January 18, 2018

BCP – Beyond Your Business (or, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition . . .”) – WST

Waking at 6 AM to a light chill in the air and the sound of sirens in the distance, it was quieter than usual. The power was out and, so too, the heat. The winter storm had produced more precipitation and lower temperatures than forecasters had expected; fourteen degrees with wind chills near zero, and roads and power lines with up to an inch of ice. Roadways are closed throughout the region. Homeowners are dealing with frozen water and even sewer lines. What’s the big deal? Well, this is along the Gulf Coast where they’ve never had a storm like the one that occurred this week.

Similarly, a few weeks ago southern California was dealing with wildfires like they had never experienced, and now mud slides. Some states now experience periodic earthquakes, where those too were extreme rarities in the not-too-distant past. When planning for business continuity, is there such a thing as thinking TOO outside the box?

Businesses near the coast know how to plan for hurricanes and floods, but things like “ice storm” are omitted or warrant only a few lonely lines in the Business Continuity Plan. It’s practical to plan for the most common scenarios, but expanding to include infrequent contingencies could raise important considerations that may not have received prior attention. A few examples:

  • Transportation Systems – Do government agencies have supplies and resources to keep roadways open (whether due to ice, mud, flooding, or earthquake)? Closer to home, should WE have salt for our parking and walk areas? Do all essential employees know of and periodically travel an alternate commute route for each possible condition? Have you considered your remote access policy and technical capabilities (e.g. will it support a large number of home-bound employees)?
  • Will employees come to work? – Jane’s waiting on a plumber to arrive because her water pipes burst, cell phone died, and her home is without power. Or Bob’s car must be pulled from a ravine where he didn’t see the roadway drop-off under the standing water he drove through. Consider encouraging employees to have personal recovery plans regardless of where they call home (go to https://www.ready.gov/ for a few tips).
  • How do utilities reach the business? Do your water, phone, fiber, gas, and power lines follow roadways, or cut through wooded areas that may be impacted by fire? Are they buried or are some aerial? Many utilities will defer from giving specifics, but it may be worth noting in advance the general level of redundancy and resilience that is built into your critical utilities. Have backup plans and temporary workarounds (e.g., backup generators, bottled water, cell phones WITH chargers, know where to obtain porta-potties, etc.).

Take advantage of the moments Mother Nature, and life, throw in your way, and adjust your BCP accordingly.

Past Weekly Security Tips – WST