Announcing “Amazing Storm Stories”, a contest for Business and Personal storm experiences.
We want to hear from you to help us archive some of the worst unexpected experiences you have been through in your lifetime and how it affected your business or your personal life. Stories can be short, simple or as detailed as you wish, we just want to hear them! Stories can be from any natural or man-made disaster, such as hurricanes, lightening strikes, floods, tornadoes, fires and power outages.
Atlantic will be awarding prizes and gifts in both categories of Personal and Business stories. Contest runs from August 22nd thru November 15th. See our Official Rules for complete details.
Some of the prizes will include a personal survival kit from ProPac USA, weather radio, power inverter, and a Hurricane Hugo book by the Evening Post Publishing Company.
Contest ends November 15th and all winners will be notified via email on November 20th.
To submit your story click below and start typing! It’s that simple!
In our first planning tip video, we spoke with Randy Pierce of the Town of Seabrook Island about their emergency management program.
By Scott Cave, Principal, Atlantic Business Continuity Services
Hurricane Season is here, and with it comes the annual predictions, prognostications, and planning tips. However when it comes to preparedness for hurricanes, many businesses and organizations don’t go far enough in their preparations and planning. Think about it: when was the last time you heard a story where an organization’s leader states that they are quickly resuming normal operations thanks to their highly effective hurricane planning? The unfortunate fact is that most organizations do not really understand how to plan for hurricanes or other disasters, and even when they do plan, their planning is often not comprehensive or flexible enough to lead to a successful recovery.
There are usually two critical shortcomings in an organization’s hurricane planning: (1) not enough detail for exactly how to recover and resume normal operations after a hurricane, and (2) lack of adequate planning for the most unpredictable variable in their plan: availability of their people.
After reviewing many hurricane plans we have observed a troubling trend. Most plans are very detailed in the steps leading up to the hurricane but very limited in prioritizing and spelling out the specific actions to take after the hurricane passes. While many organizations have practiced getting ready for an approaching hurricane, very few have the experience of recovering from a major hurricane. Therefore most organizations simply don’t have that real-life experience to draw from when writing that part of the plan. As a result, the post-hurricane steps, or the recovery phase of the plan, is often brief, leaving the entire organization at risk for a poor recovery.
Similarly, most organizations don’t fully consider the unpredictability of the human factor in hurricane response and recovery. They often assume that key employees will be ready and able to perform their duties on a normal schedule, either at the office or remotely. The hard lessons from Superstorm Sandy were that organizations had unrealistic expectations of their employees, or they didn’t go far enough in planning for the worst case, such as employees being unable to work for long periods of time because their homes were destroyed. Organizations also failed to set-up remote recovery sites at locations outside the region, and even if they did, they neglected to consider that employees either could not travel to those sites or were unwilling to leave their families or community while in need. The bottom line lesson: even with perfect planning in other areas, communications, technology, facilities, and others, without proper planning for the availability of key people the plans fell short of their intended purpose, with the sad result that many organizations may never fully recover.
To avoid these common shortfalls, review your hurricane plan while asking these questions:
How much detail does the plan devote to hurricane response (pre-storm) vs. hurricane recovery (post-storm)?
Does the plan adequately address all of the staffing, technology, communications, operational, facility, and other issues your business or organization will likely face for weeks or even months after a major hurricane?
Do you assume too much about your employees’ ability to work following a hurricane?
Have you discussed the impacts of a hurricane with each key employee to understand their family and home preparedness plans, and how those plans may or may not fit with the business plan?
Businesses and organizations that ask these tough questions about their hurricane plan will be better prepared and poised for a quicker and more effective recovery.
- Create an Emergency Contact List with in-state and out-of-state contacts for each employee.
- Consider reserving hotel rooms for key employees and their families so you can stay together with key people during the evacuation.
- Partner with employees to plan for their families and homes so their personal plan can coordinate with your business/organizational plan.
- What are your critical vendors going to do during a major hurricane? How will you contact them and do they have a plan to continue operations after a major hurricane?
- What do your customers/stakeholders need or expect from you during a major hurricane? What do you need to communicate to them in advance?
- Find an alternate workplace at least 150 miles inland. Consider hotels, business office parks and business associates in the Upstate who may have extra space available to lease.
