What and HOW to Learn From the Gang Fight in Waco; More Tips for Contracting Deployment Housing – This Week in Business Continuity

"This is not a Waco problem. This is a nationwide problem because of the amount of activity that's involved in criminal activity with groups and organizations like this." – Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department Image: KTRK

“This is not a Waco problem. This is a nationwide problem because of the amount of activity that’s involved in criminal activity with groups and organizations like this.”
– Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department
Image: KTRK

Another week, another “What in the world???” moment.  Nine murdered, 170 arrested (bail for each one of whom was set at a million dollars), more than 100 cars stuck within the boundaries of the investigation scene and all of it spun out of control even though there were families eating inside the restaurant and pre-deployed law enforcement officers were standing right there.  The motorcycle gang fight in a mall parking lot in Waco on Sunday – a Sunday morning – reminds us that craziness can happen literally anywhere at any time.  As a business continuity professional and, even more importantly, as a person living through these times of ours as best you can, it behooves you to constantly improve on and update your overall survivability awareness.

fbi-permissionThe Red Cross, CERT and other federal agencies offer general safety courses but take the initiative and find out what local resources you can avail yourself of in order to increase your general odds of survival.  Such as the upcoming Association of Contingency Planners webinar, “Active Shooter in Your Workplace: Tactical Planning and Response,” a free, 45-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 16th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Register here.  The situation in Waco on Sunday wasn’t a classic active shooter situation but the event shared some characteristics with what can happen when one or more active shooters are involved.  Note that this is a follow-up webinar to a similar one that the same highly qualified presenter shared with us on April 7th and will actually include information that he had to get permission from the FBI to use.  You do not need to have attended that webinar to benefit from the upcoming webinar but you can watch the video of the April webinar here if you’d like to.

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Next on the roster of ACP webinars, however, is “Blast & Flood Zones, Terrorism and DDoS Attacks: New Elements of a Comprehensive DR Plan,” scheduled for this Tuesday, May 26th at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central.  For more information and to register, go here.

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The 2015 Secure360 conference took place in Minneapolis last week and those people know how to throw a show.  Billed as “The premier educational conference in the Upper Midwest for the information security and risk management industries,” our Michelle Lowther attended as a speaker and says that it was educational and well run, which is high praise from someone with a background in hospitality and convention management.  “The breakouts were refreshing, ranging from active shooter prevention and detection of insider threats to assessment of critical vendor resiliency,” says Lowther.  “The keynotes were especially good.  Ever see the movie Catch Me If You Can?  Our first keynote was the real Frank Abagnale’s insider’s take on identity theft.  Really good stuff.”

The conference was created by the Upper Midwest Security Alliance which was founded in 2004 with the goal to provide a “collaborative, multi-faceted conference” that “presents a unique opportunity to experience a national-quality conference without traveling to Orlando or Las Vegas.”

Our friends at Rentsys hosted a booth on the trade show floor, their third time to do so and according to account executive Mike Manchester, “Secure360 addresses a variety of security and risk management disciplines including Business Continuity, Information Systems Risk Management, Physical Security and Records Management. Being the premier educational conference in the Upper Midwest for the security and risk management industry, the over 800 attendees [of the show] have the opportunity to interact with vendors from the multiple disciplines during the unopposed exhibit hall periods.”  (Unopposed hall hours are a whole lot better than when show management schedules general and breakout sessions during show hours.)

If your organization is headquartered or has facilities in the general neighborhood, consider attending next year when the show will be in St. Paul on May 17th and 18th.  Mark a few months from now to check back to their website; they haven’t updated for 2016 registration yet.

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This week in hotel booking contract terms to know: an extremely important one called “performance” which refers to the number of room nights that you actually consume in a continuity deployment versus the number that you contracted for ahead of time.  “For example,” says Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther, “50 rooms for three nights is 150 room nights.  Hotels allow a certain percentage of slippage (called attrition) in your contracts in the same way you see attrition referred to in the work force – jobs that are lost but not replaced in a certain company or industry.”

She continues, “The hotel industry standard for allowable attrition is between 10% and 20% and will vary based on market demand. Over the last couple of years the market in general has swung in favor of the hotels. They’re actually cancelling bookings now that were made four or five years ago when business was slower and hotels had to offer lower rates and less advantageous (to them) terms in order to book more profitable business as a replacement.  They’ve determined that the financial damages associated with canceling the contracts is acceptable given the higher revenue these new bookings represent  We’ll discuss cancellation at a later time but for now, performance.

