Government Agencies Discovering Social Media? Plus: Top Ten Hotels for Techies – This Week in Business Continuity

Houston TranStar command center.

Houston TranStar command center.

Early last week the Harris County Office of Emergency Management conducted a series of tabletop (more like work station) exercises in conjunction with Houston TranStar and a dozen other county, state and federal departments and agencies the goal of which was to familiarize their staff with better ways to utilize social media to engage the public in the event of a disaster.  Initially my response to this was, “Uh, yeah – it’s about time.”  But that reaction was wrong.  [Opinion Alert.]  Usually government entities designate tasks like perfecting their social media operations to a department like IT or the marketing division, if they have one, and those departments already have other elements to manage on a full-time basis.  But using social media to alert the general public is much more than a task and communicating the potential for a significant disruption or disaster, as well as how to best prepare for the event, are and should be the responsibility of a much larger subset of the agencies involved.  Making it part of the overall culture and prioritizing the continual perfection of the process, not to mention keeping track of the constant barrage of new online alerting techniques that continually pop up, well that’s just fantastic.

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There’s still time and a little room to register to attend the August 12th webinar, “The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – A Train Wreck in 2015 . . . What That Means to You” by Bo Mitchell.  That’s a Wednesday, the presentation is at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central and you can find out more and register here.  Broken record: register even if you can’t attend so that you automatically receive the link to the recording afterwards.

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Okay all you Bucket Two types: this one’s for you.  (If you’re not sure which bucket you fall into, check out last week’s contracting excerpt.)  So.  Bucket Two Folks.  You have a travel management company that books your company’s hotels, cars and flights, and because you are such a well known organization and give these hotels regular business, your relationships are going to pull you through during a deployment.  Right?  Or something along those lines?

Wrong.

Take another look at our case study.  This was a company just like yours with a plan that looks eerily similar to yours.  At least, this was their plan before they had to actually test it through activation.  So why didn’t it work?

“Several reasons,” says Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther.  In the interest of time (and blog space) we’re going to take these one by one.  First, the travel agents were not company employees, so getting them to work the intense hours needed to manage deployment housing was impossible.  Since pre-guaranteed hotel rooms were not set up in advance, the company was booking people all over the place, creating a lot more

work for the bookers and a lot more headache for the people trying to keep track of who was staying where.  Even when they found rooms, in some cases they were not able to pin down someone with appropriate signing authority to sign off on hotel contracts, so they ended up losing those rooms.”  Read: the hotels had someone in the wings vying for those same rooms, and they opted for the bird in their hands.  “It’s catch as catch can for hotels trying to maximize their revenue during a crisis.  And like it or not, that’s exactly what their stakeholders expect them to do.”

More details to come, but in the meantime, we’d like to hear from you.  What mechanism does your company rely on to secure guaranteed housing in the event of a deployment?  If they rely on a travel management company, hit the survey on the right.

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Finally, if you’re in IT you’ll appreciate this and if you’re not, forward it to your favorite IT folks because they’ll appreciate it: The 10 Best Hotels for Techies.  Most of us won’t ever stay at most of those places – I like the retinal scan door locks at Boston’s Nine Zero property although 10 grand per night is a little steep – but it’s yet another example of the hotel industry customizing and innovating to the benefit of their target audiences . . . and the revenue they bring with them.  At Continuity Housing we keep a daily lookout for the best for our clients but do forward that one to your IT folks.  They’ll enjoy it.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

Active Shooter Response Training; The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – This Week in Business Continuity

This past April and again last month, the Association of Contingency Planners webinar series hosted by Continuity Housing featured detailed, hour-long webinars on how to respond in an active shooter situation; hit those links to watch the recording of either or both.  Frankly we’d planned on HPD-active-shooterleaving the topic alone for a while but Thursday’s mass shooting in Chattanooga serves as another tragic reminder that the possibility of encountering a similar situation continues to be very real for all of us.  Those videos are long but make time to watch them.  For a shorter look at what to do in an active shooter situation, the Houston Police Department produced a 6-minute video a few years ago that you should watch and share with anyone you care about.

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We now have six more ACP webinars scheduled through the fall but it’s not too late to register for the next one which is tomorrow, July 22nd at 11: 30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  It’s called “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism” by Harlan Dolgin and you can register here. In September, Harlan will present on the topic of general preparedness for a flu pandemic and we’ll share the link to register for that one as soon as it’s scheduled.

