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The issue I would like to think about this week is how, as business continuity people, we should approach big disasters and what should our attitude be to them. If we are affected by the incident, then our job is simple, we implement our business continuity plan and hopefully we recover our organisation successfully. If we are not affected by the disaster how should we approach it?

If we are an in house business continuity manager should we be using this as a good opportunity to re-engage with our senior managers and remind them of our existence? Should we also use it as an excuse to get all within the organisation to review their plans? As it is the end of the year should we also use this time as a good opportunity to put forward a case for increasing our business continuity budget for next year?

For those who are selling business continuity consultancy services or business continuity software services you can assume that they are using this disaster as a marketing tool to try and sell their services. Most of them are on the soft sell, “come to our webinar on the lessons learned from Sandy” and then use the webinar to promote their services. For those selling business continuity products and services there is a thin line, we don’t want to be seen as ambulance chasers taking advance of the death and destruction that the storm has caused. On the other hand this is an opportunity to remind our potential clients that the products and service’s we sell are important and that the storm is a reminder of the destruction and chaos a major storm can cause.

For both the in house managers and business continuity vendors we have to be sensitive not to be seen as taking advantage of others misery on the other hand if disasters didn’t happen then we would all be out of a job. I think that we all have to be sensitive in using major incidents such as Sandy to promote our business continuity.

What should we be doing as both vendors and in house managers in response to major disasters which don’t affect your organisation.

  1. I think this is an ideal opportunity for you to review your own plans and preparation and think “if your organisation was in the eye of the storm how would you cope with the incident”. This disaster is different to the normal scenarios I suspect most of us use in exercises and prepare for. We mainly prepare for an incident which is local to our building, whether it is fire or flood, rather than a wide scale incident. The interesting bit about wide scale incidents is that staff are likely to be affected and they will be more interested in recovering and looking after their family than coming into work.
  2. If we are going to use the incident to remind our senior managers that they have business continuity in place, organise a short workshop to see if there are any immediate lessons, issues or exposures for your organisation. I noticed that during the height of the storm in New York a hospital had to be evacuated as their standby generator didn’t work. If you have standby generators then perhaps you should think through whether your testing regime for them is rigorous enough.
  3. Take some time to learn the lessons of Sandy. I am sure there will be a number of speakers who will do the round of BC events giving their lessons learned. Look at the blogs and website’s which will contain individual’s lessons. Attend the product vendor’s webinars and as long as they don’t spend all the time trying to sell you something they will have useful points. Lastly sooner or later there will be some government reports and investigation on the incident they are a great opportunity to get some detailed lessons and learning.
  4. Lastly use the Sandy scenario for your next exercise, they can’t say it wouldn’t happen!

Lastly good to meet lots of you at the BCI World Conference this week, it was great to catch up with lots of friends and colleagues. Thanks to all who came up to me and said that they enjoyed the weekly bulletin, especially Sean McQuillan who was very enthusiastic about it. Sean congratulations to you are the team on the award!

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