“Why is performance vital to quantify?  If the hotel allows 20% attrition, you’ll be held to 80% of what you contract (or 120 room nights out of 150); that’s the minimum number you’d have to pay for.  If you consume 130 room nights, you pay for all 130; if you use 105 room nights, you still have to pay for 120 . . . but still a lot better than having to pay for, say, 140 room nights if you were only able to negotiate 10% attrition.  No one wants to pay for rooms they didn’t use, and there are ways to mitigate your damages if you find yourself in that situation.”  We’ll take a look at how to make that monster less scary next week.

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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.

Severe Weather Dominating the News For A While Yet, and Another Hotel Contract Must-Have – This Week in Business Continuity

T.S. Ana. Radar image: WLTX

T.S. Ana. Radar image: WLTX

Revisiting a few topics from last week, tropical storm Ana made landfall Sunday morning as a fairly benign little rainmaker.  But it made landfall on Sunday.  May 10thQuiet season?  One storm.  That’s what we prepare for, every season.

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From coast to coast, the U.S. is squarely in the middle of the usual severe springtime weather season as winter yields begrudgingly to summer.  The current cycle of bad weather is particularly brutal in the Plains States with north Texas being the recipient of the worst of it over the weekend.

I was associated with the weather forecasting industry for a while and severe springtime weather has always struck me as the most fickle and vengeful of the different types of natural causes of business disruption.  Here’s my subjective and really unscientific comparison.

  • tornadoesHurricanes and tropical storms: usually a fair amount of warning, at least a few days and often more than a week but the potential impact on vast regions of coastal and even inland populations can be devastating. Always be prepared.
  • Blizzards: generally a fair amount of warning although impact varies according to elevation and regional conditions but the aftermath can mean loss of power and the inability to even pull out of your driveway for weeks or more. Always be prepared.
  • Map: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

    Map: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

    Spring and fall severe weather, specifically tornadoes: medium-term generalized warnings, some immediately specific targeted warning with impacts that can range from hailstone videos to post on your Facebook page up to large swaths of entire communities erased from existence. Note that tornadoes occur on every continent except Antarctica but the vast majority of tornadoes occur in the U.S. with an average of 1,000 per year (see map; click to enlarge).  Canada is a distant second with about 100 a year. Always be prepared.

  • Earthquakes and volcanoes . . . when Mother Nature snaps: absolutely no warning ever. Potential damage can range from mildly annoying to utterly shattering.  Always be prepared.

I’ve lived in either earthquake or hurricane zones all my life, both of which I’ve experienced many, many times and neither of which I’m particularly afraid.  Tornadoes, however, scare the heck out of me because they’re rabidly surprising and vicious.  My heart goes out to those who live in Tornado Alley.  I honestly don’t know how they do it.  And my message and recurring theme, as always, is always be prepared.

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Last week’s attack at the convention center in Garland, Texas has been discussed enough elsewhere but good business continuity professionals should note the secondary impact of the attack: the convention center was closed for several days afterwards while the investigation continued and many people were unable to even retrieve their cars from the adjacent parking lots.  Regardless of the nature of the disruption and even if your business isn’t directly impacted, a similar delay in restoration of operations could occur at any time.  If your organization’s business continuity doesn’t include contingencies for such a disruption, find out why and fix that.

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Hotel contracts can be obnoxious and confusing because they contain terms like guaranteed no-shows, cancellation, early departure, attrition and a dozen more that I won’t list because to many people they’re obnoxious and confusing.  Which is why last week we started a weekly series called Hotel Contract Must-Haves.  This week’s must-have is right of first refusal, a fussy-sounding concept that, if properly executed, can weigh heavily in your favor in any deployment housing contract.  (I always think of Lucy from Peanuts when I think of ROFR.)

Says Continuity Housing’s principal Michelle Lowther, “In a nutshell, when Continuity Housing executes a contract with a hotel for guaranteed rooms, our clients get dibs on those rooms in the event of a deployment unless they specifically release them back to the hotel in writing.  If there’s a major disruption that creates a substantial demand for rooms at their contracted hotel(s), the hotel(s) can give those rooms to other companies but only if they agree to let them do so.  This might happen if, say, their headquarters or other critical facilities weren’t impacted by an event such as a snowstorm that instead took a toll on a region adjacent to theirs.  It’s a great clause that lets our clients be nice corporate citizens without ever having to forfeit their own companies’ protection.”

