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Off-season Emergency Planning Review: Hurricanes, Wildfires, Tornados

Posted on Mon, Jan 21, 2013

While the winter months take hold, companies should evaluate scenario specific emergency plans. Naturally occurring threats, such as wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes, typically do not occur in the winter months and planning for these events may not be on the list of top priorities. However, both large and small businesses can benefit from reviewing typical “seasonal” plans in the off-season to ensure mitigation measures and training efforts are carried out prior to the high-risk months. Companies should make every effort to verify contact information for both employees and response resources, and update pertinent site-specific policies and procedures.

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, planning can incorporate steps to limit the impact resulting from loss of facilities, infrastructure, personnel, or supply chain.

Below are planning review concepts and possible mitigation measures for three seasonal risks.

Hurricanes

  1. Review surroundings: Will your building(s) withstand potential hurricane winds and waves? 
  2. Review shutdown procedures and evacuation routes
  3. Identify and procure potential alternate location options and necessities for conducting critical business processes off-site
  4. Identify essential business records, and process for backup and redundancy
  5. Verify employee contact information, alternate contact information, and list potential evacuation locations
  6. Develop methods for employees to receive pertinent corporate information if evacuation is conducted
  7. Assign and train employees on hurricane related tasks.
  8. Obtain emergency equipment, such as generators, battery-operated radios, flashlights, lighting and additional batteries. Be prepared to acquire additional fuel prior to the storm.  
  9. Establish recovery contracts with suppliers.
  10. 10. Obtain materials to secure windows and brace doors. (If lumber is necessary, pre-cut wood to size, mark each panel/piece to identify location). 

Wildfire

  1. Cut back brush or vegetation that may be impeding on any structures on your property.
  2. Remove dead wood and combustible litter from the site.
  3. If possible, enclose the underside of eaves and decks with fire-resistant materials to keep out flying embers.
  4. Cover exterior vents with fire retardant mesh screens to prevent embers from entering building
  5. Develop, review, and share fire pre plans with local fire departments
  6. Train employees of fire prevention, evacuation procedures, and fire safety measures
  7. Identify on-site and external equipment resources, procuring contracts if necessary (fire trucks, Backhoe/Front end loader for cutting fire breaks)
  8. Check functionality of sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers
  9. Evaluate and maintain irrigation system
  10. 10.  If applicable, establish response team and train as necessary

Tornados

  1. Conduct tornado drills to ensure employees can locate and mobilize to designated shelter location(s)
  2. Establish news and weather monitoring methods
  3. Develop an emergency communication plan to relay specific expectations and responsibilities during the aftermath
  4. Be aware of the site specific dangers posed by wind from equipment and buildings
  5. Identify product release dangers and shutdown procedures
  6. Identify data backup and recovery procedures
  7. Identify and procure potential alternate location options and necessities for conducting critical business processes off-site.

Because nature is unprediatble, businesses should be prepared for natural events throughout the year. Any situation that may hinder a company's ability to access key infrastructure, such as headquarters and field offices, can benefit from scenario specific emergency plans, evaluations, and business continuity plans. The ability to identify, prioritize, and respond to natural disasters is critical for preventing the potential for large financial losses and damage to reputation.

For more information regarding Hurricane preparation, download the Corporate Hurricane Planning Checklist.

Hurricane Planning

Tags: Corporate Hurricane Preparedness, Fire Preparedness, Event Preparedness, Extreme Weather, Tornado Preparedness

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

Review Business Continuity Plan for Height of Hurricane Season

Posted on Mon, Jun 18, 2012

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, with the height of the season being late August through September. In order to be prepared, companies need to systematically review their business continuity plans (BCP) to ensure continued operations should a natural disaster strike. 

Hurricanes can affect the continuity of operations as the result of;

  • mandatory evacuations
  • extended power outages
  • facility damage from high winds or flooding
  • potential supply chain interruptions

Critical processes necessary for operation need to be identified. However, updating a BCP should be a continuously evolving process. In a business continuity review, each department should evaluate current critical processes, mitigate identified deficiencies, and update the plan as necessary. 

The following concepts should be analyzed and identified for each BCP update and prior to the arrival of hurricane season:

Data and computer needs: Identifying the procedural details of computer backups, data restoration methods, and minimum software requirements are crucial to re-establish critical business processes.  Companies may examine data center outsourcing to ensure continuity and accessibility.

