Archive for Vendors

Emergency Response – Language Assistance

I am happy to report that our blog post inviting other companies to include a link to their websites on our blog page has resulted in a number of phone calls and emails.  Glad to see you all found us and are interested in being included on our page.

One company that contacted us, LangCommLive, eloquently pleaded their case for how an online, language interpretation company can have a role to play in Emergency Response programs.  They did not need to convince me.  Having recently been responsible for an airline’s emergency response program which includes having to provide passionate care and assistance to passenger families, some of whom may be foreign nationals, having to have access to professional language interpreters was something we were very cognizant about.  This was even a very important requirement for domestic flights that did not fly over foreign airspace – you never know what the demographics of your passengers, or their families, might be.

For any company that provides transportation services and must adhere to the Family Assistance Act of 1996, having access to this type of service is crucial.  The LangCommLive website includes a Case Study on how they were able to assist Carnival Cruise Lines during an emergency they recently experienced.

There are many other situations where language interpretation services may be necessary at time of crisis.  Including a firm like LangCommLive in your directory of service providers may prove valuable to you at time of your emergency – especially if you are an international firm.

We are happy to include a link to LangCommLive on our blog page and encourage our readers to consider how and where a service like this might be necessary in their emergency response and/or business continuity programs.

Thank You / Gracias / Merci / Danke / Arigato / Xie xie / Spasibo / Salamat / Tack / Dank / Diolch / Cam on / Dyakooyu / Khawp khun / Hvala / Fa afetai / Dannaba / Obrigado / Dziekuje / Tashakkur / Achiu / Grazie

Business Continuity Blog – Links to Related Services and Products

I know it’s not a deluge, but the Safe Harbor Consulting – Business Continuity Blog is averaging about 40 views a day.  I do try to enter several blogs a week to keep it fresh and relevant.  And, you can try this at home, if you do a Google search on “Business Continuity Blogs” we come up at or near the top of the first page.

I offer all of this as a prelude to an invitation to add links to complementary websites in the “My Links” section on the right-hand side of this page.  Adding a link to your website does not represent a relationship with or even a referral or recommendation from Safe Harbor Consulting; nor does it represent a sanctioning of Safe Harbor Consulting by your organization – it’s just another potential portal to your web page, should you wish to be included here.

There is no request that a reciprocal link be made back to the Safe Harbor Consulting Business Continuity Blog or to our home website – although, we would not be opposed to that, should you wish to do so.  I am simply trying to make this page more resourceful to those individuals who do stop by regularly by offering a directory of other services that someone visiting a Business Continuity Blog might be interested in.

If you wish to take advantage of this offer you can send me an email at jflach@safeharborconsulting.biz or call me at (253) 509-0233.  Links are easy to add (or remove, should you decide to no longer be included here).  All I will need is the label you want for your link (usually the company name); the website address; and, a short description you would like to appear when someone puts the cursor on top of your name.  You can check out those that are there already as an example.

Remember, this is for “complementary” products and services.  We reserve the right to exclude links to websites not directly connected to business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency response and crisis management and those links to companies in direct competition with Safe Harbor Consulting.  If you have any questions, just give us a call.

Thanks.

Business Continuity Planning: Vendor Risks

One of the risks that a lot of companies may benefit from looking at a little closer is that of “vendor risks”.  Vendors can be suppliers or outsourced entities that perform a critical service on behalf of our organization.  We need to ensure that our critical vendors know how to respond in the event of our disaster and we need to know that the vendor can continue to provide materials or support in the event of their disaster.

I know many organizations include “Service Level Agreement” (SLA) clauses in vendor contracts, but I suggest that we may want to go further than that and, every now and then, ask to be shown evidence that they could meet those levels of performance at time of disaster.  How many of you audit or review your vendor’s Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery Plans?  How many participate in their vendor’s Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery tests or exercises?

Many organizations try to mitigate or eliminate vendor risk by engaging multiple vendors to provide a similar product or service.  Just be aware that, sometimes, even though you diversify your vendors, you may not have diversified the infrastructure they depend on.  Lessons learned from the events of 9/11 showed proof of the issues that can arise here.  Many companies felt confident that they were using multiple communication vendors only to discover that they all relied on the same underground infrastructure and same “points of presence” (POPs).  One central office failure; one cable conduit compromised and all vendors were out of service – the diversity did not provide the stability they thought they were getting using multiple vendors.  Even though you may think you have eliminated a potential “Single Point of Failure” (SPoF) by using multiple vendors, make sure you do not still have SPoF in the physical infrastructure they rely on.