Alas, there many variations on the adoption of properly inserted ROFR such as limitation of your length of stay and transferability, not to mention term and schedule of renegotiation.  But then that’s why Continuity Housing’s clients like us so much.  We don’t just take the headache of housing off of your plate . . . we make those contracts less obnoxious and confusing. 

Full disclosure: no one employed at Continuity Housing is an attorney and none of the services provided are meant to be construed as legal advice, however we are experts at sourcing and negotiating with hotels.  Any language in any contract you ever sign should always be carefully vetted by all parties involved.

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Don’t miss your last chance to register for a 25-minute ACP Webinar Series presentation, “The 2015 Atlantic Tropical Season Outlook,” this Thursday, May 14th at 10:30 Central to hear what THE hurricane expert – Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecaster for StormGeo, Inc. – thinks we can expect from the coming hurricane season.  Register here now.  Space is limited and remember to register even if you can’t attend the live event so that you automatically receive the follow-up email with the link to the recording of the webinar.

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Finally, last week we also discussed the fact that Continuity Housing works hand in hand with ConferenceDirect and their $700+ million in annual buying power with hotels, exclusive hotel contract terms and an impeccable reputation in the hospitality industry.  Another reason ConferenceDirect is such a positive influence on the hotel and planning industry is their commitment to the goal of educating their clients worldwide on industry trends, technology and other critical leadership and management skills that will support them in saving their organization time and money while better serving the constituents their clients are responsible for (i.e., you).  Which is why at CDX San Diego this September in San Diego will feature Nick Tasler, Best-Selling Author of “Why Quitters Win: Decide to Be Excellent.” According to materials describing the event, “The book shares an imperative message about maintaining focus on the important items that will serve your organization in meeting its goals and not being afraid to walk away from the ones that don’t.”

Which reminds me of the brilliant Michael Jordan quote: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

CDX, by the way, is ConferenceDirect’s exclusive series of educational events for their top customers, associates and partners.  You very probably aren’t eligible to attend but we are and we do and that’s a good thing for you.

Have a great week, even if you fail a little.

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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.

Hotel Contract Must-Haves . . . And A Tropical Storm That Can’t Read A Calendar – This Week in Business Continuity

Image: IPS MeteoStar via Eric Berger.

Image: IPS MeteoStar via Eric Berger. Click to enlarge.

You may have heard by now that a tropical storm may form near the Carolinas later this week.  Yes, it’s May and hurricane season doesn’t start for another 3 ½ weeks.  And never mind all the seasonal outlooks up to this point that predict the tropical Atlantic is supposed to remain fairly quiet this year.  Seriously – never mind those.  I like this early blooming storm because it reminds us that it’s not the season we prepare for, it’s the one storm.  Nonetheless, the chances for development are minimal and if it does develop, chances are that it will just be a rainmaker.  And, as my friend and Houston Chronicle Science Editor (and newly-minted certified meteorologist) Eric Berger points out, it’s still expected to be a quiet season.

Not that it’s the season that we prepare for . . .

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In other news, Happy Star Wars Day!  (“May the fourth.”  Get it?)  I know I’m a day late but it lets me tie in how Continuity Housing brings The Force to our clients by leveraging our alliance with ConferenceDirect to the benefit of those same clients.  For those of you who’ve never heard of ConferenceDirect (said Force), they’re the industry leader in providing “professional event management and meeting planning services that save you time and money, guaranteed.”  And if you’ve ever visited the Continuity Housing website you know that we work hand in hand with ConferenceDirect and their $700+ million in annual buying power with hotels, exclusive hotel contract terms and an impeccable reputation in the hospitality industry. End of commercial.  But read on.

A few weeks ago Conference Direct hosted their Annual Partnership Meeting (APM) in Dallas.  ConferenceDirect prides itself in being the one global source for its customers’ meeting needs.  As such, they place tremendous value on being consultative with their customers in matters that relate to meetings and travel.  Which is good because nearly the entire Continuity Housing staff attended the meeting. Their three different annual meetings – APM is the biggest – are part of ConferenceDirect’s commitment to the goal of educating their clients worldwide on industry trends, technology and other critical leadership and management skills that will support them in saving their organizations time and money while better serving the constituents their clients are responsible for.

