our own Michelle Lowther entitled, “How To Get What You Need From Hotels When Your Plan (And Your Business!) Depend On It.” If that topic interests you, all I’ll say is that the presentation is most definitely not a commercial and that it garnered a 4.6 out of 5 (92% excellent) average survey ranking by the people who attended live. Go watch and share it around because doing so will make you look good. In a nutshell, it very comprehensively details the many items you need to factor when including deployment housing in your BCP.

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Five Ways To Make The Most of Hotel Loyalty Programs

I’m not a regular follower of something called theeverygirl.com but I saw this the other day and thought it worth passing along. A couple of the pointers are just good common sense but two of them resonate: utilize your points for more than just travel (think local perks) and take advantage of discounts and benefits with program partners.

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Marriott Tests In-Room Virtual Reality Service

With competition ever fiercer, hotels continue to ramp up their customer enticements, and the latest comes from Marriott, piloting virtual reality headsets that guests can borrow for 24 hours at two flagship properties in New York and London. The 16-year-old in me absolutely loves the idea but 95% of what I use a hotel room for, whether traveling for business or pleasure, is to sleep. It’s a neat perk but after a long day of doing whatever, I don’t know if I need to strap on a headset for a quick trip to the Andes. What do you think about this one?

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Saudi King Books Entire Hotel

Speaking of black swans, we’ve all heard of entire floors being booked by royalty but the entire hotel?  How’s THAT for an unexpected potential interruption of your deployment accommodations plan? I worked in VVIP travel and event management for more than 20 years and things like this happen way more often than is covered in the media. Always, always hedge your bets.

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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.

Active Shooter Response Training; The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – This Week in Business Continuity

This past April and again last month, the Association of Contingency Planners webinar series hosted by Continuity Housing featured detailed, hour-long webinars on how to respond in an active shooter situation; hit those links to watch the recording of either or both.  Frankly we’d planned on HPD-active-shooterleaving the topic alone for a while but Thursday’s mass shooting in Chattanooga serves as another tragic reminder that the possibility of encountering a similar situation continues to be very real for all of us.  Those videos are long but make time to watch them.  For a shorter look at what to do in an active shooter situation, the Houston Police Department produced a 6-minute video a few years ago that you should watch and share with anyone you care about.

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We now have six more ACP webinars scheduled through the fall but it’s not too late to register for the next one which is tomorrow, July 22nd at 11: 30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  It’s called “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism” by Harlan Dolgin and you can register here. In September, Harlan will present on the topic of general preparedness for a flu pandemic and we’ll share the link to register for that one as soon as it’s scheduled.

The next Continuity Housing webinar is “The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – A Train Wreck in 2015 . . . What That Means to You” by Bo Mitchell.  It’s on Wednesday, August 12th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central and you can find out more and register here.

Always register even if you can’t attend the live presentation so that you automatically receive the link to the recording.

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I mentioned a while back that I’d had a long talk with Bo about proper emergency preparedness ranging on topics both philosophic and practical.  Rounding out the discussion I asked who in each organization is responsible for insuring the organization is EAP (Emergency Action Plan) compliant and how they go about learning what it takes.  “The responsible party is the CEO. But he or she probably doesn’t know that. Think about that. Then know that, in most organizations, no one is assigned this responsibility. Or if they are, it is spread across silos. It could be HR. Or Security. Or Safety. Or Facilities. Every organization has a different answer.

“Know that one group that is not responsible for compliance: your landlord.  If you rent your space or any of your spaces in a multi-facility organization, know that your landlord’s planning – if they have any – is not substitutable under law for your plan. Nor does this make sense operationally speaking. It’s a fact that in almost all multi-tenant buildings, the landlord has no plan or it’s incompetent. Landlords never train. Often, they don’t even drill. Also, no law in any state or city or at the federal level permits your landlord’s plan to be your plan. The regulations always start, ‘The employer shall.’ Never ‘The landlord shall.’  All landlords do this badly. Anyone who says to you ‘Oh, that’s the landlord’s responsibility’ is – by definition and by law – negligent.”

If you’d like a copy of 911 Consulting’s “10 Commandments of Emergency Planning” and/or their “10 Commandments of Emergency Training,” email Bo at BoMitchell@911Consulting.net.

