Archive for 9/11

A Day of Remembrance

Some of you know that although I am a professional Business Continuity Consultant, I also consider myself an amateur poet.  For today, I am going to mix the two worlds and post a poem I wrote last year.  Let us never forget.

SEPTEMBER 11

S ome events, in each generation, significantly, our lives do sway

E veryone remembers the same exact moment as if it occurred yesterday

P ast history that stays in our minds, moments we cannot forget

T error reigned upon our countrymen from an unknown threat

E ven now the vision still haunts us, as many the pilgrimage make

M emorials stand now where towers stood before and pictures the visitors take

B uried beneath the now sacred ground are souls forever lost

E nergies spent on security tightening is the ultimate cost

R emember forever the events of that day and lives lost in trying to right it

 

1 day of terror from a stealthy foe and

1 decade now trying to fight it

Business Continuity Planning – Beyond the Doomsday Scenario

At the Continuity Insights Management Conference 2012 that I recently attended in Scottsdale, AZ, there was a lot of conversation around PS-Prep which bled into the discussion of “Why get certified” or, the more generic question of, “Why perform business continuity planning?”  An oft repeated answer to this question, echoed by business continuity planners around the world is, “Because without a plan you will not survive as a company.”

I think this is a disingenuous answer without any history to support it.  Where exactly is the evidence of this fact?  What historical data can you share with me, or the CEO you are trying to convince, that this is the case?  I am confident that you can dig up cases of small companies that did not survive a disaster, but where is that story about the big guy who did not survive the disaster?

The one and only case study I can think of off the top of my head is Enron, but that was a disaster of a different kind.

Look at BP and the horrific Gulf Coast disaster – they survived.  Did they have a plan in place for this?  Maybe … if so, most professionals would argue against its effectiveness.  Were they certified?  No.

Look at Cantor Fitzgerald, the one company most widely spoke about concerning the extent of their losses during the events of 9/11.  Survived.  With much loss and many significant challenges, but they are still in business.

We found this article that lists 8 Infamous Business Disasters – those companies all survived – albeit some under a new name and different business model, but they did survive.  Now, not all of these cases are the kinds of disasters we plan for, but I can’t find that one poster child event that proves the statement, “Without a business continuity plan, you will not stay in business.”

Now look, I am a business continuity planner.  I make a living out of helping companies put these programs in place.  I want … no, I NEED … CEO’s and Boards of Directors to embrace the need for these plans and to invest in professionals like me to help put them in place.  But, I think we need a better sales pitch than the shallow threat of; this is needed to survive a disaster.

I don’t think we need C-level executives to buy into this all or nothing proposition with business continuity planning.  No, I think that the message should be:  Business continuity plans will allow us to mitigate our losses should a disaster occur. The goal is to ensure the investment we make in our plans and solutions is justified by the potential losses that could occur considering the probability that an event happens.

The losses that could occur is measured by performing a Business Impact Analysis and the probability that an event happens is measured by a Risk Analysis.

We plan because it is a reasonable business practice to protect our assets and our stakeholders against losses that could impact the market value of our company not just if, but when, a business interruption event occurs.  If you want the answer to, “Why get certified”, check out this earlier blog we posted.

We need to sell business continuity planning using business terms that executives can understand and stop with the doomsday scenario selling technique.  At least, that’s the way I see it.

In the meantime, if you can share those stories with me that support the position companies will not survive without plans, I would love to read them.  Thanks.

PS-Prep: Why Get Certified?

For those of you who don’t know, PS–Prep is a voluntary private sector preparedness accreditation and certification program established by the US Department of Homeland Security as a direct result of a law passed by Congress following the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Basically, PS-Prep provides a means for private sector organizations that have business continuity, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness programs compliant with any one of three widely accepted planning standards to be certified by trained and approved Certifying Bodies (CB).

Although backed by Public Law 110-53, the need to be certified is not a law.  This is strictly a voluntary program.

So, the question is – Why get Certified?