The next Continuity Housing webinar is “The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – A Train Wreck in 2015 . . . What That Means to You” by Bo Mitchell.  It’s on Wednesday, August 12th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central and you can find out more and register here.

Always register even if you can’t attend the live presentation so that you automatically receive the link to the recording.

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I mentioned a while back that I’d had a long talk with Bo about proper emergency preparedness ranging on topics both philosophic and practical.  Rounding out the discussion I asked who in each organization is responsible for insuring the organization is EAP (Emergency Action Plan) compliant and how they go about learning what it takes.  “The responsible party is the CEO. But he or she probably doesn’t know that. Think about that. Then know that, in most organizations, no one is assigned this responsibility. Or if they are, it is spread across silos. It could be HR. Or Security. Or Safety. Or Facilities. Every organization has a different answer.

“Know that one group that is not responsible for compliance: your landlord.  If you rent your space or any of your spaces in a multi-facility organization, know that your landlord’s planning – if they have any – is not substitutable under law for your plan. Nor does this make sense operationally speaking. It’s a fact that in almost all multi-tenant buildings, the landlord has no plan or it’s incompetent. Landlords never train. Often, they don’t even drill. Also, no law in any state or city or at the federal level permits your landlord’s plan to be your plan. The regulations always start, ‘The employer shall.’ Never ‘The landlord shall.’  All landlords do this badly. Anyone who says to you ‘Oh, that’s the landlord’s responsibility’ is – by definition and by law – negligent.”

If you’d like a copy of 911 Consulting’s “10 Commandments of Emergency Planning” and/or their “10 Commandments of Emergency Training,” email Bo at BoMitchell@911Consulting.net.

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We talked last week about prepping in advance – specifically, about pre-negotiating hotel contracts well in advance of a deployment.  Not only does it stave off price gouging and ugly contract terms but it makes for a far smoother deployment.  “But then it hit me,” says Continuity Housing’s principal, Michelle Lowther.  “It’s the people who THINK they have a plan that are in the most danger.”  So let’s back it up a bit.  Why is that the case, how do you know if you’re in that very boat and most importantly, how do you get out before said boat sinks?

For that, we turn back to Michelle.  “If an organization thinks they have it covered, they usually fall into one of two buckets.  Bucket One: small to mid-size businesses with only a handful of people to relocate who think they can do it online.  Bucket Two: large to mega-size businesses with high annual travel spend, strong hotel brand relationships at the global level and a travel management company that handles all their business travel.  The people in the first bucket are probably right.  They might be able to get online and eke out a few rooms here and there when they need them, provided things like room rate, pre-determined hotel location and pet acceptance are not priorities to them.  It’s the people in the second bucket who concern me.”  More about that next week, but in the meantime, if you think you might be in Bucket Two, here’s a hot tip.  “Check any hotel paperwork you have for the phrase ‘based on availability.’  I bet it’ll be in there somewhere,” says Michelle.

Wanna put this to the numbers?  Email me and we’ll send you a case study that we’ll explore a little more next week.  It’s a doozie.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

Lost Skills of the Cowboy Code: The Foundation of Business Continuity Cooperation – This Week in Business Continuity

A very brief undated editorial at americancowboy.com succinctly and eloquently summarizes the hallmark of the cowboy way, the code of behavior that every respectable cowboy has ever lived by, although the article has more of a focus on the days when cattle drives were a far more common occurrence.  It opines on seemingly vanishing characteristics such as stewardship, humility and good manners.  But what struck me most about it was that those same qualities are what build a strong business continuity community, bother intra- and inter-industry, and help our community operate at discriminate-2the highest level of efficiency in the event of a massive localized disruption.  Or as Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther puts it, “Crises don’t discriminate: they put us all on the same playing field where we depend on one another to act for the greater good.”  If you’re a business continuity professional and have never hit an ACP local chapter meeting, give it a shot.

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Last week I featured parts of a discussion I recently had with 911 Consulting president Bo Mitchell about the lack of preparedness by many organizations for emergencies.  I asked him to explain what really is required by law and by national standards for Emergency Action Plans.  According to Bo, “We start with OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.34 which states ‘Every employer is covered. Sections 1910.34 through 1910.39 apply to workplaces in general industry except mobile workplaces such as vehicles or vessels.’  So, unless your workplace is on a boat or a truck, you [must] comply with 1910.34-39 which includes Emergency Action Plans (1910.38).