Another example of this I recently encountered was working with an airport authority in dealing with a potential flooding risk caused by a suspect dam near the airport.  Many of the airlines at the airport had fuel provided by two or more fuel suppliers, but the delivery of the fuel was all through the same single source pipeline that was in the flood zone.  Even though the pipeline itself was underground and, potentially, not susceptible to damage by the flood, the fuel line switching station was above ground and in the flood zone.  The pipeline needed this switching station operable to move the fuel.

I also was once hired to look into the reliability of an off shore outsourced call center.  This facility, located in India, was a state-of-the-art facility in a pretty resilient compound.  The outsourced company felt so secured in their “hardening” of the facility that they did not see the need in investing in contingency operations.  The problem was, however, that the infrastructure that fed power, phone service and other utilities into the compound was very suspect.  Additionally, the employees did not live in the compound and a disaster in the area could easily prevent them from getting to the complex.  My client decided that they needed a contingency should their primary vendor suffer a business interruption event and took the necessary steps to cover this risk.

And, remember to make sure your vendors know what changes in their delivery or performance must be made at time of your disaster.  One simple example – do your mail carries (US Post Office, UPS, FedEx, others) know where to reroute your mail or where to do pickups from when a particular facility is compromised? 

Also make sure if you have vendor personnel on site that you educate them in the evacuation, notification and escalation process.  Are you responsible for accounting for vendor personnel during a disaster, or do you call the vendor and have them account for or alert their employees at time of crisis?  Do not forget those vendors that may not perform a critical service but are on site – such as, cafeteria staff; custodial staff; plant suppliers; landscapers; etc.  Make sure they are notified of an office closure and are included in the process for accounting for who may have been injured or killed in the disaster.

Sometimes it is easy to overlook our vendors in the planning process.  Make sure your program and department managers have adequately accounted for them.

Emergency Notification / Crisis Management Tool: MissionMode

There are plenty of good automated notification and crisis management tools out on the market today.  One that I have recent, in depth, hands-on experience with is MissionMode.  And, like all the other similar tools out there, the value and benefits you realize from the use of this product are directly related to how you plan for and implement its features.

Too often, I see organizations rush to implementation of a new software product without first spending the time to properly design and strategize over the best use of the product.  Going back and fixing obvious implementation mistakes, poorly thought out naming conventions, or complicated hierarchy and categorization schemes can be costly, both in terms of hours spent and in the damage done with the confidence and conviction of the user community.

Having said that, I think that if implemented properly, MissionMode can satisfy most organization’s emergency notification and incident management needs.

Like I said, similar to other tools of this nature, it will take time to install properly – you do not plug it in and have instantaneous automated notification at the click of a switch.  You need to give some thought to the proper user naming conventions, incident templates, notification groups and what notification devices to use for which incidents.  If possible, I would recommend reaching out to other MissionMode users and gain some ideas from them on what they found out works and does not work well for them.  Or, you can get assistance from a consulting company that has experience with the product – oh, I don’t know, maybe a company like Safe Harbor Consulting, perhaps (gratuitous self promotion warning!).

And, of course, how you train end users and how you test (and the frequency in which you do so) the product will greatly influence how well it is received and used in your organization.  Although a relatively easy, user friendly tool – like all other similar products – if not practiced and routinely accessed, your user community will forget passwords and be clumsy with its usage – all of which, limits the effectiveness of the tool at time of need – during a crisis.

I did find the folks at MissionMode willing to listen; work with you; and, give serious consideration to your proposed product enhancements and changes.  They are not a market leader in the industry yet, but are willing to do what it takes to help change that fact.

You may find better tools for emergency notification or better software for crisis management – but if you are searching for one tool that combines both disciplines in one product, I would recommend that you include the evaluation of MissionMode in your software cost/benefits analysis.

The Business Continuity Center of Seattle

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Business Continuity Center of Seattle and was given a private tour by the folks who run the place.

I found this to be a very impressive facility and was surprised to find this diamond in the rough here in Seattle.  Their business model includes sharing these facilities with Computer Classrooms in Seattle under the parent company, Allied Business Systems.

On the surface, the Business Continuity Center of Seattle offers everything you would need in a workarea recovery facility.  I did not have the opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty underbelly of their offerings and infrastructure, but I saw enough to know that if you are considering a workarea recovery facility in the Pacific Northwest area, the Business Continuity Center of Seattle offers one solution you should include in your vendor analysis.

My only suggestion to the men who I met with was they may want to consider a more aggressive marketing strategy as I was not aware of their existence right here in my own backyard.  They are a relatively new player in this arena and I am sure will become more known as the word gets out.

I thank Bob Posey and Tom from taking time out from their busy day to show me around and discuss their offerings with me.  Hopefully, I will be back soon with some prospects to evaluate their services in greater detail.