And, like our webinars, they use interesting, educational and entertaining speakers to help their customers blossom.  This year, for instance, they brought in The ONE Thing co-authors Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, founder and chairman of the board for Keller Williams Realty, to talk about the idea to “Go Big” with your goals and ensure every day you are doing the one thing that gets you to your goal. With all the “noise” of the day, it is imperative to prioritize the things that are getting you towards your goal . . . not distracting you from achieving them.  Read more about their book and the concept overall at the1thing.com.  Conference Direct brought in several other outstanding speakers and I’ll talk about those in the next posting.  Because learning how other people do things really well helps us tighten up on continuity plans on a constant basis.  For now though, suffice it to say that it was time well spent at the APM in Dallas, as literally hundreds of hotels from across the globe came to meet, do business and nurture relationships with the ConferenceDirect, and thus the Continuity Housing, staff.  More on that later, too.

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Contracts are obnoxious and confusing because they contain terms like guaranteed no-shows, cancellation, early departure, attrition, comps, room block audits, direct billing, successors and assigns, force majeure, provision for and allowance of pets, indemnification, liquidated damages, hotel internet service details, first right of refusal and provisions to renegotiate.  In order to minimize the confusion, we’re starting a weekly series called Hotel Contract Must-Haves.  We’ll hit one topic a week and this week it’s the reality that a room night is a perishable good and why, as a business continuity planner, that concept is very, very important to you.

According to Continuity Housing principal Michelle Lowther, “If a hotel has 400 rooms and 30 of those go empty tonight, they lose forever the opportunity to make money on those 30 rooms.  As opposed to a manufacturing scenario, where a supplier’s production can fluctuate based on demand, hotels have the same number of rooms available every single night.  And once a given night passes, so does the hotel’s chance for revenue on any rooms that sit empty.  Because of that, hotels have perfected the art of bringing in the most profitable guests and group business [10+ rooms per night] to keep the hotel’s RevPAR [Revenue Per Available Room, which is the only way to truly compare hotels’ profitability] as high as possible. It’s like piecing together a puzzle for them.  Based on factors such as historical occupancy over a given period, arrival/departure pattern, current and forecasted occupancy at the time of the reservation request, market compression, client relationship with the hotel, number of days remaining during which the hotel could possibly book other business over the given period, and an analysis to quantify other business which they may turn away by “accepting” yours, hotels come up with length of stay and room rate restrictions to direct reservations into the most profitable buckets.  Which means that just because they tell you they’re sold out on a particular date or dates doesn’t necessarily mean they’re full.  It may just mean they aren’t taking reservations for that exact time period at the time of your request because they’re gambling that they can better optimize their revenue over those dates.  It’s possible that if you change your check-in or check-out date to a day earlier or a day later, voila, there might suddenly be a room available.

“From the business continuity standpoint,” she continues, “when you ask a hotel to hold a group of rooms for your company or even a single room for yourself, there’s no motivation for them to do so without a commitment on your part to pay for that room.  If you’re not going to pay for it, the hotel’s job is to find someone else who will.  So the concept of a room night being a perishable good is fundamental to negotiating any type of contingency arrangement with a hotel.  Once you have that down, there are more than 60 other negotiable terms in an average hotel contract, some of which can not only burn you financially but also impact the success of your overall deployment.  The most important thing you can do is make sure your contract covers ALL the what-ifs.”

Have you ever been denied a room block reservation or arrived to find your rooms aren’t available?  Tell us about it.  And feel free to ask any questions you have about guaranteeing the process so that you don’t have the same problems in the future.  We know a thing or two about 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.

The App That Brought Commercial Flights to a Halt, the Art of Negotiating a Discount and Three Great Webinars – This Week in Business Continuity

Happy May Day, a term that means different things in different parts of the world.  In Houston it refers to a relatively new program focusing on a full day of preparedness in light of the start of the Atlantic tropical storm season exactly a month from now.  (Wasn’t it Christmas like five minutes ago?)  I like the idea of the program so much that I’m only very slightly embarrassed to be halfway through this sentence before I realized that the program name is a takeoff of one of several radio voice procedure distress calls.  Anyway, I encourage you to find out what your local community or city government has in the way of immediately local preparedness programs because, as the old saying goes, every disaster is local.  You don’t have a hurricane season in your neighborhood?  That’s no reason not to be prepared.

Mayday fun fact: the term is based, for several reasons, on the word m’aidez (pron. may-day, more or less), French for “help me.”