“This regulation covers all workplaces whether you’re a business, non-profit, campus, healthcare organization – every workplace without exception. There are folks out there right now who staunchly believe that OSHA does not apply to them.  They are simply wrong.  OSHA says you shall create and train an EAP.  Period.  Then there is the NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association founded in 1896.  In the intervening 120 years, NFPA has promulgated 300 standards.  These standards are so strong and well-recognized that they are the backbone and majority of every state’s fire code.

“One of those standards is NFPA 1600.  You can download it for free and it’s copyright-free because it is the universally recognized standard for creating your emergency plan.  Recognized by Congress, by DHS, by S&P, by the state legislatures of California and Florida, and by juries where you will be judged when you are sued after an incident.

“On page 17, you’ll find the list of emergencies every workplace must plan for. This could be 20 to 25 different kinds of threats such at tornados, active shooters, earthquakes, workplace violence. Why such a long list?  First, all of the emergencies are what your corporate attorney calls foreseeable circumstances for which you must plan.  Second, you never get the emergency you plan for – Murphy’s Law.  Third, your opinion on what emergencies to plan for is not relevant. The standard is what controls.  OSHA mandates you plan and train.  NFPA 1600 dictates the table of contents.”

Then why don’t more organizations have a robust and compliant EAP?  “It’s all about denial in the C-suite. Denial by your CEO or COO is expressed as ignorance.  ‘I didn’t know that.’  Denial is vanquished once something bad happens at our facility, or the facility next door, or one of our offices in another city.  Then, THEN, we get religion and get out of denial and into planning and training.  My experience is that change almost always occurs because of blunt force trauma from the outside, never by inspired leadership from the inside.”

Bo’s next webinar is “The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – A Train Wreck in 2015 . . . What That Means to You” is Wednesday, August 12th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central and you can find out more and register here.

And don’t forget to register for next Wednesday’s Association of Contingency Planners webinar, “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism” presented by Bio-Defense Network’s Harlan Dolgin.

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Speaking of minimizing risk, in our last contract negotiation terminology series post, we shared the concept of spreading risk across multiple hotels in order to strengthen your position in your failover city.  Sounds great in theory, but what happens when you activate your plan and have to deal with that many more hotel contracts as a result?  “Simple,” says Continuity Housing principal, Michelle Lowther.  “Negotiate your contract with each hotel in advance.  Literally comb through the fine print, negotiate all the terms and concessions that would apply to a deployment booking with each hotel, then set those documents aside until you need them.  Be sure, of course, that both parties agree to the document contents in writing.  Then, when you trigger a deployment, simply fill in the dates of your stay and the details of your room type(s), and you’re all set.”  Now why didn’t I think of that?

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

The Constant Evolution of How We Manage Business Continuity – This Week in Business Continuity

I read an interesting post over the weekend that asks whether it’s time to rethink business continuity.  The headline and entire concept of the editorial are designed to generate traffic and there are probably a few too many acronyms but the writer has some great points.

  • The first line: “Business continuity professionals need to rethink some of the paradigms of the practice.”   More so than about any other industry, business continuity planning requires constant learning, constant reconsideration of standards and even a constant supply of a small amount of self-doubt.  I grew up in the shadow of Johnson Space Center and business continuity has always reminded me of those men and women with pocket protectors and horn-rimmed glasses.  If you don’t lose a little sleep at least every once in a while, you might not be doing it right.
  • “This is not a once and done process as many in the business continuity sphere seem to think (and practice).” I recently heard from a long-time colleague whose fairly sizable company has decided to overhaul their entire BC response schedule.  A little drastic perhaps but at least they’ll have the old plan to compare it to after the new plan is completed, and all of it will be a great learning experience.
  • “Difficulties arise when costs and benefits are not well defined and when intuition substitutes for analysis in the decision making process.” Truer words. This reminds me of a long series of post-Ike “first names only” (to encourage honesty and real learning) meetings I was involved in with Port of Houston and southeast Texas petroplex management staff about how each handled the ramp-up to the storm, its impact and the aftermath. My favorite quote from all 180+ of them: “We had a great plan but that plan went to hell the moment the eye wall hit the Seawall.”

