Weather is unpredictable, and this is clear every time a meteorologist gets the forecast wrong! Do you have a contingency plan in place for your organization to be ready on a moment’s notice?
Ah, the weather. The weather decides the fate of so much of what we do. Going to a backyard BBQ this weekend? There’s a good chance of rain, so you may want to check if it’s still scheduled. Heat wave coming? Better re-think that marathon and consider a movie marathon instead. Planning an outdoor wedding – maybe on the beach – in June? You probably want to have a backup plan in case of a hurricane!
But seriously, major storms happen. The reality is the projected path of a storm isn’t set and can shift at any time, putting any of us right in its path, whether a hurricane, a tornado, a nor’easter, flash flooding, or anything in between. With every inch of the globe susceptible to major storms, emergency preparedness is important.
Are you prepared?
Businesses along the coastal United States are aware that hurricane season is predictable. Every year from roughly May through the end of November, though the actual timing varies, it’s expected that a handful of hurricanes will impact life, and force us to consider everything from emergencies to contingencies.
- Each year, an average number of 13 major storms, like hurricanes and tropical cyclones, impacts the North American coastal regions. Some storms, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, or more recently Hurricane Harvey in 2017, cause tens of billions of dollars in damage.
There are also storms that aren’t classified as major based on environmental impacts, but these still have the potential to impact daily life, especially with damage, power outages, and even temporary flooding. Some cities essentially shut down for days, or even weeks, after the winds calmed, the waters receded, and the sun shone again.
Insurance companies are quick to estimate damage regarding losses, including homes, cars, furniture, and personal items like clothing. Cities and utility companies can speak to the time estimated for restoring power to communities, and critical needs like clean drinking water and medical care. Organizations like the American Red Cross are quick to assist with food and clothing and personal care items like toothpaste and other hygiene help like mobile showers. The list goes on!
There is no “average cost per storm” because the number can’t be quantified. The cost of infrastructure damage is estimated for each instance, yes, but how can you determine the average impact of an occurrence with so many variables and so little that can be predicted?
If a storm or natural disaster affects the power grid, utility companies try to offer estimates until power is restored, yes, but the outage is felt with much deeper impact. Without power, a family loses lighting inside and out (from the bathroom overhead light to the streetlamps that offer guidance in the dark), but also the power to the refrigerator and stove for basic needs like meal preparation. From the commercial standpoint, a business losing power faces the same issues with the refrigerator in a break room, but much more critical items that may be impacted are digital elements like computer servers, email, and communication, as well as file access and data storage.
Even “low-tech” companies feel the crunch. Grocery stores that lose power have to dispose of all frozen and refrigerated items, representing thousands of dollars in revenue lost. When can power be restored? When can deliveries be made to replenish? When can petroleum stations resume fuel sales? When can families shop refill supplies for home? When can electronic payment transactions resume? Those “low-tech” companies are the same companies that supply resources to “high-tech” firms, like basic office supplies for daily operations. Everything is mutually reliant!
Preparedness is key. What can businesses do to protect themselves in case of a situation like this?
- Know your risks.
- Floods, lightning, hurricanes, tornados, extreme heat, tsunamis, landslides, fires and wildfires…a few of these may seem highly unlikely, but the more detailed your list is, the better prepared your business will be. Don’t wait until the flood waters are at your door, or a tornado watch has been issued, or a wildfire is encroaching and emergency services are banging on your door with evacuation orders and it’s too late!
- Know your warning systems.
- Local news and weather stations will be the most likely places to inform the immediate community, but these aren’t always the most accurate or reliable sources for information. A “weather radio” is a great investment, and preferably one by NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast continuous weather information from your closest National Weather Service station. Think about this: hurricanes give notice, but tornados don’t!
- Have a communication plan.
- If your organization is more than just you, have a plan in place with multiple methods to contact each person so that everyone can be reached. Is everyone safe? Does everyone know what is needed and expected of them, and if the workforce needs to be completely distributed until the eye of the storm passes?
- Have a backup plan.
- While more and more brands are moving to the cloud for data and file storage if any files or records are stored on-site or at a location where storms or natural disasters may impact operations, have a backup plan in place. By this, we mean have a plan to back up your data with a plan in place to safeguard this data. This plan could potentially eliminate your brand’s downtime, which directly translates to minimizing loss of revenue and maintaining continuity of processes.
- Whose responsibility is it for maintaining these back-ups and contingencies, and what methods are in place for data or access restoration?
- Protect yourself.
- What safeguards do you have in place for both physical and digital protection during times of extreme situations? Nobody enjoys spending time worrying about the safety of an office or if their network is secure. Now is the time to assess these safeguards and update to minimize your overall risk.
Storms and natural disasters are not the only dangers we face that require contingency plans.
- Did you know that cybercriminals have attempted to gain control of major infrastructure elements in the United States, like the power grid, systems that control water supply, aviation communication and control, and more? These threats give no warning but require equal efforts on your part for safeguard measures. What can you do in situations like this? The same list above applies!
Don’t wait until cybercriminals, weather, or a natural disaster is looming; make a plan now to be prepared IF something should happen and stay ahead of the proverbial storm. Steps you take now may well be the difference between survival and suffocation. Your contingency plan may just save your professional life!