This question is a topic of much debate amongst business continuity professionals, certifying bodies and the public authorities trying to promote PS-Prep.  I don’t think anyone is arguing against the benefits or principals behind PS-Prep, but rather, are skeptical that PS-Prep will provide any real added incentive to corporations to plan.  There is some discussion on the appropriateness of PS-Prep being a government initiative versus managed by a private sector forum, and there is some debate on whether or not PS-Prep has aligned itself with the right, or all of the right established standards, but these are arguments of the details and do not provide answer to the question, Why get certified?

I think many of the proponents of PS-Prep are answering the wrong question.  Much of the argument I hear supporting PS-Prep really simply answers the question, why do business continuity planning?  Why plan is a much different question than why get certified.

Although I have met up with violent opposition to my belief, I think the most compelling reason today supporting the benefit of being certified is to provide a defensible position for after-the-disaster litigation showing your organization had taken due care to protect your organization up to DHS supported standards.

Remembering that the answers; because it is a good business practice; it is necessary to stay in business; it protects your employees and corporate assets – are all answers to the question “why plan” and not “why get certified” – I think providing a certificate showing you planned to DHS standards as a defense in court helps support the PS-Prep initiative.

Another potential answer to “why certify” is to leverage a marketable position communicating that your organization has taken steps to protect its organization and assets consistent with the findings in the 9/11 Commission’s Report.   Should PS-Prep become a more recognizable label, including a banner or logo stating PS-Prep accredited in advertising and marketing material could have some benefit.

What DHS would love to see happen is for large, private companies to embrace PS-Prep and make it a requirement that their suppliers, vendors and partners be PS-Prep certified.  Should that start to occur, the answer to “why get certified” will be market-driven and accelerate the program tremendously.

One other impetuous that might help get PS-Prep going is to have insurance companies that offer loss of business insurance to discount these premiums for firms that are PS-Prep certified.

I hate sounding like a skeptic, but until you can show real marketable, return on investment reasons for certifying these programs, I just don’t see companies jumping on the PS-Prep band wagon.

But the debate is not over and PS-Prep is just starting to hit the headlines.  So, it should be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months and years.  Regardless of PS-Prep acceptance however, business continuity planners should (and I believe most of the good ones do) continue to create programs consistent with and in compliance of the standards identified in the PS-Prep program.

Lessons Learned

The 10 Year Anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone.  Some tears were shed.  Some memories were shared.  Some hugs were given.  And, some heartache relived.

I wrote an article for Continuity Insights magazine on Lessons Learned from this event and whether or not they are still applicable today.  It is now posted to their web site for all to see.

I also participated on a panel discussion on the topic for the American Bar Association.

Both of these events were somewhat cathartic for me as I still have some healing to do from this event.  I cannot imagine how those who lost loved ones (beyond the few acquaintances that I knew) must feel.  Again, my family was one of the lucky ones – my wife, who would have been in the middle of it all, took that day off for a doctor’s appointment and I did not have any business scheduled downtown that day.  My children will tell you about the fears they had for hours while away at college waiting to hear about our well being.

I do hope that the lessons learned from that tragic day, business continuity related and otherwise, remain with us always as well as the memories of those who were lost.

My thanks go out to all the agencies, organizations and others who did a fantastic job in remembering that day and paying tribute to the heroes – many of whom we will never know.

Increased Terrorist Threats

Unfortunately, news reports about terrorist threats for this coming weekend do not come as a surprise.  I will be travelling myself this weekend, including on 9/11, and am preparing myself to be patient with heightened security measures at the airports.

Part of the terrorists’ objective is to paralyze their enemy from the fear of terrorism.  I am not, in any way, suggesting these heightened measures are not warranted – in fact, I believe in the motto of “better safe than sorry” – but, the increased measures we take and their impacts on the otherwise free citizens of the United States is, in some small way, a victory for the terrorists.

I just hope we all can understand and appreciate the need for these increased efforts this weekend and all of us can abide by the heightened security with patience and cooperation.

I will be keeping an eye on the reports – including checking out what Mayor Bloomberg has to say in his upcoming Press Conference.  I will not vary my travel plans, but will build in extra time in my schedule to anticipate some slow-downs at the airports.  I hope the fear and threats are just a technique for instilling fear and do not result in any real incidents.

Be safe my friends and enjoy your weekend.

And, regarding the anniversary of 9/11 … never forget.