For somebody like me, it’s a bit of a thick read but there’s lots of good stuff in there about what not to trust and he even includes this thought, “If we change our thought processes from chasing symptoms and ignoring consequences to recognizing the limitations of decision making under uncertainty we may find that the decisions we are making have more upside than downside.”  Good stuff.

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We’ve scheduled our next Continuity Housing webinar for Wednesday, August 12th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central and, as always, this will be a valuable use of your time.  Entitled “The State of Readiness in the Private Sector – A Train Wreck in 2015 . . . What That Means to You,” you can get the details and register here.

not-supposedThe presenter – someone who may be familiar to a lot of you by now – is Bo Mitchell, an expert in the creation and training of emergency action and business continuity plans and an extremely popular presenter, both live and online.  Bo served as the Police Commissioner of Wilton, CT for 16 years. He retired in February 2001 to found 911 Consulting which creates emergency, disaster recovery, business continuity, crisis communications and pandemic plans, plus training and exercises for major corporations like GE HQ, Hyatt HQ, MasterCard HQ, four colleges and universities and 25 secondary schools. He serves clients headquartered from Boston to L.A. working in their facilities from London to San Francisco. Bo has earned 20 certifications in homeland security, EM, DR, BC, safety and security. He also serves as an expert in landmark court cases nationally.

I asked him the other day how he got into the business of preparing people to survive and thrive after they get hit with the worst.  His answer was blunt.  Bo is always blunt, a tremendous asset in this business.  His answer: “When I was police commissioner and there was an emergency at a workplace, the top person would always lament, ‘This was not supposed to happen to me.’ I always reacted to that privately as, ‘Duh, why were you thinking like this?  We see this every day.  You have to prepare your employees for the emergency then get back to work.’ So when I retired, I determined that most businesses, campuses and healthcare facilities were not prepared and have never trained their employees. There was a mission and a market for me. The rest is history.”

I’ll share more about Bo and what he teaches over the next several weeks.  Hopefully we’ll see you on August 12th.

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The next Association of Continuity Planners webinar is at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central on Wednesday, July 22nd and is called “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism,” a follow-up by Bio-Defense Network’s Harlan Dolgin to a popular session held in February when we addressed “Protecting your Workforce During a Public Health Emergency Through a Partnership with Local Public Health. (You can view the recording of that session here.)  Find out more about the topic and register for the July 22nd webinar here.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

What Prison Escapees and Lost Space Station Supply Ships Have In Common; Plus What We’re Stealing From Hotels These Days – This Week in Business Continuity

The two big stories of the weekend were the final end of the New York state prison escape and the dramatic loss of the third ISS resupply cargo ship in the last eight months.  Considering the alleged involvement of the two prison guards in the escape of the prisoners, that’s a story we’ll be hearing about for a long time to come.  The more important story, however, is the loss of the SpaceX cargo ship on Sunday morning; the three crewmembers have enough food and water through October but the string of failures in resupplying the station casts much greater doubt on its continued successful operation.

borrowingWhat does either situation have to do with business continuity?  Lots.  The considerable lockdown of the upstate New York area during the search for the prisoners reminds me of what happens a lot of times after a severe hurricane or terrorist attack: the National Guard and/or other authorities impose travel restrictions which in turn hamper the progress of employees trying to get back to work as well as roadway shipment of cargo, including resupply for companies that need new feedstock.  The supply ship explosion is a ready-made reminder that even with redundant backups, sometimes resupply will be hampered – although ‘hampered’ doesn’t seem nearly strong enough a word when you’re talking about spaceships delivering vital hardware and food to a space station.

Which is why you might want to consider adding the concept of tankering to your business continuity plan.  Tankering is an occasional commercial, military and corporate aviation practice of uploading more fuel than is required just for the next leg of the flight in case there’s a quality or availability issue with the jet fuel at the next destination, or if the fuel is much more expensive at the first destination than at the second one.  It can be a relatively expensive strategy: more fuel onboard means a heavier aircraft and reduced fuel efficiency.  It’s an expensive concept for industry, too – more raw materials mean greater risk, more required storage area, etc.  If possible, however, think downline and explore the possibility of ordering not only the resupply of your next required batch of whatever but also the batch you’ll need after that.  In the spirit of constantly borrowing business continuity concepts from industries other than the one you’re in, it’s worth considering.  Spread the risk.  Always.

