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Emergency Planning for Natural Disasters

Posted on Mon, May 16, 2011

An estimated 300 million people were affected by natural disasters in 2010. The devastation has continued in 2011 with Japan’s March’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the tornadoes ravaging the southeastern U.S., and massive flooding in America’s heartland. Companies must be aware of the risks posed by potential natural disasters that may impact their locations, and take sensible precautions to protect their employees, the environment, and their assets.

According to Brookings Institute’s London School of Economics, “A Year of Living Dangerously”, natural hazards by themselves are not disasters. The study states “it is their consequences and the ability of the local community to respond to them that determine whether the event is characterized as a disaster.”

While there is little we can do to prevent the occurrence of natural disasters, companies can develop emergency response plans to reduce the impact to personnel safety and property damage. Natural hazards tend to occur repeatedly in the same geographical locations because they are related to weather patterns or physical characteristics of an area. Depending on your specific risks, FEMA lists the following hazards that may be included in your emergency response plan:

  • Floods
  • Tornadoes
  • Thunderstorms and Lightning
  • Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
  • Extreme Heat
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanoes
  • Landslide and Debris Flow (Mudslide)
  • Tsunamis
  • Fires
  • Wildfire
  • Hurricanes/Typhoons

For predictable naturally occurring events, such as a hurricane or potential flooding, planning can be accomplished before the incident occurs. Such planning should include, but is 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

Unfortunately, some natural disasters provide little or no warning. In these instances, prior planning and training is of the utmost importance. Procedures may include, at a minimum:

  • Monitor weather services
  • Activate  alarm(s) if impact is imminent
  • Take shelter
  • Direct  personnel to report to designated areas after threat has passed
  • Account for all personnel Provide status report to Management
  • Perform other Initial Response Actions, as appropriate
  • Maintain hazard awareness
  • Conduct post-emergency evaluation and report

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Corporate Hurricane Preparedness, Earthquake Preparedness, Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Management, Facility Management, Hurricane Preparedness, School Emergency Planning

Prepare Corporate Hurricane Plans in the Off-Season!

Posted on Tue, Mar 01, 2011

During the winter months, the thought of Hurricane Planning does not make the list of pressing issues. However, both large and small businesses can benefit from reviewing hurricane plans in the off-season by verifying contact information for both employees and response resources, and update pertinent details. 

If your business is located in a hurricane-prone area, conducting a business impact analysis prior to hurricane season can identify key business process that may be interrupted during a severe storm.  Once these processes are identified, hurricane planning can incorporate steps to limit the impact resulting from loss of facilities, infrastructure, personnel, or supply chain.

Below are ten areas to consider while evaluating your hurricane response plan:

  1. Review surroundings: Is your building structurally sound enough to withstand potential hurricane winds and waves? 
  2. Identify needs for conducting necessary business processes off-site. Review alternate location options.
  3. Identify essential business records and process for backup and redundancy
  4. Verify employee contact information, alternate contact information, and list potential evacuation locations.
  5. Develop method(s) for employees to receive pertinent corporate information in the event of a hurricane.
  6. Assign and train employees on hurricane related tasks.
  7. Obtain emergency equipment, such as battery-operated radios, flashlights, lighting and additional batteries. FEMA provides guidance on a basic list of needs.
  8. Establish recovery contracts with suppliers.
  9. Obtain materials to secure windows and brace doors. (If lumber is necessary, pre-cut wood to size, mark each panel/piece to identify location).
  10. Develop a Business Continuity Plan to allow for continuation of business activities after an emergency.

Any situation that may hinder a company's ability to access key infrastructure, such as headquarters and field offices, can benefit from a business continuity plan. In additional to a hurricane, incidents such as fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, terrorist activity, or pandemic flu can affect “business as usual”. The ability to identify, prioritize, and respond to such an incident is critical for preventing the potential for large financial losses and damage to reputation.

For more information, download the Corporate Hurricane Planning Checklist.

Hurricane Planning

Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Program, Hurricane Preparedness

The Four Phases of a Business Continuity Plan

Posted on Tue, Dec 21, 2010

Business Continuity is a complex arrangement of the critical processes that allow for continuation of business activities after an emergency. Companies that establish Business Continuity Plans (BCP) have a greater chance that their business could withstand an unprecedented operational disruption.  
 
Business Continuity planning can be divided into four stages. Each phase should be reflected in a site-specific BCP.
  • Initial Response
  • Relocation
  • Recovery
  • Restoration

 

Business Continuity Initial Response

This phase covers the organization’s initial response to a business interruption. The processes and procedures that incorporate the Initial Response Phase includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Initial Notifications
  • Business Continuity Team (BCT) activation
  • Business Unit personnel activation
  • Initial BCT briefing
  • Review of recovery strategies for implementation
  • Implementation of Business Continuity Action Plan

 

Business Continuity Relocation Phase

The relocation phase involves mobilization of resources and relocation of equipment and personnel to Alternate Facilities or Redundant Sites. This is where the recovery phase can be fully implemented to sustain minimum service levels defined for each critical process. This stage includes “Work from Home”, as well as, “Alternate Facility” relocation strategies. The Relocation Phase includes, but is not limited to:

