Start Planning Now for a Better Recovery
Hurricane Season is upon us, and the predictions and forecasts are generating many of the same questions in recent years:
Will we see El Niño this year, which may inhibit 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 complete their hurricane planning is in May or June.
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) Limited or no alternate communications
Most of the plans we review do not have adequate redundancy for communication systems. After life safety, communications is the top priority for any organization following a hurricane or any other disaster. It is an all too common, but faulty assumption that standard landline, cellular, or internet access will be available following a significant regional disaster like a hurricane. Plans must account for the need for alternate communications to your employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders.
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 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.
As Hurricane Matthew pushes out to sea, it is time for businesses and organizations to start preparing for recovery after the storm. If you evacuated it is important that you await word from public officials (State, County, and/or Municipal) regarding re-entry. Even if you have pre-registered for early re-entry with a County and/or Municipality, you must await authorization for re-entry. While it can be frustrating awaiting approval to return, there are a number of important considerations and issues to consider in the meantime. Now is the time to carefully consider your recovery plans for each of the following issues:
- Damage Assessment Teams – Who is included on this team and what do they need to do upon return? Do they have proper re-entry credentials? What will they need to bring with them to be self-sufficient upon return? Where will they stay/sleep? How will they communicate if power, internet, voice lines are down?
- Communications – What messages needs to be communicated to your staff, customers, and other stakeholders? Develop a rhythm/schedule of proactive communications.
- Finance/Insurance – Contact your agent(s) now to verify the procedure for submitting a claim if necessary. What documentation will you need? What is the procedure? How long could it take to see the first check? Develop a procedure to document daily the actions and decisions you make throughout the recovery phase.
- Staffing – Consider the staff impacts on your operations when they are allowed to return. Once your staff can check on the damage to their homes, they will have a long list of personal priorities and issues that could impact their availability to work. Develop a plan for staffing back-ups and/or alternating shifts to allow staff to balance work/personal priorities.
- Technology – Confirm plans to remain connected if power, internet, and phones are not working when you return. You may need to keep key staff in an inland area where they can work until these utilities are restored.
Additionally, be wary of all sorts of scams, including the phishing scam that the South Carolina Governor described this morning in her press conference (i.e., fake emails offering power outage information). There are likely to be many types of scams in the days ahead, including email, internet, and in person. Verify the authenticity of all inbound communications and offers to help. Don’t click on anything out of curiosity – think before you click. Our friends at PhishLabs are investigating the source of these email scams from the hurricane. Click here for more info on how to report suspicious emails.
Twitter remains an excellent source of information, especially if you follow trusted accounts from government authorities, public utilities, etc. Be on guard for false rumors and inaccurate information in the days ahead.
Recovery is the critical phase of this storm and it will require your focus on the important priorities for your organization. The time and effort you spend now to plan for an effective recovery will pay off in the days and weeks ahead.
Please contact us if you need any help. We stand ready to assist you.
As the 2016 Hurricane Season opens, another year has passed since most organizations have experienced one of these devastating storms. Many years or even decades have passed since communities or organizations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and many other states have experienced the full impact of a major hurricane. While most are thankful and rejoice in this reprieve, the reality is that the more removed we are from experiencing a hurricane the less prepared we are for the next one… unless we practice.
Over more than ten years of working with organizations to prepare annually for each hurricane season, we have found that the best indicator of an organization’s hurricane readiness is the extent to which it actively tests, or exercises, its hurricane plan. We have reviewed all types of hurricane plans of varying complexity, detail, and length, and even the most impressive looking plans can be rendered ineffective if they haven’t been exercised, especially within the current year.
The main problem with most plans is the people responsible for implementing them. People are often the weakest link in any hurricane plan because people require regular training and practice to become proficient at most tasks, especially during the stress of a crisis or disaster. If we expect people to perform their crisis responsibilities effectively during one of the most stressful events of their lives, then we must give them the opportunity to practice these tasks, at the very least annually.
Hurricane exercises also identify plan gaps, issues, and false assumptions that refine and improve the plan and the organization’s overall readiness. Exercises improve the plan in a unique way by placing the organization, people, and plan through the many expected and unexpected impacts in a simulated and relatively stress-free environment. The improvement plan that results from these exercises allows an organization to put lessons learned into action, yielding a much higher degree of preparedness and overall readiness.
Fortunately, more organizations are making exercises an active and integral element of their overall continuity or preparedness program. Over the first half of 2016 Atlantic facilitated (or as of this writing was scheduled to facilitate) at least a dozen exercises. Following are some best practices that we have learned through this recent and prior exercise experience:
1. Just do it. Plan and schedule your exercise now before other projects or priorities get in the way. Put it on your calendar at least 6 weeks from now and start planning for it.
2. Dust off that plan. Make sure your plan is ready to be tested. Spend some time reviewing, discussing, and updating the plan in preparation for the exercise.
3. Train first. Don’t throw your people into an exercise “cold” without some training on the plan they are supposed to test. Warm them up with a thorough review of the plan, their roles and responsibilities.
4. Crawl, Walk, Run. While it may be tempting to use that worst-case scenario Category 5 hurricane for your first exercise, it probably won’t accomplish much. Set realistic objectives for each exercise and design the scenario to reasonably achieve them without excessive complexity. Exercises should begin with a relatively simple scenario and build in complexity and difficulty over time through successive exercises.
Make sure your organization is ready for this hurricane season. Schedule your hurricane exercise today using the tips listed above. If you’d like an experienced facilitator to help with your exercise, please contact us so we can partner with you in this critical best practice and leading indicator for hurricane readiness.