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Speaking of spreading the risk, here’s another way you’ve probably never considered doing so: with your housing.  Specifically, your desire to keep everyone under one roof if possible during a deployment, and the corresponding action of establishing a relationship with (only) one hotel to assist you when you activate your plan.  “That’s exactly the opposite of what actually works the best,” says Continuity Housing’s Michelle Lowther.  “For a company that typically selects one preferred supplier for each critical category in its supply chain, it may seem counterintuitive and even inefficient to spend time setting up relationships with several hotels.  But from a risk standpoint, it’s the only thing that makes sense.  With multiple hotels in your arsenal you spread your risk, making it much more likely that the hotels you’ve selected in advance will come through for you at crunch time.  Remember that for a hotel a room night is a perishable good, so outside of a formal housing program, there’s no guarantee that they’ll have a room available when you need it most.  A good rule of thumb is one hotel ‘in your pocket’ for every 10-15 rooms you’ll require.  That may seem like a lot, but if you ever have to put it to the test, you’ll be glad you did the work up front.”

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Also speaking of preparing for a disaster, what about interruptions you never thought you or your company would have to deal with?  I asked some of Continuity Housing’s Global Account Executives to tell me about the last disaster, big or small, that they’d never planned on dealing with.

Stacey Sabiston’s was Tropical Storm Faye in Florida in 2008.  What’s unplanned about a hurricane in Florida?  “I moved here in 2007 and had heard about many of the big named hurricanes that had come through the state in 2004 and years prior.  When we bought our home it came with hurricane shutters, we bought the hurricane insurance, we bought the generator, etc. . . . the one thing we did not buy was flood insurance.  We don’t live on the water and we’re not in a flood plain so we didn’t see the need for it.  And then Tropical Storm Faye came and dumped 30 inches of rain in 3 days. [Note: Faye actually made landfall four separate times.]

Faye

Faye’s fairly annoying path. Graphic: Wikipedia

“It came down in buckets and never let up.  I have never seen anything like it.  We took the dog out for a walk and there were fish swimming down the streets.  It was the most bizarre slow moving storm I’d ever witnessed.  By the third day, the water had nowhere else to go and started creeping up toward the front door and back door of the house.  Since it wasn’t a hurricane, this type of damage would not have been covered by our hurricane insurance and since we did not have a separate flood policy, our homeowners wouldn’t cover it either.  We were panicked.  Fortunately the rain slowed down and the water receded, but it was a very scary experience.  Schools and businesses were closed for a week and there was lots of clean-up afterward.  I never thought a tropical storm could cause more damage than a hurricane until I moved to Florida.

“And yes,” Stacey says, “now we do have flood insurance, too!”

Account Executive Casey Judd shared his “never imagined that happening” experience which also involved the weather.   “A few weeks ago we actually had a funnel cloud in the small Idaho town that we live in and just across the border in Utah there were also funnel clouds. There were no tornadoes but even funnel clouds are really strange for us to get here.  It’s been an incredibly windy and rainy spring.  We actually had enough wind to blow down several trees in my neighborhood and take out part of my fence.”  Again, what’s so unusual about that?

“I did a little research and Idaho and Utah both average 2 tornadoes a year which is probably within the bottom 10 in the U.S. The last time someone was killed from one in Idaho was in 1936 so they are not something that we deal with seriously very often.”  Maybe not often but obviously not never.

Always at least consider the unimaginable or that which is very unlikely.  How would you respond?

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The next Association of Contingency Planners webinar series presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, July 22nd at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Entitled “Case Studies: Community Efforts to Enhance Workplace Preparedness for Bioterrorism,” this will be a presentation by Harlan Dolgin, JD, CBCP, co-owner of Bio-Defense Network and adjunct assistant professor of Business Continuity Management at Saint Louis University.

This session is a follow-up to a popular ACP webinar presented in February that addressed “Protecting your Workforce During a Public Health Emergency Through a Partnership with Local Public Health.” (You can watch that one here.) That session discussed the benefits of becoming a Closed Point of Dispensing (Closed POD) by partnering with your local health department, and provided details of this national program. This session will expand on that by reviewing the highlights of the Closed POD program and using case studies from successful implementations of the program.  During this session, attendees will learn:

  • A short review of the Closed POD program.
  • How employers can benefit from this free program.
  • How communities in Texas, Missouri, New York and California have successfully implemented this program.

