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This will be the last formal blog of the year!

The news item which caught my eye at lunchtime on Thursday is the ongoing flooding causing so much disruption to various parts of the UK. Today’s report showed a terrace of houses in Whitby which have had their gardens washed away and now will have to be demolished. They were built on a steep slope originally and the slope below them has been washed away and subsequently they are now sitting on the edge of a 20 foot cliff. It is too dangerous to allow the occupants back into the house as they could, at any moment, slip down the slope and crash into the houses below. I watched the interview with one of the residents, Jude Knight, she spoke of how she had to abandon all her possessions in the house and didn’t know where she was going to live as she had lived in the house for over 20 years.

Flooding or fire to me (you can get them at the same time as happened in Superstorm Sandy) seem to be one of the most common incidents which can cause damage to one of the key assets, of many organizations and their buildings. From the case of the lady who had lived in the house for 20 years, presumably without her garden slipping down the hill, this was the first time the house had been affected by an incident. So this shows to me that although you haven’t been affected by a natural event, such as flooding, you may be affected by it in the future. She also may have thought that she could not be affected by severe rainfall as she lived half way up a hill. The lesson for this is that just because your key asset hasn’t been affected by an incident doesn’t mean that if the right combinations of events come together you wouldn’t be affected.

Another lady was interviewed on the news. She had been flooded before and wanted to sell her house to get out of the area but very quickly realised she would never sell as she would have to declare to prospective buyers that it had been flooded before. After the first flooding she had made her house resilient to flooding. She had made the following alterations to her house:

  1. Replaced her kitchen with stainless steel one so after a flood she could just hose it out.
  2. Her kitchen appliances were at counter level rather than on the floor.
  3. She had ceramic tiles on the floors.
  4. All the electrics were at shoulder height rather than at ankle height.
  5. The plaster on her walls was water proof rather than porous.

It didn’t stop her house from flooding but she could recover much quicker than her neighbors and flood had a much smaller affect on her house.

In the same way I think we as business continuity people need to make our buildings more resilient, so we can recover quicker especially when there are known threats to our buildings.

A few suggestions!

  1. Don’t put our key IT and communications systems in the basement which is always the first place to flood. The flooding could be caused by an internal burst pipe as well as external flooding. It might be worth thinking about the positioning of key parts of infrastructure like the standby generator or the air conditioning and putting them above any likely flood level.
  2. I have seen office buildings, where they were in a known flood zone, build the office so that the ground floor was the car park and then the first floor and above were the offices. When it flooded they couldn’t get into the building but as soon as the flood went down they were up and running.
  3. This should be “preaching to the converted” but just because an event such as flooding of your office hasn’t happened before, it doesn’t mean it might never happen. You know that, but do your senior managers, budget holders and decision makers know it?

I know it is a few weeks yet before Christmas, although if you go to the shops you wouldn’t believe it. It’s worth thinking through your plans now, your preparation for the Christmas period when most people will be taking some holiday. I will work up a “Ten business continuity actions to take before Christmas” and put it on the website next week!

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