Remembering 9/11

It’s the Friday before a three day week-end and I am fresh out of ideas to post on my blog page – so, I am going to cheat.  As a hobby, and to remove myself from the sometimes morbid and mundane world of disaster recovery and emergency response planning, I write poems, song lyrics and short stories.  Most of these are posted on a web page at PoetrySoup.com and on a Facebook group page that I created, “Poems, Lyrics and Stuff by an Average Joe” (you can request to be a member of the group, if you like).  And, being that the anniversary of 9/11 is only a few days away, I am going to include a little short narrative I wrote about that day earlier this year.  Enjoy your 3 day weekend, all.  Joe

The Saturday After, by Joe Flach (written 1/18/2011)

My first concern was to contact family, friends and employees that might be in the immediate vicinity of the event.  We are one of those lucky stories where my wife had a doctor’s appointment and did not go to work that morning, otherwise – well, I’d rather not think about otherwise.

Given what I do and where I was living at the time, I spent the rest of the week trying to find corporate real estate immediately available for occupancy and doing interviews.  If you do a web search on my name and “eagle rock” you can still find some of those articles.

Early Saturday morning, I took my one son who still lived at home onto the city to volunteer our assistance.  We took the Jersey City ferry into midtown.  At first, we made our way to the Javits Center where volunteers were to gather.  Even at 6:30 in the morning this place was pure chaos with hundreds of people wandering around with no organization. 

We decided this was a lost cause and started walking down towards the World Trade Center.  What a surreal experience this was.  For 30 blocks we walked down the middle of NYC streets without any traffic in site.  No taxis; no cars; no buses; no pedestrians.  It felt like a scene out of a science fiction movie with NYC totally barren of life, save for the two figures making their way downtown.

A few blocks from downtown, we were met by roadblocks.  We walked up and down a few streets to see if there was any place we could be of service.  We came upon a street with a man on the other side of the blockade handing out water bottles to rescue workers returning from the WTC.  We asked the police officer if we could assist the man and he let us inside the barrier.

The supply of water bottles was getting low so I gave the man $200 and he went off to purchase more.  Meanwhile, my son and I handed bottles of water to rescuers covered in sweat and soot.  Over time, a crowd started building up behind the barriers and people started cheering and clapping for each rescue worker as they came up to get some water.

Somehow, whenever the water bottle supply got low, a new supply arrived.  My son and I spent hours handing out water to tired and thirsty rescue workers as the crowd grew and the cheering increased.  It was just our way of providing what little help we could and it helped us, personally, come to terms with what had taken place in our own backyard.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of that tragic day on September 11.  I hope we never forget.

Disasters Through Time

Disasters come in different shapes and sizes with varying short term and long term impacts.  Some disasters are more significant in terms of human loss and suffering and some are more significant in their impacts on businesses and commerce.

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning historically focused on those disasters that impacted businesses and commerce, but recent events, beginning with the World Trade Center attacks, have required business planners to also incorporate emergency response and crisis management techniques that focus on the human element in their programs.

Looking back in time, the first significant business interruption event to occur promoting the concepts of disaster recovery and business continuity was the First Interstate Bank fire in Los Angeles.  This event occurred on the night of May 4, 1988 and really brought the need and justification for disaster recovery and business continuity planning to the forefront of executive board rooms and has served as the first real case study for these practices ever since.

It was only four days later on May 8, 1988 that a Bell Telephone Central Office in Hinsdale, IL caught fire and disrupted phone services to a wide area of IL including much of Chicago.  Within days, we had one event that severely impacted the entire operations of a large financial firm and one event that had a limited, but widespread impact to phone services for hundreds of companies.  And, the practice of disaster recovery and business continuity gained credibility and importance.

Over the next few years there were a number of newsworthy business interruption events caused by hurricanes, snow storms collapsing roofs, fires, and others, but nothing of great significance until the bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.  This event impacted a significant number of large firms requiring alternate site recovery into vendor provided disaster recovery facilities that stretched the limits of these offerings requiring some firms to recover in secondary and tertiary facilities greatly distanced from their home location.