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hurricane-zelda

A prototype graphic of the new system. Click to enlarge.

Speaking of hurricane season, there’s a new tool to help coastal communities determine where flooding from storm surge might mean they need to take action in anticipation of a landfalling storm.  I remember when NOAA first started working on these maps quite a few years ago.  The short story is that there are a whole lot of variables that need to be taken into account in those maps for each different storm because of variability in wind speed(s), anticipated wave heights, local geography, anticipated hourly rainfall, the depth and slope of the immediately offshore seabed, the direction the storm is traveling, etc. etc.  That NOAA is finally releasing the system for use by the public means that they must have – knock on wood – perfected the system to an extent although even they admit that the tool is still “very crude.”  Then again, 2015 is also anticipated to be a slow year for storm generation so maybe they’re hoping for a rookie to spar against.

I’d provide a link to the new tool – officially called the Experiment Storm Surge Generator – but it appears that the system is still in beta because for now it’s password protected despite the many recent online references available.  I’ll keep checking and update you on the situation in a week or two.  In the meantime, more details are available from NOAA via this .pdf.

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Approach plate for Chicago Midway (KMCW). Not current and very much NOT to be used for navigational purposes.

Approach plate for Chicago Midway (KMCW). Not current and very much NOT to be used for navigational purposes.

On Wednesday, American Airlines announced that 24 flights were delayed on Tuesday and another 50 were delayed the next day due to a glitch in the iPad app that AA pilots use for navigation purposes.  Which you probably already knew – and yes, hundreds of U.S. flights are delayed every day, and that’s on a good day – but it’s a situation that we should stop and think about for a moment.  Dozens of multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art aircraft carrying thousands of busy people on their way to do important things all brought to a screeching halt because of an app?

Modern aviation navigation aids trace back to a wise and extremely industrious pilot by the name of Elrey (sic) Jeppesen.  Among several other aviation firsts, Capt. Jeppesen was the pioneer of studiously examining and recording airports and their surrounding elements from the air – telephone/telegraph poles, variations in geography and topography, radio towers, adjacent roadways, etc. – and studiously detailing them one airport per page in what have long since been referred to as approach plates despite the fact that the maps are printed on small pages of onion skin paper.  Many years ago I worked for an aviation company and I well remember the bulky stacks of plates constantly updated and delivered to pilots reflecting the changing conditions at airports all over the world.  Bulky, time-consuming to replace in their “Jeppesen binders,” lots of which used to take up an entire bookshelf in the cockpit, and very expensive.  I remember when the first modern avionics packages were made available to pilots and thought at the time that constantly updated approach e-plates were just a few years away.  I was about 15 years off.

According to the article, “The airline has estimated the paperless program saves the company at least 400,000 gallons of fuel every year. In all, 8,000 iPads replaced 24 million pages of documents.” That approach plates and other navaids are now available in a near instantaneously updated fashion means that the system is now not only much cheaper and much, much more convenient, it’s also a tremendous safety enhancement.  Nevertheless, the situation this week reminds us that sometimes an old-school backup that works without electricity or an internet connection will definitely come in handy from time to time.  An example that directly applies to you: on my block in the ‘70’s, the Wrights were always the “first family to get ____” family.  Color TV, microwave . . . electric can opener.  I distinctly remember several days into a sustained power outage when their youngest, Susie, came somewhat desperately looking for a manual can opener.  Lucky for her, my parents had held onto ours “just in case.”  Guess business continuity’s in my blood.

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Julie!

Julie!

In “business continuity business” news, this month’s award of distinction at Continuity Housing goes to our Global Account Executive and Team Lead Julie Hicks.  The week before last she used her extensive experience and knowledge of the deployment housing industry – part of the value we bring to both our clients and their hotel partners – to negotiate on behalf of one our larger clients a 5.8% across-the-board discount on their room night rate for upcoming deployments.  In some cases, hotels in the second year of a multi-year contract reduced their 2015 rates after meeting with Julie even though they were not contractually obligated to do so.  One of several programs Continuity Housing manages for this particular client, Julie was working with Gulf Coast hotels to handle ad hoc evacuations for the client’s deepwater drilling assets.  Given the current price of a barrel of oil our client, and consequently we, are looking under every rock for savings.  The entire legal profession prevents us from sharing additional details but keep in mind that the hotel industry in general is in the midst of a 7% overall increase in room rates so the discount Julie negotiated amounts to what is closer to a 13% discount.  For a two-week deployment of 150 critical employees, that means a potential savings of more $14,000.  We like Julie, a lot.  Her accounts, however, adore her.