Register even if you can’t attend the live presentation so that you automatically receive the link to the recording as well as the presentation slides.  The ACP webinar series is sponsored exclusively by Continuity Housing.

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stealingHave you ever stolen anything from a hotel room you were staying in?  If not, you’re in the minority.  What are the most popular items to grow legs and walk out of a room?  According to this admittedly goofy ‘news’ segment from earlier this month, it’s toiletries, pads, pens, paper, slippers and key cards.  None of which explains the elegant Motel 6 lamp that’s on my desk.

Just kidding.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

Plan For Hidden Threats After A Disaster; Odd Storm Prep Behavior – This Week In Business Continuity

Over the last several weeks the general media has been describing the recent severe flooding across many parts of the central and southern U.S. with adjectives like ‘historic’ and ‘phenomenal.’  That’s debatable but it has been bad enough to cause considerable primary damage and destruction of property.  I say primary because now we’re beginning to see some of the after-effects of the original damage in the form of house fires caused by electrical problems brought on by the original flooding from the Memorial Day weekend storms.  Adding insult to injury, “The potential for fire after a flood can be traced to the wires, circuit panels, switches and outlets that were submerged in water.”

submerged-wiresWhen repairing, renovating or restoring your office, home, car or any other property after it’s been damaged in a similar event, never skimp.  Get the best, the bonded, the highest reviewed and consider what might be a higher repair cost to be an investment in the future.  And your peace of mind.

CenterPoint Energy has a great resource page full of links to storm-associated safety considerations to be aware of.  And while you’re at it, take a look at this fantastic and fairly short video about “Staying Alive When The Power Lines Come Downthat we produced last year and share it with anyone you care about.

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In advance of that received considerable media coverage, city and county officials along the Texas Gulf Coast urged citizens to take the standard storm precautions, prepare for the potential of outages and to gather storm supplies while they may.  Gather they did, emptying some stores of bottled panic-shoppers-billwater, beer, bread, batteries and other items.  The relative panic was such that midway through a normal grocery shopping trip, a friend of mine had her half-full shopping cart ‘appropriated’ by another customer because there weren’t any carts left to use.  Unfortunately, after the storm had passed both the mayor of Houston and the Harris county judge poked fun at the overreaction, moves that probably won’t inspire much confidence in either of them the next time they send out the call for people to get ready for a tropical event.  To quote Houston Chronicle Science Editor Eric Berger from an article the other day, “Politicians don’t understand weather.“

The U.S. Census estimates that around 3,000 people move to the Houston area each month, although I’ve heard numbers that range closer to 10,000 per month.  Splitting the difference, that means that in the 81 months since (the neighborhood’s last significant tropical event) nearly 530,000 people have move to the area.

That’s a lot of newbies, and a lot of people within that group who’ve never experienced a tropical storm or its attendant media hype.  No wonder they over-reacted to news reports about an event that, for many of us, turned out being just a couple of fairly rainy days.

Human behavior.  Always remember to take that into account when you’re refining your company’s organizational response plan.  It’s the most difficult aspect to prepare for but definitely one of the most important.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the senseless church massacre in Charleston last Wednesday night.  Unfortunately such shootings continue to be an increasing reality in our lives.  If you didn’t attend either of the recent Association of Contingency Planners webinars on preparing for and responding to an active shooter, we’ve posted them for you to watch and share with anyone you’d like to.  Part one from April 7th is here and part two recorded last week is here.  The presenter is outstanding and both webinars are about as full as they possibly can be of useful information and instruction.

If you don’t have the time to watch both or either of the webinars, there’s also the much shorter video produced by the City of Houston in 2012 and it can be found here.

Our thoughts and heartfelt prayers continue to be with the families and friends of those killed and injured.

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watch

Image: Apple

I don’t have one (yet?) but here’s another reason to consider getting one of the new smart watches: “Members of Marriott Rewards program who have purchased the Apple Watch will be able to use it globally to access check-in and check-out, get real-time room-ready alerts, view the nearest hotel and next reservation, and see rewards account details.”  Details are available here.  Starwood and Hilton worldwide are also rolling out similar watch-based amenities.  Yet another example of the best and brightest hotel chains providing guests with new and appealing options in an ever-competitive environment.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.