- Protect your facility with hurricane windows/shutters/panels. Identify who will install these devices and when in response to an approaching storm.
- Consider a generator for back-up power. What size do you need, what will the fuel source be, and what will it power?
- Can you conduct work remotely on a computer without a connection to the office computers or servers? Will you be able to access e-mail while your office is “down”?
- Can you forward your main phone and fax to a remote location? How long does it take before the forwarding is effective? Can your cell phone or other device receiving the forwarded calls handle the volume of calls you expect?
- How quickly will you be able to return to your office after an evacuation? Talk to your local County Emergency Management office to understand the Re-Entry process into your County. You should register your key employees in advance with your County Emergency Management office to allow access through Checkpoints before the public has been given permission for Re-Entry.
- Complete a inventory of all physical assets, including computer hardware and other critical equipment.
- Schedule an Insurance review with your agent. Know what is covered, what is not covered, and what types of records you’ll need to file a claim. Do you have adequate coverage for the current value of your assets?
- Determine financial records and hard copy records to be protected. How will you protect them from water, wind, etc?
- What types of physical resources need to be packed for an evacuation? Ask all employees to identify critical files, books, etc. that they need to take with them during an evacuation.
- Document all critical processes or functions so there is a written procedure that someone else can follow if necessary.
- Consider cross-training so more than one person can perform each critical process.
- Create list of supplies, resources, and vendors required to complete these critical processes.
For assistance in preparing a plan to protect your business or organization, contact Scott Cave at 843-879-5025.
After a long winter of ice storms, snow, and cold temperatures, we barely get to enjoy the first days of Spring before the predictions begin for this hurricane season.
Will we see El Niño this year leading to less hurricane activity in the Atlantic?
How warm will the tropics be this year, and what will that mean for hurricane intensity?
These and many other hurricane questions are often difficult to answer accurately and confidently, even by the experts. However there is one question with a simple and certain answer.
When should you start planning for Hurricane Season? Now.
Hurricane Season begins June 1 and runs through November 30.
Although most of the powerful hurricanes generally occur between August and October, we have seen tropical systems appear earlier and sometimes even before the official June 1 start of the season. The reality is that we never know when and where these systems will form, so best practice is to have your organization’s plan ready to go by June 1.
When you consider the difficultly in completing this type of planning during the summer months with vacation schedules and other competing priorities, the best time for most organizations to begin and complete their hurricane planning is in April and May.
We have reviewed many hurricane plans from a variety of organizations, businesses, and municipalities over the years, and have seen first-hand where most of these plans fall short. Following are three of the most common issues we see in hurricane plans that could lead to a poor or lengthy recovery from the next storm.
Does your Hurricane Plan suffer from any of the following issues?
1) Detailed preparation but vague recovery
Most hurricane plans we review fall into this trap. The plan may have 20 pages of detail covering the actions to be performed leading up to the hurricane, but only one or two pages of actions after the hurricane. The preparatory steps are important, but the recovery steps are even more important. The purpose of your plan should be a quick and effective recovery, so don’t skimp on this section of your plan.
2) Assumption of immediate return
Many hurricane plans assume that everyone will be able to return to their office, business, and homes very soon after the hurricane passes. Unfortunately, the failure to plan for lengthy evacuations can lead to disastrous results, and these stories have been told repeatedly after Katrina and Sandy. Make sure your plan anticipates the need to establish temporary office and housing inland for extended periods of time.
3) Ignoring home, family and pets
Some hurricane plans include paid hotel rooms for a management team or emergency team of key staff members. Unfortunately these plans often fail to include family members and pets, which puts people in a difficult position when they are weighing their family vs. job responsibilities. Other plans do not allow enough time off for staff to prepare their homes and families for an approaching hurricane, or to be home to recover and repair damage after a hurricane. Make sure you plan for these human elements to ensure that your people can balance job vs. home demands during these stressful times.
We will cover additional hurricane planning tips in future articles. Please share your questions about your hurricane plan so we can address those as well.
Now is the time to start, review, or update your Hurricane Plan. Start by taking our online Readiness Assessment to benchmark your organizational readiness for hurricanes and other disasters. Then contact us for a complementary review or your Hurricane Plan by one of our certified experts.