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We talked last week about prepping in advance – specifically, about pre-negotiating hotel contracts well in advance of a deployment.  Not only does it stave off price gouging and ugly contract terms but it makes for a far smoother deployment.  “But then it hit me,” says Continuity Housing’s principal, Michelle Lowther.  “It’s the people who THINK they have a plan that are in the most danger.”  So let’s back it up a bit.  Why is that the case, how do you know if you’re in that very boat and most importantly, how do you get out before said boat sinks?

For that, we turn back to Michelle.  “If an organization thinks they have it covered, they usually fall into one of two buckets.  Bucket One: small to mid-size businesses with only a handful of people to relocate who think they can do it online.  Bucket Two: large to mega-size businesses with high annual travel spend, strong hotel brand relationships at the global level and a travel management company that handles all their business travel.  The people in the first bucket are probably right.  They might be able to get online and eke out a few rooms here and there when they need them, provided things like room rate, pre-determined hotel location and pet acceptance are not priorities to them.  It’s the people in the second bucket who concern me.”  More about that next week, but in the meantime, if you think you might be in Bucket Two, here’s a hot tip.  “Check any hotel paperwork you have for the phrase ‘based on availability.’  I bet it’ll be in there somewhere,” says Michelle.

Wanna put this to the numbers?  Email me and we’ll send you a case study that we’ll explore a little more next week.  It’s a doozie.

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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.

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.

Return of the Association of Contingency Planners Webinar Series: Just in Time for Wildfire and Tropical Storm Season

ACP-logo-onlyThe extremely popular webinar series hosted by the Association of Contingency Planners debuted in 2009 with the goal of providing interesting and genuinely educational (read: “not a sales pitch”) free webinars to members – and hopefully future members – on a monthly basis.  Since that time, thousands of people have attended the dozens of webinars and the response has always been extremely positive.  And by “extremely positive,” I seem to remember a total of about 3 or 4 attendees indicating in the post-webinar surveys that they found the webinars to be less than good or great and the majority of the respondents rated the content as excellent.

not-roteWe’re proud to announce that Continuity Housing will begin sponsoring the resurrected series when it returns on Tuesday, August 12th.  Personally I’m elated because I produced and often emceed the series every month for more than two years after it first started and I really and truly get a kick out of sharing valuable continuity and general knowledge information with people.  (A perfect example.)

Understand this:  these are not rote presentations of dry material, checklists or procedures.  You will find yourself at many if not most of them with that “Wow, I did not know that” feeling.  And they are very definitely not sales pitches . . . well, except for about a 20-second reminder of who the sponsor is.   On purpose we tend to keep the webinars on the short side of 25 to 45 minutes and we always host them mid-morning on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday so they’re easy to catch, although we will always provide the recorded versions of each one on both the ACP site and on the Continuity Housing YouTube channel.

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Granted, my enthusiasm for next month’s webinar may have a slight bias to it but it’s a perfect learning opportunity for anyone involved with a potential continuity deployment for their company.  The title of the webinar is “Securing Guaranteed Hotel Rooms For Your Organization In a Deployment: A Tale of Two Companies” and it’s a gritty review of the specific lessons learned by two different companies that chose two very different housing management plans before the Spam hit the fan.  A few details from the webinar description: “This is not an abstract session. Instead, you’ll learn the exact steps taken with regard to housing by these two large corporations and we’ll discuss what worked and what didn’t. There are more than 60 negotiable terms in a hotel’s group booking contract, and this session will equip you with creative, unique ways to craft those contracts to your organization’s best advantage to fit the unique aspects of a crisis management booking. ”

With Q&A the webinar will run about 45 minutes, the presenter is Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther and you can register here.

I’ve known and worked with Michelle for almost 4 years and she’s an excellent presenter.  More than that, I respect both her and the value of the content of her presentations.  She doesn’t ever waste your time.  Ever.

Register now and we’ll see you on the 12th.  Almost as importantly send me your ideas for future webinars.  We like to keep them in the realm of BC/DR but I’d be happy to field any suggestions that help make all of us better planners, more valuable contributors to our organizations and better, more productive folks in general.

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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 to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.