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Hats, Gloves, and Business Continuity Planning

Posted on Thu, Feb 13, 2014

In January 2014, the meteorological term “Polar Vortex” was indoctrinated in the minds of millions across the United States. With arctic temperature plummeting unusually south, two-thirds of the nation was paralyzed by record breaking cold.  According to Evan Gold, Senior Vice President at Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company, January’s polar vortex resulted in a $50 billion economic disruption, the most delivered by a weather phenomenon since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Severe weather habitually effects routine business operations and profitability. Weather can be the culprit of power outages, dangerous temperatures, supply disruptions, safety hazards, and potentially impair access to key infrastructures. The January events, which impacted nearly 200 million people, is one of the many examples of how severe weather affects operational continuity.  Fortunately, temperatures will generally rise over the next few weeks and winter gear can be stored until next season. However, with every new season come new risks and the  need for an effective business continuity plan.

Despite seasonal specifics, companies should perform a business impact analysis (BIA), a precursor to a business continuity plan. The process of a BIA, in conjunction with a Business Continuity Plan allows for targeted recovery strategies to be developed in the event of an emergency. A BIA should be utilized to predict the consequences of business functions and process disruptions. Through a detailed analysis of potential lapses, predetermining applicable recovery strategies can reduce the length and severity of disruption impacts. These preparedness strategies allow for a smoother transition from critical business process disruptions to “business as usual”.

After each critical process is identified, the potential impacts resulting from loss of facilities, infrastructure, personnel, or supply chain can be examined for each process. Key minimum recovery components along with incremental recovery time objectives should be detailed for each critical process. Timely recovered critical processes reduce the overall potential damage to operations.

To identify the minimum service level requirements for specific key process, the following components should be evaluated for each critical business process.

  1. Recovery Time: Identify how long it would take to recover a specific critical process under scenario specific circumstances.
  2. IT requirements: If electronic data must be available to recover specific processes to a minimum service level, identify the necessary requirements.
  3. Data Backup History: Indicate how old the data can be to satisfy recovery (i.e. last weekly backup, last monthly backup, last quarterly backup, etc.) and review recovery methods.
  4. Review alternate location options: Identify needs and review options for off-site backup processes.
  5. Staffing minimums: Identify needs throughout recovery time objectives to optimize recovery.
  6. Impact Level: Indicate how severely the process would be impacted considering current/existing mitigation measures (ex. minimal, somewhat severe, severe).
  7. Likelihood Level: Indicating how likely each specific threat could occur considering current/ existing capabilities, mitigation measures, and history.

Once critical business units are identified and the BIA is completed, companies can develop a business continuity plan (BCP). For predictable naturally occurring events such as  severe weather, business continuity planning can minimize potentially dire financial impacts. Such planning should include, but not limited to the following:

  • Conduct awareness training, including facility evacuation routes and procedures
  • Coordinate activities with local and state response agencies
  • Communicate recommended community evacuation routes
  • Procure emergency supplies
  • Monitor radio and/or television reports
  • Secure facility
  • Secure and backup critical electronic files

Preparedness efforts, specific to winter weather, should include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Monitor news and weather reports on television or the radio (with battery backup)
  • Alert employees or others on-site that severe weather is approaching and communicate expectations
  • Be aware of the dangers posed extreme temperatures, and ice and snow falling from equipment and buildings; mediate if possible
  • Identify infrastructure dangers posed by cold weather on exposed piping (hazardous releases, flooding, etc)
  • Prepare and insulate exposed piping
  • Contract snow removal services or obtain the necessary equipment (snow shovels, ice scrapers, rock salt, tire chains, etc.)
  • Ensure that company vehicles have a full tank of gas and are functioning properly (heater, deicing fluid, antifreeze levels, windshield wipers)
  • Ensure flashlights are in proper working order and have additional batteries on site.
  • Monitor ice and snow accumulation on any on site tanks, sheds, or buildings and identify non-hazardous procedures for mitigation.
  • If necessary, obtain generators to re-power facilities or necessary equipment
  • If appropriate, leave water taps slightly open so they drip continuously to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Understand and implement cold weather response techniques when responding to product spills as released product may flow under ice or snow.
  • Establish and maintain communication with personnel
  • Consider limiting vehicle traffic
  • Maintain building temperature at acceptable levels and understand safety measures if using space heaters.
  • Notify supervisors if facility(s) loses power or is otherwise unable to operate
For a free guide on designing a crisis management program, click the image below:
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Tags: Climate Change, Business Continuity key points, Resiliency, Business Continuity Plan, Business Disruption