Notification lists: Regularly update lists to ensure all contact information is up-to-date. 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 individuals to verify their own information. Companies can also offer incentives, such as drawings or prizes, to encourage all personnel to register for notifications.

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. 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.

Supply Chain: As a company’s needs change and new suppliers come online, plans should be updated to include these critical suppliers. Additionally, preselected alternate resources should be included in the BCP to ensure consistent delivery and continued operations in the event primary suppliers are not able to provide required services.

Essential Personnel: Identify necessary minimum staffing levels to remain on-site during a storm. As the storm passes, ensure staff, contractors, and suppliers understand their individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives.

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.

Through hurricane and BCP exercises and training, employees can react as planned and understand expectations. 

Hurricane Response Checklist - TRP

Tags: Extreme Weather, Business Continuity Plan, Hurricane Preparedness, Business Disruption

Real-time Resources Aid in Incident Management

Posted on Thu, Apr 05, 2012

Various online sources are now available for viewing real-time disaster information across the nation. The Red Cross recently unveiled its newest tool in disaster response, the Digital Operations Center. The new tool utilizes social media to assist in humanitarian relief and disaster response. The Red Cross’ tool demonstrates the growing importance of social media and the dependency on the Internet for a more effective response.

“The social data the Red Cross collects will help our disaster workers and partners make better informed decisions about the community's needs. The Red Cross Center will serve as a “connector”, to help connect people to the resources they need.”

24/7 access to information and real-time tools are extremely beneficial to Environmental, Health, and Safety professionals, local emergency planners, and responders. Some useful websites are listed below:

National Association of Radio Distress-Signalling and Info-communications Alert Map : A Global, all-in-one disaster information map. Includes earthquakes, power outages, epidemics, technological disasters, extreme weather, and more. Events are identified on a global map, as well as listed by country, specific location, event, and disaster level.

Google Public Alerts:Aligns Google Maps search engine with localized emergency incidents.

Space Weather: Due to recent and ongoing space weather activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website identifies geomagnetic and solar radiation storms, and radio blackouts.

Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System: A cooperation framework between the United Nations, the European Commission, and emergency managers worldwide to improve alerts, information exchange and coordination in the first phase after major, sudden-onset, disasters.

World Health Map: Global map Identifying localized outbreaks across the globe. Includes summary, disease, location, species affected, cases, and resulted deaths.

Center for Disease Controls US FluView: US map identifying current flu threat levels by state.

Earthquakes: Global map details locations and magnitude of earthquakes over the past seven days.

US Geological Survey: Natural Hazards Support System: US map identifying natural hazards including stream floods, U.S. Volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires.

Volcano Hazard: A compilation of the volcano web-cams from around the world.

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

Tags: Emergency Response, Crisis Mapping, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Management, Incident Management, Event Preparedness, Extreme Weather, Notification Systems

Google Enters World of Emergency Planning

Posted on Thu, Feb 09, 2012

Google has launched Google Crisis Response project: Google Public Alerts.  According to Google, the Google Public Alerts is a “platform designed to bring you relevant emergency alerts when and where you’re searching for them.”

An FCC study states that approximately 27% of U.S residents in rural areas (and presumably businesses in those areas) do not have access to high-speed Internet. While that number can create some debate on availability of the Internet, it highlights that 63% of U.S. residents in rural areas DO have Internet access. It is probable that the Internet availability rates are higher in suburban and urban areas. Providing public alerts in a mass format allows affected individuals and companies to respond as necessary to protect life and property.

Google Public Alerts is a project of the Google Crisis Response team, supported by Google.org, which uses Google's strengths in information and technology to build products and advocate for policies that address global challenges.

Although in its infancy, tools such as the Google Public Alert, allows individuals to identify hazards in their particular area and react accordingly.  Currently, the public alerts mainly cover those in the U.S., however, plans are in place to add international content as reputable agencies agree to participate. To bolster the numbers and details of localized alerts, Google hopes that local emergency management agencies will align with the search engine and allow them to post updates. Google outlines steps for agencies to that would like to be included to disseminate local emergency data in the right format.

Google states that “We want to make it easy for people to find critical emergency information during a crisis through the online tools they use every day. By incorporating public alert data from authoritative sources into Google Maps, we aim to simplify the process of searching for emergency information.”

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for Effective Exercises.