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Finally, we have three more outstanding webinars coming up and the topic of one of them is, you guessed it, the 2015 Atlantic tropical season outlook.  As always, these webinars are free and worth every minute of your time so remember to register even if you can’t attend ‘in person’ so that you’ll automatically receive the follow-up email with the link to the recorded version.  As always, space really is limited so don’t dally.

  • Thursday May 14th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central: “An ACP Webinar: The 2015 Atlantic Tropical Season Outlook with Chris Hebert of StormGeo.” For more information and to register, go here.
  • Tuesday, May 26th at 2:00 Eastern / 1:00 Central: “An ACP Webinar: Blast & Flood Zones, Terrorism and DDoS Attacks: New Elements of a Comprehensive DR Plan” presented by Christian Lappin of TierPoint. Learn more and register.
  • Wednesday, June 10th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central: “A Continuity Housing Webinar: The 17 Mistakes Organizations Make in Creating Their Emergency Plans & How to Correct Them” presented by former police commissioner and president of 911 Consulting, Bo Mitchell. Some of you will remember Bo from an ACP webinar he presented for us last month on planning for and responding to an active shooter in the workplace, a follow-up to which will take place in June.  For now, learn more about the 17 Mistakes webinar and register 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.

Working From Home = Disaster Recovery? Think Again . . . & the Civil Unrest Webinar You Missed – This Week in Business Continuity

There’s a reason I post so often about the webinar series that the Association of Contingency Planners hosts for anyone who wants to attend them and at no charge.  It’s because the topics and presenters and content are all outstanding.  Last week’s was no exception.  Presented by Steve Crimando, principal of Behavioral Science Applications, the topic was “Business Continuity in Times of Civil Unrest” and you can watch the whole thing on YouTube here.  Sure, it runs an hour and 24 minutes which is twice as long as most of the presentations in the series.  But it ranks among the best, most educational and genuinely interesting presentations since the series began five years ago.  The reviews from the post-presentation survey were outstanding and enthusiastic and we’ll definitely have Steve back soon.

Steve Crimando

Steve Crimando

Why watch a business video that’s so long?  This one, like so many of the others in the series, most definitely falls into the category of “stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know” and, as we prefer be the case with each of these webinars, it covers a range of material that you can apply not only to your company’s business continuity strategy but to your own life and lifestyle as well.  For example, did you know that depending on the type of crowd you might find yourself in – whether by choice or by coincidence – escalation from passivity and even celebration to a scenario of chaos can happen very, very quickly?  Or that it just takes five people on one side of you and a wall on the other to possibly result in severe injury or worse?  Still not convinced?  Check out Steve’s bona fides.  He knows and he’s a great presenter.  In fact, he the same material before a live audience the very next day, as was reported in this interesting and very informative article.

Watch it.  Even if you have to do so in stages over a period of days.  It’s the kind of information that you’ll want to share with your coworkers and probably even your family.

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More companies are starting to build telework / work-from-home tactics into their overall BC/DR strategies and that might not be a good idea according to this great article because:

  • Landlines are required to work for at least 24 hours after a power outage occurs but there’s no requirement that service be maintained in such a situation for cell service, VOIP, DSL or other internet connection.
  • If the power goes out at the employee’s home(s), how will they charge their cell phones or laptops? Ditto their modem or wifi router.
  • Post-incident, unsecured bandwidth capabilities, especially in residential areas, will be strained, slowed or even unavailable altogether.

I’ll add one: how many of us even have landlines at home anymore?  Anecdotally (and therefore 100% statistically invalid), I was one of the last of the holdouts in my little circle but finally ditched my beloved (since 1982) landline early last year.  I’d had it since 1982 and I missed it horribly . . . for about a week. But I also well remember the last time we had a sustained power outage after Ike when I thought, with all the modesty and humility I could summon, “Ahhh ha haaaaaa!  They all have their cell phones but the cell towers don’t have power and within a few hours none of their phones will either!  But wise me has held on to my landline – and I don’t much regret having paid more than $300 a year for the privilege – so I and I alone will be able to make calls from home!”  Key word: alone.  A few nights into the blackout I remember the thrill of hearing the old-school dial tone emanate from my landline handset and then realizing that I couldn’t call . . . almost anybody.  Because all their cell phones were dead.