Severe Weather Preparedness and Impact Recovery Planning

Posted on Thu, Dec 19, 2013

Naturally occurring threats, such as wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes are not typically a threat during the winter months. As a result, planning for these events may not be on the list of top priorities. However, as demonstrated by the November 16, 2013 tornado and severe weather outbreak across the United State’s upper Midwest, preparedness and response protocols should be an ongoing effort. “Off-season” planning for both large and small companies can ensure mitigation measures and training efforts are implemented prior to the high-risk months.

Severe weather situations can result in the loss or temporary disruption of one or more of the following necessary key business resources:

  • Facilities
  • Infrastructure
  • IT Applications/Systems
  • People
  • Supply Chain

Weather-specific planning should be implemented for historically high-risk areas. However, the following general severe weather measures should be included in an overall preparedness program

PREPAREDNESS

  • Establish, verify, and exercise communication plans:
    • Verify contact details and identify communication procedures  with employees, emergency personnel, critical business unit leaders, and contractors in the event of an emergency
    • Establish response plans in a portable format that can accessed through a variety of methods
    • Verify availability and viability of communication equipment
    • Monitor and determine applicable response procedures based on radio, television, and/or weather reports
  • Establish, verify, and exercise resource management and supply chain measures:
    • Coordinate activities with local and state response agencies
    • Evaluate equipment needs
    • Pre-select alternate resources to ensure necessary response equipment is available when needed
    • Pre-select alternate delivery of critical needs in the event primary suppliers are not able to provide required services such as:
      • Electrical power
      • Water
      • Fuel
      • Telecommunications
      • Transportation
      • Staffing
      • Waste Management
      • Operations-specific equipment
  • Establish, verify, and exercise personnel roles and responsibilities
    • Conduct site specific awareness training, including facility evacuation routes and shelter in place procedures
    • Identify employees that should remain on-site (if deemed safe), and their responsibilities.
    • Identify necessary minimum staffing levels and assignments necessary for recovery operations. As the storm passes, ensure staff, contractors, and suppliers understand their individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives.
    • Train employees to recognize, report, and avoid hazardous chemicals discovered during debris clean up.
    • Ensure that key safety and maintenance personnel are thoroughly familiar with all building systems, such as alarms, utility shutoffs, elevators, etc.

BASIC RESPONSE MEASURES

  • Report hazards such as downed power lines, frayed electric wires, or gas leaks to the appropriate authorities.
  • Inspect the worksite before allowing employees to enter.
    • Evaluate building structures, roadways, surfaces, trenches and excavations for damage, stability and safety
    • Assume all wires and power lines are energized.
    • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage
  • Ensure employee safety
    • Before tackling strenuous tasks in extreme temperatures, consider employees’ physical condition, weather factors, and the nature of the task.
    • Ensure employees practice good lifting techniques to avoid overexertion and back injuries.
    • If applicable, provide all employees with personal protective equipment (PPEs), including hard hats, safety glasses, work boots, and gloves.
    • Beware of overhead and underground lines, especially when moving ladders or equipment near them.
    • Inform employees in areas where debris is being collected and deposited of any special hazards they may encounter during recovery efforts.
    • Be aware of possible biological hazards (i.e., dead animals).
    • Use flaggers, traffic cones and highway channeling devices to steer traffic away from employees working along the roadways.
    • Stay hydrated.
  • Utilize a site plan for collection of debris
    • Provide traffic flow details and train employees to stay clear of all motorized equipment.
  • Communicate effectively
    • Provide radio equipment and extra batteries to all spotters and equipment operators, so warnings can be communicated
    • Utilize point of contact for employees check in procedures
  • Freeze all computer system updates so that systems will not be damaged by electrical surges
For a free Response Procedures Flow Chart that can be applied to your facility, click the image below:
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Tags: Climate Change, Resiliency, Emergency Preparedness, Extreme Weather, Tornado Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Winter Storms