Exercises - TRP Corp

Tags: Business Continuity, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Program, Extreme Weather, Media and Public Relations, Disaster Response, National Preparedness

Come Rain, Sleet, Snow, or Hail...Are you Prepared for an Emergency?

Posted on Thu, Jan 19, 2012

A few months ago, AccuWeather came out with its long range United States’ forecast through the winter 2011/2012. The prediction was that cold and snowy weather will prevail across a large section of the country. Although snow amounts are predicted to be less than what was experienced last year, ice could be potential problem as far south as Alabama and Georgia. But despite predictions, companies should be prepared to deal with whatever unusual weather events may occur.

Depending on a facility’s specific latitude and longitude, a site-specific risk analysis for severe weather should be conducted for each facility, and plans should be prepared accordingly. Specific weather planning checklists can be developed for blizzards, floods, ice, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Despite the weather situation, many common best practices can be implemented into a weather planning checklist including, but not limited to the following action items:

  • Monitor news and weather reports on television or radio (with battery backup)
  • Alert personnel  on-site that severe weather is approaching and communicate specific expectations and responsibilities
  • Be aware of the site specific dangers posed by wind, ice, snow falling from equipment and buildings, and mediate if possible
  • Identify product release dangers posed by heavy snow, flooding, wind, or ice falling on exposed piping
  • If applicable, insulate and protect any exterior water lines or piping
  • Identify and contract companies to assist in extreme weather events, such as snow, water, or tree removal services
  • Obtain basic necessary weather-related equipment (snow shovels, ice scrapers, rock salt, tire chains, backup generators, cooling stations)
  • Ensure that vehicles have a full tank of gas and are functioning properly
  • Ensure flashlights are in proper working order and have additional batteries on site
  • Monitor precipitation accumulation on or around any tanks, sheds or buildings
  • If appropriate, leave water taps slightly open so they drip continuously to prevent pipes from freezing
  • Identify and understand response techniques when responding to product spills that may flow under ice or snow, or within flood waters
  • Establish and maintain communication with onsite and offsite personnel
  • Monitor or limit vehicle traffic
  • Maintain building temperature at acceptable levels and understand safety measures if using space heaters or generators
  • Notify supervisors if a power failure occurs or if a facility is otherwise unable to operate due to weather circumstances

 

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

 

TRP Fire Pre Plan Image

Tags: Corporate Hurricane Preparedness, Earthquake Preparedness, Power Failure, Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Program, Extreme Weather, Hurricane Preparedness, Flood Preparedness

The Supply Chain and Business Continuity

Posted on Mon, Dec 19, 2011

The primary purpose of a Business Continuity Plan is to minimize operational, regulatory, financial, and reputational impacts of a business interruption to accelerate the time frame to return to “business as usual”. In a recent Forbes magazine article entitled, “Why Verizon Has its Own HAZMAT Team", Dick Price, Chief Business Continuity Officer at Verizon explains the company’s business continuity planning exceeds any set regulatory requirements developed for the telecommunications industry. 

"Unlike most companies, Verizon needs offices with racks of telecommunications equipment in several major and minor cities throughout the U.S. and other countries. Therefore the company must work with landlords and various local officials with the buildings it uses. If someone has a fire, and it knocks out our equipment, it’s a problem.”.
           -Dick Price, Chief Business Continuity Officer at Verizon

As with many companies, Verizon’s critical processes includes the stability of their suppliers. Disruptions in supply may be outside of a company’s domain, yet can severely impact the ability to provide “business as usual”.

The Business Continuity Institute recently release its “Supply Chain Resilience 2011” study which examines supply chains and their effect on business continuity.  According to the study, supply chain incidents led to productivity loss for almost half of businesses surveyed.

The statistics emphasize the need to develop a business continuity plan that identifies critical suppliers and alternate resources. Factors to consider in the identification of critical suppliers are complex and extend well beyond first glance analyses, however, they may include those that provide:

  • Certain business specific products
  • Sole source services or products
  • Electrical power
  • Water
  • Fuel
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation
  • Staffing
  • Waste Management
  • Facility or facilities

A business impact analysis can identify potential supply chain vulnerabilities that may erupt in a crisis situation. Companies need to consider the consequences of supply chain failure and associated key business components that would be affected.  Through this process, alternatives can be explored and a business continuity plan can be produced that reduces the impacts of supply chain disruptions.

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

Tags: Business Continuity key points, Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Management, Supply Chain, Extreme Weather, Hurricane Preparedness