Being Prepared for the Worst

Watching the news shows about the earthquake in Haiti and what's happened, or perhaps not happened, since then as far as relief efforts are concerned takes me back a few years to the hurricane that hit new Orleans and the large scale devastation that resulted. It also makes me wonder how prepared we all are for such a natural disaster in our own areas.

Good Morning America did a piece recently on the fault lines in the U.S. Aside from the San Andreas there are several others that could shift at any point in time. One of them is near New York City. Several others are in East Tennessee and surrounding states and another, the New Madrid, stretches from West Tennessee through Missouri, crossing the Mississippi River multiple times. There were six earthquakes in the U.S. last year that registered at least 3.5 on the Richter scale. Four of those were in CA, one in HI, and one in CO. I can't even remember how many tornadoes tore through the country, but do vividly remember the one that swept within two miles of my home last April, destroying everything in its wake.

Enough doom and gloom. Let's go forward.

A lot of companies that don't have a dedicated safety manager rely on their HR folks to handle safety related issues. How prepared are HR folks for handling a large scare disaster? Does your company have a disaster recovery plan? If it does, is the plan up to date?

Now is as good as a time as any to begin thinking about these things. You can find hundreds of resources online for developing a disaster recovery plan or, as that industry prefers to call it, a business continuity plan. If your company doesn't already have one, I urge you to champion that cause and make sure you and your company are as prepared as you can possibly be.



  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I hate you.


    Seriously, our BCP has gobbled up thousands of man-hours, and the bottom line is this - it will hardly matter at all.

    If the 'big one' comes, we will do what feels right at that time. We'll do it with the employees we have available, IF we can do it ourselves. The money we have spent on BCP software, prep, testing, etc., could have been spent on the things we could actually USE if disaster struck. A bunker, for example.

    The best BCP in the world wouldn't help your business if it was in Port Au Prince, just as it didn't help if your business was in certain areas of New Orleans. Yet, Haiti is now replacing Katrina as the "reason" why everyone should have one.

    (Ours is mandated by the feds... so my opinion means nothing locally.)
  • You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, even if it is wrong.

    The process of developing, and consistently maintaining, a thorough BCP is helpful. At the very least it makes people take steps to protect their assets and, during a crisis, provides direction to folks who, otherwise, wouldn't be able to function. Is it a perfect solution, of course not. But doing nothing is worse.


    PS: I truly enjoy debating with you, Frank. ;)
  • A certain amount of disaster preparedness is important. But when you look at what constitutes many of the mandated BCPs, it's a serious case of overkill.

    Example: Our federally-approved database of employee "non-work" skills that could potentially come in handy after a natural disaster. First, many of them are moot since I'd suffer serious work comp repercussions if I utilized any them. Others are moot because it isn't 1950. Here are some of the skills listed: Speaks Swahili. Knows Morse code. DOS trained. Owns excavating equipment. Certified SCUBA diver. Wears pants.

    Okay, maybe the last one is made up... I mean, it's patently ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than the 'real' ones.

    Yes, we should maintain call chains, and know who to call if the phones go down or how to process transactions if the power is out, etc. But the time I've spent logging each new hire's relative skills with the Swahili language... that's time from my life I will never have back.
  • [quote=ACU Frank;718769] and know who to call if the phones go down .[/quote]

    If the phones go down, how are you going to call for service? I don't see smoke signals on your list of requirements. O:)
  • As with most programs, there are good ones and some that are not so good. Sounds top me like you have one that's not so good, Frank.

  • We are in Hurricane country and yes we have a plan and yes we update it and alter and improve after every event..but Frank makes a point. .If we get a Cat 5, it will matter not. All will be gone. It's the price you pay to live in Paradise. .(that and high property taxes)
  • I presume that's what the Morse code is for.

    [quote=joannie;718771]If the phones go down, how are you going to call for service? I don't see smoke signals on your list of requirements. O:)[/quote]
  • In my former life as WOCO Frank, I developed a good one, but the key was that I avoided trying to make it perfect and all-encompassing. I even had a list of contacts for companies that would come in and clean up the blood if a clerk got shot, as well as pre-written press release templates for a variety of potential fuel tanker disasters.

    In the end, it didn't matter. About a year after I left, the building housing the admin offices and warehouse blew up. I took off work to go see if I could help, and was not a bit surprised that the BCP was not being used at all. The recovery efforts were going just fine, and it all turned out well, but when the moment came it was all about flying by the seat of your pants.

    Which was why I left there, of course... that whole pants thing.

    [quote=Sharon McKnight SPHR;718772]As with most programs, there are good ones and some that are not so good. Sounds top me like you have one that's not so good, Frank.

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