Posted on Thu, Oct 17, 2013

Meteorologists typically release the first projections of the upcoming winter forecasts in early September. Long-range seasonal predictors are regional generalities based on a combination of historical patterns and current scientific evidence. However, despite the potential season forecast, it only takes one significant winter weather event at your facility to disrupt business operations and affect profitability.

Winter storms cause power outages, dangerously cold temperatures, supply disruptions, safety hazards that endanger the lives of people, and potentially impair access to key infrastructure. In 2011, a snowstorm hit Atlanta during the college football BCS national championship. Some businesses experienced supply chain disruptions, while others had to close altogether. One restaurant /pub owner estimated the storm cost him an estimated $50,000 in losses. The lessons learned included purchasing a generator, securing nearby hotel rooms for staff to eliminate staffing shortages, and evaluating supply chain availability.

Scenario-specific emergency response and business continuity plans can minimize operational downtime in the event of severe winter weather. The ability to identify, prioritize, and respond to natural phenomena is critical for preventing the potential for large financial losses and damage to reputation.

For business continuity planning purposes, a business impact analysis (BIA) should be conducted prior to seasonal risks.  A BIA can identify key business process that may be interrupted during a natural disaster.  Once these processes are identified, mitigation strategies can be implemented to reduce the potential  impact resulting from loss of facilities, infrastructure, personnel, or supply chain.

For predictable naturally occurring events, such as the onslaught of winter weather, planning can be accomplished before the incident occurs. Such planning should include, but not limited to the following:

  • Conduct awareness training, including facility evacuation routes and procedures
  • Coordinate activities with local and state response agencies
  • Communicate recommended Community Evacuation routes
  • Procure emergency supplies
  • Monitor radio and/or television reports
  • Secure facility
  • Secure and backup critical electronic files

Understand the following winter storm warning terms:

  • Winter weather advisory: expect winter weather conditions to cause inconvenience and hazards.
  • Frost/freeze warning: Expect below-freezing temperatures.
  • Winter storm watch: Be alert; a storm is likely.
  • Winter storm warning: Take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
  • Blizzard warning: Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snowdrifts, and life-threatening wind chill.

Business owners and/or response teams should incorporate the following concepts into planning for winter weather: 

  • Monitor news and weather reports on television or the radio (with battery backup)
  • Alert employees or others on-site that severe weather is approaching and communicate expectations
  • Be aware of the dangers posed by ice and snow falling from equipment and buildings, mediate if possible
  • Identify dangers posed by cold weather on exposed piping (hazardous releases, flooding, etc)
  • Prepare and insulate exposed piping
  • Contract snow removal services or obtain the necessary equipment (snow shovels, ice scrapers, rock salt, tire chains, etc.)
  • Ensure that company vehicles have a full tank of gas and are functioning properly (heater, deicing fluid, antifreeze levels, windshield wipers)
  • Ensure flashlights are in proper working order and have additional batteries on site.
  • Monitor ice and snow accumulation on any onsite tanks, sheds, or buildings
  • Obtain generators, if necessary, to re-power facilities or necessary equipment
  • If appropriate, leave water taps slightly open so they drip continuously to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Understand and implement cold weather response techniques  for product spills, as released product may flow under ice or snow.
  • Establish and maintain communication with personnel
  • Consider limiting vehicle traffic
  • Maintain building temperature at acceptable levels and understand safety measures if using space heaters.
  • Notify supervisors if facility(s) loose power or is otherwise unable to operate
For a free download of Response Procedures Flowchart, click the image below:
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Tags: Climate Change, Power Failure, Business Continuity, Supply Chain, Extreme Weather, Business Disruption

