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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.

Threat of Chantal Dissipates. Or Does It? Ever? (A Recipe for Letting Your Guard Down)

Starting as early as last weekend, forecasters were predicting the potential for a severe impact from what are now the remnants of tropical storm Chantal.  One ‘news’ source even predicted a “Katrina like path” – with all that implies – despite the fact that the vast majority of the more than 20 hurricane models kept the storm out in the Atlantic and, at most, a minor/medium threat to the East Coast.

As a business continuity professional and a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast, storms like Chantal really bug me.  It’s not early in the season but so far – so far – the season hasn’t panned out to be the blockbuster that was predicted a few months ago.  Which means that, relevant to the fact that there have only been three named storms, it’s still psychologically early in a season which might turn brutal.  And that in turn is a brutal setup for the mindset of people in general and for preparedness professionals specifically  because we still have a long way to go before the end of the 2013 Atlantic tropical storm season.

You don’t have to go too far back to remember seasons that were late-bloomers but still had quite an impact on far too many victims.  1998 didn’t see a named cyclone until July 27th but that season produced Mitch, the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history with an estimate of more than 20,000 casualties.

Having experienced several earthquakes, too many floods to count and a number of severe tropical storms and hurricanes, I remember what it meant to be caught off guard.  Alicia in ’83 (which didn’t make landfall until the middle of August despite being the A-storm, i.e., the first one) started out as a very small cluster of thunderstorms off the coast of Louisiana and made landfall just three days later as a category 3 hurricane which did enough damage to Houston that the name Alicia was retired by the World Meteorological Organization.  (I made a lot of money with a chainsaw clearing downed limbs in the two weeks after the storm but I don’t remember it being worth the many nights spent trying to sleep without air conditioning when the lows were in 80s.)

Another example was the very early (first week of June) tropical storm Allison in 2001 which developed a crush on the upper Texas Gulf Coast and refused to leave.  After four days of meandering in more or less the same position with the center of the storm over land, it generated enough rainfall that the Houston area reached absolute saturation.  Up to that point, the never-ending rain had just been a nuisance but at some point overnight on Friday, June 8th, there simply nowhere left for the flood water to go. The fact that it didn’t make landfall and move on out of the area resulted in enough flooding damage that it remains the only tropical storm to have its name retired by the WMO and it caused more than $2 billion in damage just to the Texas Medical Center.  The fact that it was ‘just’ a tropical storm resulted in a classic example of millions of people and thousands of businesses getting caught off-guard.

The real damage that Chantal will cause will happen weeks or months from now when all anyone remembers about this hurricane season is that it was a dud.  Until it fires up and we get caught off-guard.

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Allison flooding a section of U.S. 59 just southwest of downtown Houston. Photos: Fred Rogers