Take the initial step by grading your organization’s preparedness level with Atlantic’s Readiness Assessment.
Already 2014 has brought a number of disasters and disrupting events to our region. A series of winter storms in January and February closed roads and bridges, brought down power and utility lines, and left the State of South Carolina with approximately $500 Million in clean-up costs.
Then earthquakes rattled parts of Georgia and South Carolina: first a 4.1 magnitude earthquake near Aiken that was felt by many in Columbia and Augusta, followed by a 3.0 magnitude earthquake near Summerville.
These recent events remind us that we must always be ready to weather the next storm in whatever form it takes, so we can minimize disruptions to our organizations. The problem is that these events are occurring with regular frequency and are often unpredictable in their timing and impact. So how can your organization determine its current state of readiness for future events?
Ice storms, power outages, hurricanes, IT failures – Too much to plan for & where would I begin?
Atlantic’s newly updated Readiness Assessment is a quick and simple way to measure your organization’s readiness for the impacts caused by future disruptions or disasters. By answering just 11 basic questions with multiple choice answers, you will receive a graded score that benchmarks your organization’s current state of readiness. Upon completion we will send you a scorecard of your answers, including recommendations to improve your readiness. This free service is our way to help organizations understand where they are today, what they need to work on, and provide some steps to guide the way to improved resiliency. Over time, your organization can also retake this assessment and measure your progress.
What we’ve learned through our work with numerous organizations, is that almost all of us overrate our level of readiness, and the resulting chaos and confusion in the face of emergencies and disruptions is often very costly to organizations and their reputation. At a recent business continuity workshop we facilitated in New Bern, NC, the participants commented afterwards that they didn’t realize how unprepared they actually were when they walked in. Don’t let your organization fall into the trap of false confidence and lack of preparedness. In just five minutes, you and your key senior leaders can easily assess your organization’s readiness and start your path towards improved future resilience.
Take our Readiness Assessment to learn your organization’s current level of preparedness for future disrupting events. Then ask your senior leadership team to independently take the Assessment. Compare your results to begin a surprisingly useful dialogue toward better preparedness and resilience.
Plus, the Readiness Assessment Report you’ll receive provides specific recommendations to start your path towards improved resilience. It’ll be the best five minutes you invest today.
Take advantage of a post-storm analysis to improve your operational processes.
Now that the recent series of ice storms and winter weather have given way to warmer temperatures and thoughts of Spring, it is a good time to review what we all learned from the impact these storms had on our organizations.
Organizations that proactively plan to not only survive, but thrive in the face of adversity, take every opportunity to learn important lessons during an emergency event. This reflective process is a critical step to improving your Business Continuity Plans, no matter how complete or mature your plan may be.
Following are the lessons we compiled from our own observations and stories from around the Southeast.
1. Early and clear communications are critical.
As the ice storms and their impacts on school, road, bridge and other closures evolved over time, quick communication of this information was critical. Your organization needs an effective Crisis Communications Plan as part of your Business Continuity program to allow for quick and effective communications, including mass notification, social media utilization and internal communications with staff.
2. Remote work capability is important but must be well planned in advance.
Many organizations relied on the ability of employees to work remotely from home when transportation was difficult or near impossible. However, the loss of power throughout many metro areas such as Charleston, Columbia and Greenville challenged the ability of many employees to work effectively during the storms. Advanced planning is needed to consider multiple options of power and internet access at home, including the potential use of generators, car inverters and internet capabilities through cell phones.
3. Expect the unexpected.
Organizations need to build flexibility, options and nimble response into their plans to deal with many unforeseen aspects of these events.
South Carolina saw its second largest earthquake since 1950 occur a few days after the latest ice storm, and it happened in the Aiken area, one that rarely sees earthquakes.
Charleston had to deal with lengthy and unexpected bridge closures, due to icy road surfaces and falling ice.
Many areas throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia had to deal with longer than expected power outages. As these events evolve over time, organizations need to have comprehensive plans that can guide them through the variable challenges and impacts on their services and stakeholders.