Proactive Pet Preparedness; Marriott to Offer Netflix – This Week in Business Continuity

June is Pet Preparedness Month.  If you have one or more pets, chances are that you love them more than anyone else could understand.  And with good reason.  Dogs and cats especially bring more to our lives than non-pet owners realize but they also have special needs.  That’s why it’s important to be proactive, both as a pet companion and as a BC/DR professional, in taking some serious but easy steps to make sure they’re taken care of in the event of a disaster, whether you end up being deployed because of a business interruption or not.  (Speaking of which, Gulf Coasters are keeping an eye on what the National Hurricane Center will probably upgrade to tropical storm Bill which is slated to make landfall along the Texas coast some time this evening.)

Hotels and shelters are more commonly willing to allow pets these days, so consider putting together a go bag for your pet(s).

Hotels and shelters are more commonly willing to allow pets these days, so consider putting together a go bag for your pet(s).

To help people make sure their pets are ready, the Houston SPCA is offering a discount-priced vaccine and microchipping combo every weekend this month.  Most of you don’t live in Houston so check with your local humane societies and challenge them to match the HSPCA’s deal or see if they offer any similar type of program.  Either way, the Houston Society has also posted a great page full of information and pet prep recommendations on their website.  They’ve even posted a preparedness page about taking care of farm animals.

Which leads us to this week’s important hotel deployment contract term: the pet policy.

account-for-petsAh, the pet policy.  A simple one or two lines in your 15-page hotel contract that can literally make or break your housing success during a deployment.  “If you’re moving entire families as opposed to just the employees themselves, then you absolutely, positively have to account for pets,” says Continuity Housing’s Michelle Lowther.  “Pet owners consider their pets to be part of their family, and many will not relocate without them.  If a member of your critical function team travels with a pet and the room you have secured for them doesn’t accommodate that pet, you can be sure that employee will either stay elsewhere or simply elect not to go.  If they stay somewhere else, then the worst for you is that you risk paying twice for their room.  But if they decide to stay back altogether, then we’re talking about critical functions that won’t be performed, and most of our away teams are far too lean to tolerate that.  Part of the job just won’t get done.”

So how to address this in your hotel contracts?  “Just ask,” says Lowther.  “Most hotels who don’t typically accept pets are willing to make exceptions during emergency circumstances.  Be prepared to pay pet fees and sign damage waivers, all of which vary by hotel.  And most importantly, make sure you agree upon any restrictions such as species, weight or breed that the hotel imposes, so you can communicate properly to your critical team and assign the right people to the right hotels.”

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Speaking of preparedness, the next ACP Webinar Series presentation will be next week: “Getting the Most Value From Your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solution” on Tuesday, June 23rd at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central.  In a nutshell, it’s about more effectively utilizing your BC/DR assets even when there’s not a disaster in progress.  You know the drill with these webinars: short(ish), free, valuable information, not a waste of your time, not a commercial.  Sign up and share the link.  Doing so will make you look good.

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Last chance to register for tomorrow’s Association of Contingency Planners webinar, Active Shooter in Your Workplace: Tactical Planning and Response.” Find out more and register by clicking here.  The webinar will be at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central but if you can’t attend, register anyway so that you receive the automatic follow-up email with the link to the recording of the presentation.

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Last week we posted about the flooding that’s been happening around the country.  Shortly after that I came across this outstanding 52-second animation that explains just how bad it is to even think about crossing moving water in your vehicle.  I’ll admit I’ve been in a floating car and it’s terrifying.  You’re only reading this because I got very, very lucky.  Don’t be as dumb as me and don’t chance it.  Turn around, don’t drown.

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Cheers to Marriott which is now giving guests the option to download Netflix content to their rooms.  This makes the free cable that the industry first began offering in the ‘80’s look like the banquet of four local TV stations we had to choose from when I was a kid . . . and, until about ’73, on a black-and-white TV.  Yes, Netflix on an LCD is much better.

The move acknowledges two major changes in how different industries are responding to consumer demand.  By offering the service, Marriott continues to acknowledge that competition is fierce and that guests respond to increased options.  Just as importantly, Netflix’s continuing expansion reflects the evolution of the home entertainment industry away from traditional television programming.  Which reminds me of the joke about the millionaire who went broke and was asked how it happened.  “Slowly at first,” he replied, “and then all at once.”

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or if you’d like a free 30-minute planning session, let us know.