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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Twelve Disaster Impacts

Long ago in a place, far, far away....

Well, not that long ago.  I used to be the CIO for various companies in a highly regulated industry.  A major part of my duties revolved around Emergency Preparedness/Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations.

The name of the process changed over the years, but the function was basically the same:  How to lessen the impact of an emergency AND get the company up-and-running as quickly as possible.

Much of what we did was driven by the federal government.  Especially just prior to the Y2K period, the intensity of the process was ramped up.  As I've written before, the preparedness functions were not always thought of as necessary by all.

After doing this function - literally for decades - it became apparent that we were indeed wasting our resources.  We were actually putting too much work into the wrong things.  The feds had their way of doing things - a template all of us were supposed to follow - but it was INCREDIBLY wasteful (big shock there, huh?).

We had to put together plan after plan for different events that might happen.  One for an earthquake.  One for a tornado.  One for a fire.  One for a flood.  One for this.  One for that.

Big, impressive binders were assembled.  See?  We're prepared for anything!

During the Y2K build-up, we began to notice something - patterns were becoming clear:  Most of the troubles we were anticipating were repeating themselves.  Over and over again.

For instance, whether the disaster was caused by a hurricane, an earthquake or a mud slide, we made plans for the loss of electrical power.

If the disaster was caused by a terrorist dirty nuke, an over-turned rail car full of ammonia or a fire at a local chemical plant that was billowing toxic smoke, we had plans for providing clean air to breathe.

It soon became apparent that we didn't need to focus so much on the cause of a disaster, but on the impact.

This kind of clear thinking didn't sit too well with the feds (again, shocking).  If we didn't follow their format, how could they ever possibly audit our plans?  It was more about format than content, so we all buckled under and followed their "suggestions" (anyone who deals with a government regulator understands this frustrating aspect of business).

After I started my own business, I went over my old notes and binders and identified these impacts.  There are twelve of them.

Thankfully, my own company is not (yet!) subject to operational regulation, and I can share with you what we teach in our Emergency Preparedness workshops.  From time to time, I will talk about each of them in greater detail on this blog.

Until then, here's the list (not necessarily in order of importance - they're ALL important):
  1. No Potable Water
  2. No Food
  3. No Shelter
  4. Lack of Safety and Security
  5. No Public Utilities (electricity, gas, sanitation)
  6. No Communication Services
  7. Toxic Airborne Contaminants
  8. Restricted Travel
  9. No Access to Professional Medical Services
  10. No Money
  11. Lost Records
  12. Mental Health/Spirituality
Think about any possible disaster.  Think about any possible impact.  It will fit into one of the categories.


As I'll get into in later posts, each of these impacts are "drilled down" and customized for your own life.  My plans and needs for Lost Records or Medical Services are most likely very different from your needs because of the skills and resources to which I have access.  Your Restricted Travel might be because of martial law being imposed, mine might be restricted because I can't get access to gasoline for my car.

Accept The Challenge

If you have a written plan - which EVERYONE should have - do a review to see if it can be streamlined.  The more concise and specific a plan is, the better able most people are able to act in times of an emergency.

It is also very important that everyone that might be impacted, be a part of the planning process.  You MUST have consensus on the actions that will be taken.  If your money supply is interrupted, you may want to disconnect your cable TV service, but others may want to cut back on the food budget, or sell your baseball card collection on ebay to increase cash flow.

Figure this out NOW while you're thinking clearly, and not during an emergency event.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

A VERY well thought out post.