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How prepared are you for any kind of disaster?

Having just recently experienced the devastation left behind by a cluster of tornadoes that blew through our town, we’re grateful. A byproduct of that night brought to the forefront for us, and many businesses and households alike, the question of how prepared were we really when it comes to disasters? Boy did this topic hit home for all of us that week. With that in mind, how prepared are your family and your business?

Let’s explore some topics for serious conversation:

Business continuity

As a business, not only do customers depend on your services, but your employees also depend on your business success as a means to their prosperity. The goal is to experience little more than a small hiccup if anything at all, regardless of what is happening around you.  No matter what happens, the show must go on.

Here is a prime example of a potential disaster situation at an IT company in Chicago:

This company monitored and administered the networks of several banks and large international companies around the world, all from their location by way of remote connectivity. They were located in a new office building with the latest connectivity equipment to ensure complete 24/7 dependability.

On this day, like any other sunny summer day, there were no problems at all in the world. There was a construction crew across the way, clearing land to build a neighboring twin building on that lovely park-like setting. There was nothing to be concerned about…that is…until the backhoe dug in and severed all of the internet cables to the building.

All connectivity to the building (telecom and internet) was lost. Fortunately for this company, it was only a year ago that they had developed a business continuity plan, and part of that plan was redundancy of server data in Toronto, Canada, and Cincinnati, OH. A quick call by cell phone from Chicago to Cincinnati, and the phones diverted to both data centers to split the load. The engineers brought home laptops so they could connect remotely and relieve the workload for those who picked up the slack on the first day.

This company made the continuity plan to extreme measures and hoped never to need it. Much to their delight, this small example of a potential disaster executed flawlessly and the customers never even noticed an interruption of service. This event was their real-life test, and it was a great success!

No natural disaster required

This example posed no natural hazard like the tornadoes, but it still introduced an interruption of service. That interruption brought with it all the same risks to the customers.

The show must go on

Think of how you will maintain your business activities in the most common of disasters for your region. Think power outages and severe weather like tornadoes, fire, flood, hurricane, and earthquakes. If you are concerned about civil unrest, include that too. After the above example, think backhoes, too.

For each model that might occur, ask a series of questions:

  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How will all employees be accounted for and verified safe?
  • How will everyone be contacted (communication chain)?
  • How will data be accessed (in an acceptable way)?
  • How/where/when will work resume?

Some brainstorming may be necessary. Some purchases or arrangements may be made “just in case.” When putting together recovery scenarios, be as specific as possible and record every detail for the record.

Practice, practice, practice

The best chances for a seamless recovery is for all parties to be prepared and ready to engage without a shred of uncertainty. Success is achieved by way of practice. It may be an imaginary practice without involving the entire employee base, but a quick switchover of systems will prove a seamless transition in the example provided.

Don’t neglect the home front

Many discovered that families are interrupted as severely as any business in several different disasters, so bring the same practices home, from the initial plan to practicing the execution. Some disasters to consider for families might be:

Power outages (immediate and extended)

What to do for a short-term (candles and flashlights) or a long-term (generator) power outage? Are any compromises necessary, such as not opening the freezer to contain the cold as long as possible? How will the food be prepared? Is there enough non-perishable food? Hurricane Ike in 2009 put hundreds of thousands out of power for up to 10 days in the Cincinnati area. Many learned how ill-prepared they were for a long-term loss when ice became scarce, and local gas stations could not dispense fuel or process transactions.

Job loss

Is there an emergency fund? What luxuries can pause? How will spending change? How will necessities be sustained?

Fire

What are the home escape routes? Are necessary ladders available if needed? Where will everyone meet and be counted? Is there a communication plan for those not at home? Where will your family stay?

Passwords, insurance, and important family information

It might be a disaster like tornadoes, but it also might be a flood, an earthquake, or the death of a loved one.  Do you have your affairs in order?  Where do you keep your passwords and important documents?  To avert these scenarios, I like the idea of keeping my info in the cloud. There are a few great cloud-based password and document management tools and I personally use LastPass (the Families edition so I can share our Emergency info with all of our family members).

Severe weather

What needs must be met in a power outage (all of those questions apply)? Is there a designated evacuation location? Have one place as the nearest shelter and another escape route selected. Is there a shelf-stable food supply? How will water be accessed if public supply becomes unavailable? Where is the safest space in the house? How will potential outdoor projectiles be secured? What about pets? Are there any special arrangements necessary for seniors or those with disabilities?

Accidents and injury

Make sure all verbal children understand how to call for emergency assistance and the difference between an emergency and an urgent desire. Have a designated first aid kit along with instructions for common household injuries and wound care.  Have emergency supplies of any medically necessary medications for family members on hand.

Resources to help you get started and get organized

This blog is a start to get you thinking of the potential subjects. There are many checklists and toolkits available to assist your business and your family to be prepared and overcome a disaster that inspired by actual events.

We at Lighthouse Technologies bring quality and value to our clients with proven testing methods and U.S. based teams. How can domestic efficiency and quality practices overcome the temptation of off-shore testing? Contact us and learn more.

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