Hurricane preparedness doesn’t end at home. It’s important to consider how a disaster could affect your business, employees, customers and workplace. How would you manage your business if access to the workplace is limited by roads closures, streets are impassable, or communication is limited? Zabatt Power Systems has prepared a proactive checklist below to help you better prepare your business for unpredictable storms and other disasters:
The first step in your hurricane emergency plan is to make sure you have reliable back-up power. Your protection against the true costs of downtime starts with commercial back-up generators (emergency or primary) to provide the on-site generation you need to help keep your operations up and running when the grid goes down. At Zabatt Power Systems, we have a solution for your on-site power needs!
DEVELOP A PLAN
By taking the initiative and planning early, you can create a plan that will have you fully prepared in the event of a disaster. This is the foundation of business continuity and the only effective way to diffuse the impact of a hurricane or other disaster. Did you know forty percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage don’t reopen? In order to prevent your business from being another statistic, it’s critical to prepare a plan now.
Although today’s technology allows advanced warning of approaching storms, there’s little that can be done to continue business operations if no plan is in place. Besides the hurricane routes out of town, an overall planning strategy should extend to all parts of your business.
You should start by identifying critical business applications, selecting essential back-up for data storage off-site, relocation of end users, access to remote equipment off-site, and identification of key personnel. This team of key individuals should be educated through training, drills, recovery testing, and mock disasters.
These are fundamental planning elements that cannot be accomplished when you are under the pressure of an impending hurricane. They should be addressed long before any disaster occurs. Always remember that no plan is effective unless it’s practiced and properly executed.
PROTECT YOUR SITE
Protecting your site facilities and equipment is instrumental in continuing or restoring operations in the event of a hurricane. Ways to do this include back-up generators, back-up water source, and a supply of gasoline powered pumps to keep the lower levels of the facility clear of flood waters. Boarding up of windows and other vulnerable space can protect a building from high-speed flying debris which has been known to severely damage structures in a severe hurricane. Mitigation should also be a consideration. Constructing facilities away from flood plains and fault zones could eliminate or minimize flooding possibilities. If facility shutdown should occur, work with your team to establish shutdown procedures and ensure that they are part of your overall recovery plan. Don’t forget to include post procedures (start-up) to facilitate re-occupation of the site after the storm has moved on.
Inability to access your facility is a highly probable occurrence when a hurricane approaches. Roads may be flooded or closed by authorities. Employees may be unable to leave their homes in a state of emergency or may be unwilling to leave their families. It’s very important to plan for the scenario in which your business facility is operational but the employees are unable or unwilling to get there. One way to prepare for this contingency is to develop a method to operate the critical components of your business remotely. Modern technology will allow a laptop computer to function almost anywhere. Software also exists that will permit that laptop to emulate a system console. In addition, most business functions of end users can be replicated on a laptop from the employees’ homes if the event is anticipated, planned for, and tested in advance. If employees must travel away from their homes to a remote location, address finances early. Have a procedure in place for cash advances for travelers. Consider pre-booking hotel rooms and opening airline/carrier service expense accounts. Establish these relationships in advance of an approaching hurricane.
ESTABLISH AN ON-SITE SUPPORT PLAN
Another way to address the problem of access is to prepare a specially selected team of employees to “camp out” at your facility. This plan would essentially include the provisioning of food and water supplies, sleeping facilities, and bathroom facilities for all employees. Some employers may even choose to provide support for employees’ families while the employee is engaged in business continuity activities. Employers can provide transportation, daycare, and lodging to families. Companies may also temporarily relocate them to areas outside the strike area of the storm. Employers may even engage outside contractors to look after the employees’ homes and repair damage so the employee isn’t distracted by these concerns. Emergency loans, disaster assistance funds, and other financial assistance should be considered for your support personnel. Most importantly, be flexible! Employee support is instrumental to business success. If you provide support to your employees, they will be able to provide support to you and your business.
SECURE A RECOVERY SERVICES PROVIDER
There are two generally accepted methods of planning to recover and resume business at an alternate location. One method involves the use of another computer site within the company’s enterprise. While this is generally accepted, it does cause impacts to the other site. Capacity, as well as other concerns contribute to these impacts. Computer power, network lines, end user workstations, chairs, or phone needs are increased in this scenario. Facilities also may be a constraint.
The second alternate site method is to subscribe with a business recovery service to provide those resources required at the time of disaster. The advantage of this approach is that it can be tested and refined to a level that assures that it will indeed work when needed. These vendors can also provide other vital services such as day-to day office operations, printing, check processing, and mail handling in the event you cannot. Some providers, such as IBM, even offer business resumption services which include relocation, construction, emergency repairs, workplace assessment, and legal assistance. If your facility has structural damage, these services could speed recovery, reduce your risk, and give you peace of mind. Occasionally, insurance companies offer discounts on premiums to businesses that subscribe to these services. The key advantage of securing a recovery services vendor is that you can continue doing business seamlessly with the assurance that customer confidence is maintained.
Some businesses declare emergency status well in advance. Activating recovery plans, vendors, and action teams quickly is key. If you subscribe for services through a recovery services vendor, most providers operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. They time stamp all “disaster declarations” and assign customer facilities in the order in which they are received. Rather than wait too long and risk being placed in a facility other than the one you are accustomed to (or being denied service all together), it is better to contact your service provider very early on and get yourself at the top of the list.
OUTSOURCE YOUR RECOVERY
Many businesses outsource the process of recovery to the staff of their alternate service center. Essentially, the subscribers systems, applications and network are restored and recovered at the alternate site. In addition, production processing can also be run by the skilled professionals of the vendor. Many companies use this approach as a hedge against not being able to get their staff to the recovery center. Some even monitor the actual recovery and production process remotely, assuring that things are going according to plan. When combined with storing data near the recovery site, declaring early can virtually eliminate the business impact.
IMPLEMENT AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
Communications are important to any business entity. In the event of a pending hurricane, it becomes even more crucial. Communications are needed to coordinate emergency activities, implement the recovery/contingency plan, warn employees of impending danger, inform families and off-duty personnel about what’s happening, maintain contact with customers and suppliers, as well as proactively maintain an information line with the media. You should keep in mind the normal everyday functions performed by your facility and consider all types of communications, especially voice and data. Be cognizant of the impact if communications were inoperable and establish procedures and action plans to accommodate this occurrence. Communicate with your communications vendors on options and alternatives. Establish back-up communications and ensure that a procedure for restoring communication services is in place. Some communications options include cell phones, radios, point-to-point private lines, high-frequency radio, and satellite communications. Radio and television stations are excellent community resources in the event of a hurricane. Identify a communications contact within your company to maintain a relationship with key stations. They can communicate important information to your team, customers, and vendors, as well as report business impact status. Be proactive when communicating with the media. Manage information in and out. It can be the difference between a negative story and a positive one.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
It’s important to remain flexible and adaptable. Also remember that the nature of the hurricane will influence your recovery direction. The impact of senior management, customer, and employee decisions may also alter your plans. Try not to make assumptions and don’t hesitate to act. Continuously update your plans after each practice or recovery activity and capture any lessons learned. As you can see, business continuity before, during, and after a hurricane takes preparation. While a hurricane does provide some advance warning, this warning does not provide enough time to adequately prepare for continued business continuity. What is required is a serious, thoughtful, and committed approach to the challenge of recovering your business. Whether your company is in a hurricane risk area or not, make hurricane preparedness your business before the wind blows.