Granted, your setup might be different if you have tiny ones at home or a home alarm system tied to your landline, but if having key personnel work from home is a key or even partial element of your recovery strategy either reconsider or make darn sure that the required infrastructure is intact at each of their homes.

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Finally, this past Monday was the five-year anniversary of the initial Deepwater Horizon explosion which killed 11 crew members and injured 17.  The explosion also caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history and it took crews nearly three months to finally cap the damaged seabed wellhead.  The event is marked in the minds of many of us but it’s particularly memorable for the deployment team at Continuity Housing.  According to principal Michelle Lowther, “In hindsight and with the greatest respect to those who lost their lives or loved ones and to those who were injured, it was both the best and worst professional experience we’ve ever had.  The worst because of the heartbreaking tragedy of the crew and the calamity of the spill but the best from a professional standpoint considering the service we were able to provide crews from all over the world who were deployed to assist in containment, cleanup and remediation.

95000Continuity Housing provided over 95,000 room nights to all kinds of response companies and agencies. At the peak of the response we had more than 100 hotels under contract, we assisted thousands of responders from Texas to Florida with their housing needs, and the full span of our involvement ran more than four years.  So nothing close to a typical deployment.  The contract clauses we crafted to address the unique and fluid nature of this response have become our ‘go-to’ best practice clauses that we now incorporate into all of our clients’ hotel contracts.”  If you’ve ever been on the front lines of a mid- to large-scale response, you know exactly what Lowther means when she says, “An experience like that one makes you or breaks you in this industry.  When you’re in it, it’s hard to see because it’s all about getting the next piece done and there’s always, always a next piece.  Then once it’s over and you have the benefit of hindsight and sleep, you see the way people came together from across disciplines and without ego to support each other and the overall effort.  It was extraordinary.”

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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 2015 Hurricane Season Predictions, FEMA’s Updated Severe Weather Prep “Toolkit” and More: This Week In Business Continuity

Regardless of what pops into your head when you hear or see the word FEMA, the reality is that the majority of the people involved with the organization want to do their best to mitigate the effects of disasters and help restore any interrupted environment to normalcy as soon as possible.  Just like the vast majority of the rest of us.

No, really.  In the spirit of this goal they’ve updated their Severe Weather Preparedness kit which debuted last year.  The kit’s basically a list of different types of online and social media tools to help you keep your people aware and prepared.  Comparing it to last year’s, the kit appears to have only been updated cosmetically but it’s still a handy collection of information to have even in this age when every company in the world wants you to install their own apps and access links on your phone.  The document can be accessed here.  Click on the second one, the .pdf.  Disregard the “[attach graphic]” notations; I don’t know why they didn’t just import those and place them in the doc.  Anybody else know?

severe-weather

Here’s another nifty list of online BC and related resources and apps that we posted last year.

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I’ll spare you the suspense: “We anticipate that the 2015 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century.”  Every year Drs. Phil Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University release their predictions of the number and types of Atlantic tropical storms they expect . . . and every year the media publishes the report as well as the several updates that the team releases throughout the season.  Why?  Because regardless of the fact that seasonal expectations aren’t nearly as important to prepare for as the one storm that might affect your location(s), the duo is pretty good at giving us a solid idea of the general conditions that we can expect.

least-activeI’ve met Dr. Gray and over the years I’ve come to know Phil pretty well and they’re both seriously dedicated and extremely good at what they do.  And with each passing year the technology improves and the algorithms get tweaked just that much more.  Like any team boldly daring to put their necks on the line about a subject that can have a tremendous impact on so many, they’ve missed the mark a few times.  But they run a tight ship, sans agenda, and both are nearly as talented at seasonal forecasts as is Chris Hebert of StormGeo.

And – segue alert – speaking of Chris Hebert, we’re genuinely honored to have him share his more detailed 2015 Atlantic hurricane season outlook in a 25-minute webinar on May 14th at 10:30 C / 11:30 E.  For more information and to register, click here.  I’ve produced more than 200 webinars since 2006 and I’ve known Chris for 24 years and I can say this: Chris and webinars were made for each other.  He’s one of the two or three best webinar (and live) presenters I’ve ever encountered and his presentations are always very fast-paced, informative and even entertaining.  The webinar is free to attend and, as always, register even if you can’t attend that day so that you automatically receive the follow-up email with the slide show and the link to the recording of the webinar that you can watch any time.