Geographical Risks and Business Continuity

Posted on Thu, Dec 06, 2012

Despite a company’s location, natural hazards are a risk to business continuity. Natural hazards have a tendency to be location specific. However, images of the devastation left behind by these events are widespread. Unfortunately, many companies and their employees believe such disasters will not happen to them and fail to plan for plausible business disruption. 

The CMI 2012 Business Continuity Management Survey detailing Business Continuity efforts stated that 54% of companies surveyed that don’t have  business continuity plans stated their reasoning that they experience disruptions. This statistic is not uncommon. However, every year, rivers overflow their banks, high winds break treetops and tear away roofs, and power outages leave entire areas in the dark.

Despite the likelihood of a business disrupting natural disaster, many companies do not implement a Business Continuity Plan. Earthquakes and hurricanes are persistent and ingrained in location-specific cultures. Changing weather patterns, unprecedented seismic activity, strong winds and tropical rainfall impact many communities. Yet, 50% of all companies do not practice continuity planning.

Threats from extreme weather, wildfires, and flooding can affect any business in any location.  The below graphic from the Institute for Business and Home Safety demonstrates the potential risks of naturally occurring events across the United States.

These natural events can result in the loss or temporary disruption of key business resources including:

  • Facilities or Workspace
  • Infrastructure or IT Applications/Systems
  • People
  • Supply Chain

While natural weather events are not avoidable, companies may limit damage, loss, or prolonged interruption to key business resources with mitigation measures and business continuity planning. A detailed company identification and evaluation of critical business processes should be performed as an integral part of a business continuity plan.

A “bare bones” evaluation should list the minimum criteria necessary to keep a business in operation. Subsequent continuity plans should include procedures for the prevention of loss or restoration of operations.  Necessary resources for business continuity may include:

  • Alternate workplace location(s)
  • Necessary equipment
  • Critical software
  • Client records
  • Off-site storage
  • Key vendors lists
  • Inventory and supplier requirements
  • Notification procedures for key stakeholders
  • Predefined personnel roles and responsibilities with current and alternate contact information
  • Business Continuity Team notification and activation procedures
  • Staff relocation requirements, including name, department, title, function code, home address, type of PC (PC or Laptop), number of adults and children in immediate family, pets /other, relocation priority, recovery location or facility, relocation seat number/room assignment, alternate employees, and special needs

A business continuity effort for an impending or existing natural event should incorporate the following four phases into the plan:

  1. Initial Response: This phase covers initial response to an active or potential business interruption and immediate efforts to minimize downtime.
  2. Relocation:  Mobilization of resources and relocation of equipment and personnel to alternate facilities or redundant sites may become necessary if forecasted or current conditions dictate. The relocation phase ensures that the recovery phase can be fully implemented to sustain minimum service levels defined for each critical process. This stage may include “Work from Home” and “Alternate Facility” relocation strategies.
  3. Recovery:  The time after personnel and equipment have been relocated to an alternate site to before primary facilities have been restored or permanent alternate facilities have been secured. This phase incorporates the processes and procedures necessary to recover lost or interrupted resources.
  4. Restoration:  Personnel are able to return to restored facilities, or permanent alternate facilities, and critical resources are in full operational status.

A business continuity natural disaster event may be initiated from a single contained incident that affects one facility, or a large-scale incident that affects an entire region. Regardless of the incident, business restoration can be accelerated if communication processes and continuity of operations plans have been developed, tested, and properly implemented.

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: Climate Change, Fire Preparedness, Extreme Weather, Business Continuity Plan, Hurricane Preparedness, Flood Preparedness, Business Disruption, Tornado Preparedness, BCM