4. Training and testing is an essential component of plans.
How many years had passed since the last disruptive emergency or disaster that your organization faced?
Were your plans, staff and stakeholders fully ready to execute your plan because of recent training and tests?
Because it is nearly impossible to predict when and how disruptive events will occur in the future, organizations must commit to a regular training and testing program to maintain awareness and readiness of the plan when needed. Organizations that had updated plans and trained staff to deal with the impacts of communication challenges, road and bridge closures and power outages were able to work effectively through these storms.
Take the first step to improve your organizational readiness for the next emergency by identifying the gaps, weaknesses and issues in your current plans that were exposed during our recent storms. Then take the opportunity to update your plans, train your staff and test the plans to make sure everyone is ready to execute the plan effectively the next time.
Want to schedule a visit? Click here to request a free, on-site Readiness Assessment today!
Follow Atlantic’s Checklist to Get Ready
As the latest system approaches the Carolinas, most of South Carolina, North Carolina, including Charleston and the entire coast, are under a winter storm watch or warning. Organizations are quickly working to identify how to respond to severe winter weather, especially in areas of the Lowcountry where it is very unusual.
Following are some tips to consider when putting together your Severe Winter Weather Plan:
1) REMOTE WORKING
- Determine which employees can work from home, and make sure all employees take home company laptops and other resources they will need to work remotely.
- Ask each employee to put together a short list of the paper files and other resources at their desk that they will need with them.
2) NOTIFICATION SYSTEM
- Determine how you will notify employees of your organizational status (i.e., whether they should attempt to drive in or stay at home).
- Verify employee home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, and personal email addresses.
- Identify call tree, social media, or other mass notification system to quickly get the word out.
3) DECISION PROCESS
- Identify who will be in charge of deciding if your location will open or not the morning of the severe winter weather.
- Determine which decision points will be used in the process, such as road and bridge conditions, electrical power and utilities status, conditions of parking lot(s), status of key suppliers, etc.
- Consider a local “scout” who may be able to provide valuable information about the conditions near your location.
4) OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
- Identify the key impacts of a shut-down on your operations and your customers or stakeholders. The timing and duration of a potential shut-down may impact critical deadlines, shipments, etc.
- Make sure you communicate in advance your intentions and decision process to minimize the impact to your customers or stakeholders.
5) HUMAN RESOURCES ISSUES
- Determine how you will allow for good two-way communications between your organization and employees.
- If your organization shuts-down for a day, how will you pay employees (i.e., will they have to use PTO time or will you pay special “emergency” time?)
This is a simple checklist to follow and can be executed within a short amount of time.
If you need help preparing for these and other emergency events, contact Atlantic at 843-879-5028 or email@example.com for a free, no-obligation site visit.
Mount Pleasant IT Firm Dodges Catastrophe
A security alarm immediately notified employees and triggered a call to the fire department.
“I could see smoke pouring out of the windows by the time I got to the office around 7 o’clock,” said Willis Cantey, founder of Cantey Technology.
Lightning surged through the IT company’s network connections, despite surge protection devices, and started a blaze which destroyed their network closet. Even though the building didn’t burn to the ground, the fire melted and burned cables, computer hardware and networking equipment beyond repair.
“It looked like a charred marshmallow,” said Cantey, describing the damage he surveyed in the aftermath.
When you run an IT company and hosting client servers and data is your bread and butter, the destruction of your network infrastructure is the last thing you want to happen.
But, despite the fact that Cantey and his staff were forced to work in a temporary location for several weeks, their clients never felt the effects of the disruption.
“Our clients had no idea.”
Cantey Technology’s 200 clients had no idea lightning struck the company’s office, because there was no interruption in service.
Five years ago, Cantey began implementing a business continuity plan. This involved moving all of his client servers to a remote data center and scheduling continual data back-ups.
Before the fire, Cantey Technology’s data was safely stored in Immedion’s Ladson, South Carolina data center. The data was still there after the fire.
The data center even allowed Cantey and his employees to set up a temporary office in its conference room, so they could have a central location from which to continue serving their customers.
Had Cantey not put a plan in place, he firmly believes his story would’ve turned out much differently.
“If we didn’t take continuity of operations seriously, if we had our client servers on site, didn’t back up data, we wouldn’t be in business right now.”
