Researchers estimate that the pre-Rita evacuation of nearly 2 million people from the Texas Gulf Coast was the largest single migration of a group of people in U.S. history.1 The 2005 storm came on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating and rampantly media-covered hurricanes in history. As a result, emotional reactive impulses snowballed across the targeted area, creating panic and gridlock. Many hurricane response plans gave way to emotions.
“Don’t just expect the unexpected, expect yourself and your team to act in an unexpected manner.” Continuity Housing
As the peak of hurricane season approaches, it is important to ensure hurricane and business continuity plans are in place, employee roles and responsibilities are understood, and exercises are conducted. While the plan should present process and procedures for various circumstances, unforeseen adaptations may be required to respond appropriately. It is critical for company response teams to discuss the important key elements of the plans and the consequences of making modifications midstream.
Key elements should be identified and analyzed for each business continuity component. Ideally, revisions and consequential employee training should be made prior to the arrival of hurricane season: However, if a plan adaptation is required, the following concepts may be affected.
Communication needs: Clear and effective communication channels must remain available in order to disseminate information to employees, assess and relay damage, and coordinate a recovery strategy. Altering communication processes may result in information delays or disconnected contacts. A mass notification system, such as provided by Everbridge, may assure a reliable method to communicate to key individuals, company employees, or an entire client base.
Data and computer needs: Identifying the procedural details of computer backups, data restoration methods, and the minimum program needs is crucial to re-establish critical business processes. Data center outsourcing should be examined to ensure continuity and accessibility. Process changes during an incident may cause lack of information availability.
Equipment needs: Identify and procure necessary equipment and establish processes for continued operations and recovery. This will prevent unnecessary downtime and additional recovery efforts after a hurricane. The process of relocating equipment prior to a storm or arranging for these essentials after a storm is time consuming, labor intensive, and potentially costly. Changes to established processes or procedures may result in equipment damage, deficiencies, or duplicated efforts.
Essential Personnel: Identify necessary minimum staffing levels to remain on-site during a storm. Establish contingency plans applicable to projected impacts. As the storm passes, ensure staff, contractors, and suppliers understand their individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives. While last minute changes may be necessary to ensure safety of personnel, plans should incorporate a variety of procedures applicable to required actions.
Notification lists: Regularly update lists and contact information to ensure accuracy. Business continuity planners must be certain that notifications are being delivered to accurate e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers, especially in case of an evacuation. If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for an e-mail notification verification system that enables the contact to verify their information. Companies can also offer incentives, such as drawings or prizes, to encourage all personnel to register for notifications and update contact information changes.
Supply Chain: As a company’s needs change and new suppliers come online, plans should be updated to include these critical suppliers. Additionally, pre selected alternate resources should be included in the business continuity plan to ensure consistent delivery and continued operations in the event primary suppliers are detained by a hurricane’s aftermath.
1. Daniel P. Brown, Daniel P., Knabb, Richard D., and Rhome, Jamie R. (March 17, 2006). “Hurricane Rita Tropical Cyclone Report” (PDF). Section c, page 8: National Hurricane Center.
For a free corporate hurricane planning guide, click here.