2015-forecast

Will Chris’ outlook be the same or more or less accurate than the one issued last week by Dr. Gray and Dr. Klotzbach?  Yes and no.  From the discussions we’ve had, I expect the specific numbers will be similar but some of the reasoning will be different.  And far easier to digest than the in-depth material in the Colorado State report.

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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.

This Week In Business Continuity: Not the Same Old Hurricane Stuff

“But it’s been so quiet for so long.”  “But they said this year isn’t going to be that active.”  “But this area hasn’t been hit in 15 years . . . “  But, but, but.  Hurricanes haven’t gone away and they’ll be back sooner than we’d prefer; the season starts in just seven weeks.  My hope is that this is the only time we’ll post about the Atlantic Tropical Storm Season this year and, fingers crossed, there won’t be any severe storms to post about later this year.

Clear skies on Monday, landfall on Thursday night. Click to enlarge.

Clear skies on Monday, landfall on Thursday night. Click to enlarge.

But every year at this time I remember that the Houston-Galveston area has been caught by surprise in two different ways in the last few decades.  Once with hurricane Alicia in ’83 which formed up just south of Louisiana as a small thunderstorm but which made landfall near Galveston just three days later as a major category three hurricane.  Note that it was the ‘A’ storm, i.e., the first storm of the season, and yet it didn’t develop until fairly late in what had been a very quiet season.  On the flip side of the surprise scale, tropical storm Allison smacked the same area in the very first week of the season in 2001.  Allison’s winds weren’t high enough to warrant its elevation to hurricane status and yet the devastation it yielded was such that it’s the only tropical storm ever to have its name retired from the list without ever having been a hurricane at all.

Two news items this week also remind us that there’s always plenty to keep up with in the world of tropical storm preparation.

  • Despite a relatively quiet period over the last several years (depending on your location), “the insured value of property along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts jumped from $7.2 trillion in 2004 to $10.6 trillion in 2012” due to the continued explosion of growth and development of real property and infrastructure along both coasts. “Too many people are in denial about the risk,” says surge-problemSteven Weisbart, chief economist for the New York-based Insurance Information Institute.  “The population has decided it’s not afraid of being exposed to hurricanes and storm surge.”  That’s a problem.  And remember, more than half of the population of the U.S. lives within 50 miles of a coastline, although tropical storms aren’t usually that much of a problem for the West Coast.  Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder that if you live in a coastal zone that experiences frequent or even just occasional tropical activity, it’s not the season that you prepare for – it’s the one storm.  This applies to both your personal/residential circumstances and your professional situation.  And with more and more neighbors moving in each year, you’ll need to be even shrewder in improving your response plan in the future.
  • On the brighter side of the news, in an effort to enhance forecast precision of the potential effects of a storm, starting this year NOAA will for the first time issue separate warnings and watches for the categories of wind speed and storm surge. Why?  Because by far the flooding caused by storm surge is not only more damaging to property than high winds but surge also kills far more people than high winds do.  (If you’re a coastal native, “hide from the wind, run from the water” is even more a part of your genetic makeup than “hunker down” is.) Higher wind speeds don’t always result in more severe surge and vice-versa, so splitting those categories into two different types of watches and warnings should help improve the accuracy of the forecasts and, hopefully, make people heed the warnings better than they sometimes have in the past.    If nothing else, at least it will give all of us in business continuity something more concrete to work with when our executives look to us for recommendations about whether or not to trigger a deployment.

hurricane-webinarJust what do the experts think the 2015 season will bring?  Continuity Housing hasn’t hosted a season outlook webinar in a while so we asked Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecast with ImpactWeather, for a short webinar on May 14th at 11:30 Eastern / 10:30 Central.  Here’s more information and where you can register to attend.   I’ve known Chris for 25 years and he’s the undisputed master of both seasonal and storm-specific hurricane forecasting in addition to being a skilled and entertaining presenter.  This Continuity Housing webinar is, as always, free and you’re welcome to invite whoever you’d like to.

Do you have an interesting business continuity-related topic or solution that you’d like to host a webinar about?  Email me.  If your topic is compelling, your content is solution-oriented, your presentation style is superior and your presentation is NOT a sales pitch, Continuity Housing may be interested in hosting and publicizing your presentation at no cost to you.  When we share what we’ve learned, we all benefit.

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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.