The 1993 bombings, of course, was just a precursor to the tragic events of 9/11/2001.  The attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 highlighted the deficiencies in corporate business continuity programs with regards to the immediate emergency response and crisis management stratagems.  Many impacted firms knew where and how to recover technology and work areas but were not prepared to deal with the immediate needs of responding to a crisis with such severe impacts to its facilities and employees.  This event put the focus on the Crisis Management aspects of a holistic Enterprise Recovery Program.

Like the World Trade Center tragedy, Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Southeastern United States on August 28th, 2005 challenged both the emergency response and business continuity aspects for many companies over a large geographic footprint. 

Each and every one of these events brought with them unique challenges and varying response requirements.  And, each event, in the post-event evaluations, provided plenty of lessons learned and opportunities for all of us to improve and expand our own disaster recovery, business continuity and crisis management programs.

Of less impact in all areas, but one of my favorite (if that is the right term to use) business interruption event was the Chicago River Flood in September of 1991.  This event occurred on a beautiful end of Summer Day when a construction error while reinforcing a bridge crossing the Chicago River punctured a whole in an old underground highway flooding the basements in many Chicago Loop area buildings.  Some of these buildings housed computer and electrical equipment in the buildings resulting in severe widespread business interruptions.  It just goes to show you, you never know when, where or how a business disaster might occur.

There have been, of course many other events, to numerous to mention in one blogs, but, I think, these events highlight the growth and changing nature of the business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management industry in the US.  I think it is always good to go back and revisit these events every now and then to make sure the lessons learned from them have not been forgotten over time.

An Upcoming Anniversary – Remembering 9/11

The tenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 is quickly approaching.  I am sure this will garner much media attention and prompt lots of events in memory and reminiscence about this horrible day in our history.

I know I am already involved in several activities regarding looking back on lessons learned from this day including an article to be published by Continuity Magazine and participating on a panel discussion, “September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks:  Duties of Corporate Directors and Officers in the Preparation and Execution of Disaster Avoidance Programs”, sponsored by the Tort Trail and Insurance Section of the American Bar Association.

But my personal memories will go beyond lessons learned and professional concerns.  I lived just outside of New York City on the day of that tragic event and had several friends and acquaintances perish on that horrible day.  My family is one of those lucky stories where my wife did not attend work that morning due to a scheduled doctor’s visit – otherwise, she could possibly have been one of its victims as she commuted through the World Trade Center on her way to her office just across the street severely and irreparably damaged in the event.

My high-school aged son and I volunteered to assist in the recovery efforts the following Saturday morning and helped hand out bottles of water on the edge of the restricted zone to the rescue workers returning from the disaster site.  We stood just inside the police barriers as crowds of pedestrians gathered outside cheering every rescue worker as they took a bottle from us, covered in the soot, ash and dirt from the fallen buildings.  It is a day that I will never forget.

This event, Hands in Hand, somehow reminds me of the emotions I felt that day, as we first got to our station about 6:00 am when there was no crowd, and watched it slowly grow to hundreds and hundreds of people throughout the day – all, seemingly, standing hands in hand thanking the rescue workers for their efforts and dedication.

Now that I live in Washington State, physically far removed from the site, I am not sure what I will do to commemorate the date, but I am sure, somewhere along the way, a tear or two will flow.  I may not be able to stand hand in hand with those who participate in this event, but I will be there in spirit, praying we never live through such an event again.

An Upcoming Anniversary

We are nearing the 10th Anniversary of that tragic day in 2001 when the world at large, and the crisis management, business continuity, disaster recovery and emergency management industries would be forever changed.

I lived and worked in the shadows of the World Trade Center on that day and became very much involved in assisting a number of companies respond to and recover from that event.  As a result, I contributed to and was featured in a number of articles and presentations to discuss challenges faced and lessons learned from this crisis.

Below are some surviving links to articles and stories from that time.  There were many more but I could not find links to them.

I have recently been approached to take a look back on that tragic time in our history and explore whether or not the lessons learned are still applicable in today’s world and/or are companies in a better position today to respond to a similar event than we were back in 2001.

Continuity Insights Magazine will soon publish an article I wrote on this topic and I will be participating in a teleconference event sponsored by the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) of the American Bar Association on September 16.

Going back and revisiting the events of 9/11 is both emotionally stressful and professionally concerning, but something I think worthwhile doing to ensure, indeed, that the lessons learned then are not forgotten.