Cantey and his 17 employees are now back in their office. Reflecting on his experience with disaster, he urges business owners to think about the ‘what ifs’.
“What if there is a fire? What do you do the next day?”
Cantey says the bottom line is to have a plan. For him, it provided a roadmap to follow during the recovery process, so he didn’t lose customers. Having a plan ultimately saved his entire business.
And here’s a little known fact: Atlantic’s planning processes will prepare you for many potential disruptions to your business. Fire, flood, hurricane, loss of key employee, IT meltdown and more. Remember, we can’t predict; but we can plan. Just ask Willis Cantey.
Interested in a faster recovery from any disaster? We can help you get started. Contact us today for a no cost, no obligation site visit.
You can’t prevent disasters from happening, but you can control how a disaster affects your organization.
How time flies: It was just a few weeks ago, on November 8, that Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan made landfall in the central Philippines. It was just over two months ago thaf fire raged through downtown Georgetown, South Carolina. And it was just over a year ago that Hurricane Sandy left its path of destruction along the Eastern seaboard.
As for us in the Lowcountry, this year’s hurricane season just officially came to a close, and thankfully was much milder than predicted, with no real threats to our region.
As we move toward the end of another calendar year, it might be wise to consider whether your organization is preparing or playing the odds.
Because the stories resulting from the events in our opening paragraph and numerous others like those provide a stark wake-up call – to be unprepared can be catastophic to your organization.
Further still, to have plans that have not been put to the test by drills and exercises may mean that your organization is overly confident in your ability to respond and recover.
Try this reality check: in your work-life filled with projects, deadlines, and conflicting demands for your time, have you been able to start or enhance your organization’s planning process? A real challenge, no doubt.
By virtue of the fact that you’re a reader of this newsletter, you are probably one of the few in your organization paying attention to your ‘planning deficiencies’, making your challenge greater still. We understand completely. Our sincerest hope is that you somehow find a way to move forward, and to begin as soon as you can, well ahead of next year’s hurricane season.
Maybe the Philippines typhoon tragedy struck a wake-up chord in you, given the ferocity of the storm. As for Atlantic, being in the disaster planning and operations continuity business, it surely did.
Even more so, however, were two recent encounters: First, a demonstration we saw of the latest FEMA model showing the effects of a Hurricane Sandy-like storm making landfall near Folly Beach.
As you recall, Sandy was a Category 1 storm, albeit a large one. Even still, the wide range and extent of flood damage from such an event would be quite devastating, severely taxing our region’s response and recovery capabilities.
This is not the only model that shows these effects, by the way…the revised evacuation routes and shelter locations issued by the State of South Carolina reflect what we now know to be most likely storm and flooding impacts on our region. And while the Charleston region has been quite fortunate for some time, we all know the unanimous scientific consensus: storms are increasing in strength and frequency.
The second encounter we had was hearing from agencies that responded to the recent Georgetown fires. While the response and recovery efforts were laudable (a story that needs wider telling, in fact), a cloud loomed over that event: most businesses affected were either uninsured or woefully under-insured and therefore have suffered far greater losses than they should have. This is both sad and sadly unnecessary.
Is this a call to scare you into action? As we stress often in this newsletter, that is not our intent. Yet we remain concerned: we at Atlantic spend a lot of time with the organizations and individuals who would plan for and assist in our region’s disaster response and recovery – from State and County officials, to volunteer organizations and first responders. We hear from them a deep concern about our region’s preparedness, particularly among the business community.
We share their concern, and one of the key purposes of this newsletter is to inspire action on your part so your organization is prepared to respond and recover from any disaster. If enough organizations heed this call, our region will become much more resilient, and that will be great news for all of us.
- Call on Atlantic for a no-obligation assessment of your organization’s readiness and some simple, recommended steps to get you started on planning or enhancing existing plans.
- Simple, but very enlightening: Take 3 minutes and get a Readiness Score for your organization.
- Ask key leaders in your organization if they are prepared to recover quickly from an unexpected crisis, such as a fire. What steps could you take now to prepare for such an event? Our next issue will share the story of a local business that recently experienced this scenario, how they survived, and what they learned.