When Disasters Strike: Preparation, Planning, and Recovery


by Roy Atkinson
September 14, 2017

During recent weeks, we’ve watched as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma battered the Gulf Coast of Texas and the state of Florida, and as multiple wildfires rage in the western US and Canada. Our hearts go out to those affected by flooding, wind, and fire. We’ve been thinking about our community and their families, watching on social media for them to post that they are safe, about what’s going on where they are, and hoping for the best possible outcomes for everyone.

Over the years, we have delivered content about disaster preparedness and recovery, and we hope that the businesses our members, business associates, and larger community work for (or own) will be able to recover swiftly and completely. We thought it would be a good idea to repost some of the information we’ve shared, so that you can be as well prepared as possible if and when a disaster finds you.

Ivanka Menken, CEO of The Art of Service, wrote in SupportWorld:

Even for the most loyal employees, business continuity is likely not as high on the priority list as home and family (including pets). However, the people I interviewed—having been through earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and fire—continued to look after their homes, their families, and their customers, all at the same time. Personally and professionally, the best way to get through a disaster with the least amount of permanent damage is to be well prepared.

Ivanka speaks from more than interview experience: her company’s headquarters were submerged during major flooding in Brisbane, Australia.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Janco’s Victor Janulaitis identified 10 crucial lessons learned:

Consider the safety and personal needs of your employees. Once the event occurred, many of the employees had to deal with their own personal needs. This included medical, food, and water issues. Have a plan in place to address this. For example, within three days of Sandy, FEMA ran out of water and had to wait several days for it to be shipped in. In addition, a number of hospitals in the disaster area had to be evacuated.

The key message is the same: Put people first, and those people will put their loved ones first.

Preparation and planning are essential, of course. After the floods in Brisbane, every employee at Ivanka’s company was equipped with a “go bag” containing everything they would need to work from a remote location, and the back-office infrastructure was revamped to support this.

But planning and acquiring the right equipment and software is only part of the equation. As Victor reminded us, frequent readiness testing is critical, as is ensuring that equipment is in peak operating condition:

Business continuity plans, including standby generators, should be "exercised" periodically to ensure they will operate as designed in the event of an emergency. Proper maintenance and servicing are the key to reliability.

When an F5 tornado destroyed Moore Medical Center in Moore, OK, in 2013, planning was put to the test. After only 12 hours, technology was available for care providers. In an HDI webinar, John Meharg, drector of Health Information Technology (HIT) at Norman Regional Health System, shared their story, including what went well, what didn’t, and what lessons were learned in the aftermath. (Meharg’s presentation begins at 13:00.)

We will continue to watch and listen as our members and friends get through some very tough times, and do our best to keep you informed on good practices for preparedness and recovery.

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Roy Atkinson Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): business continuity, disaster recovery, support operations, technical support, supportworld

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