  • Confirmation of Department staff relocation schedules and assignments
  • Mobilization and Scheduling of transportation resources
  • Activation of alternate facility equipment and infrastructure resources
  • Occupation of alternate facilities by necessary department members

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Business Continuity Recovery Phase

The recovery phase covers the period of time after personnel and equipment have been relocated to an alternate site to when the primary facilities have been restored or permanent alternate facilities have been secured. Procedures to include in the recovery phase of the Business Continuity Plan are:

  • Relocated personnel implement recovery strategies
  • Complete Damage assessment of primary facilities
  • Mobilize tactical teams for Recovery
  • Monitor recovery status
  • Initiate restoration

 

Business Continuity Resportation Phase

The restoration phase covers the period of time that personnel return to restored facilities, or permanent alternate facilities. The resumption to normal business operations is implemented.

  • Verify restoration of primary facilities and infrastructure
  • Confirm staff relocation schedules and begin relocation to permanent facility
  • Consolidate and archive incident documentation
  • Review and update Business Continuity plan based on lessons learned
  • Return to Business as Usual

Preparedness and Emergency Management - TRP Corp

 

Tags: Choosing a Consultant, Business Continuity key points, Crisis Management, Emergency Management Program, Hurricane Preparedness

Business Impact Analysis for Risk Mitigation

Posted on Tue, Dec 07, 2010

Through Business Impact Analysis and the identification of critical business process recovery strategies, areas that could benefit from risk mitigation may become visible to management and instigate proactive changes.  If the level of risk is deemed unacceptable after completion of the business  impact analysis, additional recovery options or strategies may need to be developed. 

The process of risk mitigation for the core business processes may be effective, fiscally wise, and limit down time due to unforeseen circumstances. By establishing procedures that would decrease risk and increase recovery time, companies can potentially limit their losses.

Risk Mitigation measure to consider:

  1. Risk Mitigation Measures include arrangements, procedures, and assets that can directly minimize the impact or likelihood of the threat, or simplify or automate recovery requirements.
  2. Examples include; purchasing backup generator, routine data backups, develop response procedures, exercise emergency plans, etc.
  3. Identify Cost of Mitigation Measures: Estimate the cost for implementation of mitigation measures specific to each process.
  4. Update the Recovery Point Objective: Assuming that the mitigation measures identified in the Risk Mitigation Measures are fully implemented. Is data recovery still required? If so, how soon should it be recovered (i.e. last weekly backup, last monthly backup, etc.)?
  5. Update the Impact Level: Assuming that the mitigation measures identified are fully implemented.
  6. Update the Likelihood Level: Assuming that the mitigation measures identified are fully implemented.
  7. Update the Recovery Time: Assuming that the mitigation measures identified are fully implemented. Is recovery of this process still required within the specified time frame? How soon should it be recovered?
Financial and non-financial impacts of an emergency can be limited by conducting business impact analysis and implementing procedures to address its findings.

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

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Tags: Business Continuity key points, Crisis Management, Emergency Management Program, Hurricane Preparedness, School Emergency Planning

Corporate Hurricane Preparedness - Are you Ready?

Posted on Mon, Jun 14, 2010

Basic steps every company should take to prepare for the onset of hurricane season?

  • Is you company located in an evacuation (susceptible by wind and surge) or contingency zone (susceptible by wind)? Identify evacuation routes and mitigate geographical location.
  • If your business is located in an evacuation zone, hire an engineering firm to inspect the building and foundation to determine if the structure could withstand the forces of hurricane winds and waves. If the building and its foundation are not structurally able to withstand severe wind and water, then you should plan to evacuate it completely during a hurricane - it is probably not safe for any person to remain in the facility.
  • Outline and train staff on specific Hurricane preparedness tasks that protect your facility, how they will be accomplished, and the individuals/teams that will perform them.
Identify essential business records that should be removed from the facility and determine where the alternate location. Back up computer records, download copies, and move these with other essential records.
  • Verify employee contact information and alternate contact information.  Provide a way for employees to gain information about their location and status or recovery efforts.
  • Review of internal and external equipment and furnishing.  How will you protect them? Create a process and identify steps in your plan to protect or remove major items.
  • Anchor portable buildings.
  • Ensure rooftop equipment and rooftop composition (gravel composite or shingles) are securely fastened. 
  • Train staff how to turn off the electrical power, water, gas, and other utility services within your building at main switches.
  • Obtain emergency equipment, such as battery-operated radios, flashlights, lighting and additional batteries. Prepare to be without utilities for at least 72 hours.
  • Compile a disaster kit and cleaning supplies. FEMA provides guidance on a basic list of needs.
  • Be prepared to secure windows and brace doors. If possible, obtain plywood and lumber before hurricane season begins. Precut wood to size, mark each panel/piece to identify location, and store it until needed.

These are just a few basic concepts to get you started in preparing your company's hurricane plan. Your local emergency management agency and FEMA have additional tips for Hurricane Preparedness.

Crisis Management

 

For more tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download our Free Best Practices Guide

 

 

Tags: Corporate Hurricane Preparedness, Hurricane Preparedness