Southeast Ice Storm Aftermath – Lessons Learned
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.
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