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.
The formation of Hurricane Danny coincides with the start of the peak of hurricane season, roughly August 15 through October 15. While this storm is projected to weaken, its path and future are still unknown. Now is the time to review Hurricane Plans in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and along the Gulf Coast. Hurricane planning requires advanced preparedness in many different areas and should begin before the season starts on June 1 to ensure that an organization is ready for these storms whenever they occur. However following are some actions that every organization should be implementing now in response to Danny and the peak of hurricane season:
1) Update emergency contact information. Make sure you have current emergency contact information for all employees, critical vendors and suppliers, and customers or other stakeholders.
2) Test back-up systems. Test any back-up systems such as generators, communications, IT systems, etc.
3) Verify alternate locations. If you must evacuate, or if the storm damages your primary location, make sure you know where you will go and what you will bring to recover operations from an alternate location. Consider locations that are nearby and distant so you have options depending on the extent of local vs. regional damage.
4) Talk to key people. Discuss your plans with key employees, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders to ensure that their plans support or agree with your organizational plan.
5) Review financial plan. Check your insurance policies, documentation required for a claim, bank information, lines of credit, and other financial documentation to support your organization if the storm damages your assets or impacts your operations.
Remember that hurricanes are a unique threat because they offer plenty of warning before landfall. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity that hurricanes offer to start implementing these preparedness actions today while the winds are calm. A great place to start is our Hurricane Readiness Assessment that will help you benchmark your organization’s plan against our best practices. Upon completing the Hurricane Readiness Assessment, we will send you a report card with grades in each key readiness area to help you understand your gaps and areas for improvement. Please contact us for more information if you need any help preparing your organization today.
Although we are still a few weeks away from the official start of hurricane season on June 1, the season is now open with the formation of Subtropical Storm Ana last night off the South Carolina coast. Organizations that plan to survive and thrive through Ana and other storms this season should heed this early season storm and plan now for effective hurricane recovery. Following are a few tips to keep in mind while reviewing or writing your hurricane plan.
1. Plan to Recover. Planning should always begin with the end goal in mind. The purpose of your hurricane plan should be to recover quickly and effectively, with an intentional emphasis on recover. We have reviewed many hurricane plans from a variety of organizations, businesses, and municipalities over the years, and have seen first-hand that most plans fall short in the recovery section. 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. If you don’t have a detailed recovery plan then your plan is setting your organization up for failure.
2. Plan to Relocate. In the worst-case scenario, a major hurricane could cause enough damage that it may take weeks or even months to return back to your regular facility or office. Your organization needs a long-term plan to conduct operations at some inland facility for an extended period of time. This involves more than just finding another building or office space. There are housing considerations, families, pets, children, day care, schools, and a long list of other technical, resource, and planning issues. Make sure your organization takes the time to really unpack all details associated with long-term relocation of your people, technology, equipment, communications, etc.
3. Plan to Recalibrate. Even the best plans don’t always play out as expected. In our experience, the best plans are those that have the most options. Make sure your plan has enough flexibility and options to allow your team to recalibrate and adjust as needed based on the conditions of the event. Time and again we see the value of plan exercises as the best way to identify gaps or weaknesses in plans that often lead to more plan options. Continue to take time for tabletop exercises to engage your team in the plan and identify those areas that can be improved or strengthened. This practice is invaluable in setting your team up for success to recalibrate and adjust as needed during an actual event.
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.
RESOLVE TODAY. Now is the time to start, review, or update your Hurricane Plan. Start by contacting Atlantic for a Hurricane Readiness Assessment on-site with your team. We will walk you through a brief hurricane exercise to test your current plan and identify your gaps or areas for improvement. We’ll leave you with a detailed report of how you can improve your plan to not only survive, but thrive through the next storm that may impact your organization.
We are now in the peak activity period, which runs from mid-August to mid-October, for this year’s hurricane season. Well-prepared organizations at this point should have all of their annual preparation tasks completed, while making the switch from planning and preparedness to readiness for any storms that may develop through the season’s end on November 30. What remaining challenges do you still face with your hurricane plan? Following is a short list of challenges we have seen recently, and how to overcome them.
Time and again the most common problem we see in hurricane plans is the lack of a detailed recovery section. Our recent workshops in Georgetown and Summerville confirmed that many organizations do a decent job of planning for all the tasks to be performed before the hurricane, but have few details in the recovery section after the hurricane passes. Remember this important concept: the reason for developing a plan is to minimize downtime and chaos and maximize your chances for a quick and effective recovery. Therefore the recovery section of your hurricane plan needs to be the focus of your efforts, and should include as much, if not more, detail as your tasks leading up to the hurricane. Focus on all the issues surrounding damage assessment, clean-up and repairs, and long-term recovery while keeping your critical functions up and running.
Another challenge that we see almost nearly as often is the lack of planning for a lengthy evacuation. Many hurricane plans do not account for the possibility of not returning to your main location for weeks or longer. Consider the impact on your employees, vendors, customers, communications, operations, facilities, etc. if you could not return to your main location for several weeks or longer. Then focus on the actions that you can take in each of these areas to accommodate that reality.
Finally, the question of when to evacuate is often a stumbling block for many organizations. While your plan should allow for some flexibility on evacuation timing given the unique circumstances of each storm, we generally do not recommend waiting for a declared evacuation order from the Governor. Most organizations will lose valuable time and the ability to maintain operational continuity if they wait for a declared evacuation order. The best practice is to evacuate key personnel or an advance team early, as many as 3 – 4 days before the expected arrival of the storm. This allows for a group of people to establish remote operations and communications before the declared evacuation, when most other people will be caught in last minute preparations and traffic.
Consider these three areas in your hurricane plan, and ask the following questions when reviewing your plan:
Does our plan have more detail for response (before landfall) than recovery (after landfall)?
Do we have a sufficient plan to address all of the issues we expect to face if we can’t return for several weeks or longer after an evacuation?
Who can we send on an early evacuation trip to establish remote communications and operations to minimize our operational downtime when a declared evacuation is ordered?
The answers to these questions should help improve your hurricane plan and position your organization for hurricane readiness and not just preparedness. If you need help in any of your planning efforts, please contact us. We look forward to the challenge of moving organizations from preparedness to readiness.
Find the right balance between pre-storm response & post-storm recovery efforts.
As we approach the official start of Hurricane Season on June 1st, we will be inundated with predictions, prognostications, and planning tips.
However when it comes to preparedness for hurricanes, we see all too often that 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:
- Not enough detail for exactly how to recover and resume normal operations after a hurricane.
- Lack of adequate planning for the most unpredictable variable in their plan: availability of their people.
After reviewing many organizations’ hurricane plans, we have seen 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.
Don’t be alarmed if your hurricane plan falls in this category – it is very common. While many of us have practiced getting ready for an approaching hurricane, very few of us (thankfully) have the experience of recovering from a major hurricane. We 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.
Make sure employees are able to resume work.
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.
RESOLVE TODAY: 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 issues our business or organization will likely face for weeks or even months after a major hurricane?
- Do we assume too much about our employees’ ability to work following a hurricane?
- Have we 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?
In our next article around June 1st, we will provide a detailed list of hurricane planning best practices to follow to ensure that your organization is prepared. In the meantime, please contact us if you’d like more information or to schedule a complimentary review of your hurricane plan.