By Bob DiLossi
The 2012 hurricane season has thankfully come to an end and now is the time for businesses to prepare for winter storms. As some parts of North America have been experiencing a milder winter, winter storms can still and will occur – take winter storm Nemo that plagued the Northeast in early February for example.
On average, the United States has roughly four catastrophic winter storms annually with storms occurring most commonly in the northeastern United States. Being prepared is key, in some ways, winter storms can be the most challenging weather systems because they spawn so many types of emergencies.
Blizzards, electrical storms, hail, high winds, ice, sleet, and snow can contribute to communications failures, power outages, and risks to your buildings. Storms also lead to many driving accidents and you can lose critical personnel to injuries from slips and falls.
You need to prepare for all events that may occur, from damage to buildings to your business to your people. All three need to be part of the business continuity plan and part of the testing of your plan. As companies strive to meet the demand for continuous service, they expect 24/7/365 availability. However, the average organization’s requirement for recovery time objective (RTO) from an outage now ranges between two and 24 hours.
To help better protect your organization from the impact of winter storms, below you will find a checklist to gauge where you stand on preparing for winter storms. As you read the list, consider the impact each of the items would have, if they occurred, on your operations.
- Building managers unable to get to the building to assess and mitigate damage
- Communications infrastructure failures
- Freezing and flooding of interior building areas that may result in ceilings collapse
- Gutter clogging with ice dams, leading to leaks
- Hazardous material accidents
- Power outages, causing building environmental controls to shut down
- Roof damage or collapse due to ice, snow, or fallen trees
- Structural damage or collapse
- Transportation accidents or closed roads that trap people in or out of your building
- Communications issues
- Employee safety
- Lack of corporate presence during recovery
- Lack of lodging/logistics
- Not focused on recoveries
- Team players not available to travel
When it comes to the business itself, you need to consider a winter storm’s influence on several areas of operation. Run through this checklist and determine how you would satisfy these conditions if problems arose:
- Customers expect supplies and services to continue—or resume rapidly
- Employees expect both their lives and livelihoods to be protected
- Insurance companies expect due care to be exercised
- Regulatory agencies expect their requirements to be met, regardless of circumstances
- Shareholders expect management control to remain operational
- Suppliers expect their revenue streams to continue
After going through the checklists and developing ways to address all of these items, you then need a plan of action to use once a disaster strikes. To that end, there are three major steps to begin the process of managing the incident:
- Mobilize a central command center, activate a business recovery plan and identify exactly how long the organization will operate in a recovery state, and plan accordingly.
- Following-up closely is the need for your organization to carefully document your processes, both in terms of how to recover and how to operate.
- You also need to practice and refine processes using a variety of scenarios.
To help with these preparations, a free business continuity toolkit is available from SunGard.
Recognizing the potential disruptive dangers from winter storms, in our next blog we discuss the importance of developing and practicing a suitable DR plan.