WEEK 2 – College Football Crisis Management Award Winner

Another week of excitement, entertainment, upsets, nail-bitters and head-scratchers has come to an end.  In other words – another week of college football is in the books.  In Week 1, 52% of the games had the winning team overcome a deficit of some sort at some point in the game.  In Week 2, that percentage dropped way down to 31%.  Week 1 saw 8 FCS teams beat FBS teams.  In Week 2 that number dropped to only 3.  Fewer come-from-behind victories and fewer big upsets, but the winner of this week’s Safe Harbor Consulting College Football Crisis Management Award overcame a larger deficit than our Week 1 co-recipients.


Like Week 1, Week 2 included 75 contests with an FBS Team participating in the game.  Unlike Week 1, where 39 games were won by teams that trailed at one point in the game, Week 2 included only 23 games in which the winning team had to overcome a deficit.  Of those 23 games, 6 required the winning team to come back from more than 7 points at some point in the game; 4 fewer than in Week 1.

Week 2 did include a game in which Tulane came all the way back from a 21 point deficit to take a 33 – 31 lead over South Alabama, only to see the Jaguars rally back and hold on to a 41 – 39 victory when Tulane failed on a two-point conversion with a little over 1 minute left in the game.

And, when the gun sounded ending the final game of Week 2, late Saturday night, no team had come back from as far down as the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in their 31 – 30 victory over Montana State.  Once again, for the second week in a row, a FCS team figures in our award winning game.  But, unlike Week 1, the FCS foe ended up on the losing side of the scoreboard in Week 2.

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The Montana State Bobcats rolled into Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX as the number 3 ranked team in the FCS.  SMU was looking to rebound from a Week 1, 41 – 23 loss to state rival Texas Tech.  With the showing that the FCS had in Week 1, the Bobcats came in confident and the Mustangs knew they could not take their opponent lightly.  Under the hot Texas sun, with game time temperatures hovering around 98 degrees, the teams were ready to square off in what would become the Safe Harbor Consulting College Football Crisis Management Award winning game for Week 2.

SMU started off the contest with a nice 40 yard kickoff return by JaBryce Taylor, but could only move the ball to the Montana State 48 yard line before having to punt the ball away.  The punt, however, was downed at the Montana State 1 yard line and the Bobcats had to start their first drive with their backs against the wall.  And, on their first play from scrimmage, the wall collapsed on the Bobcats and SMU had a safety and a 2 – 0 lead when Cody Kirk was tackled by Stephon Sanders in the end zone.

SMU then received the free kick following the safety and drove the ball down field looking to take it to the Bobcats right from the start.  But, on 3rd and goal from the Montana State 3 yard line, quarterback Garrett Gilbert fumbled the ball at the 2 where Montana State’s Robert Marshall recovered it and returned it to the 11 yard line, stopping SMU from adding to their lead.

The teams then traded punts on back to back possessions.  A personal foul penalty following SMU’s punt for a touchback set Montana State up on their own 35 yard line where they started their next drive.  On a 3rd and 15 from their own 40 yard line, DeNarius McGhee tossed a 40 yard pass to Brian Flotkoetter for a first down on the SMU 20 yard line.  Two plays later Cody Kirk rushed in from 1 yard out and, following a successful two-point conversion, Montana State had an 8 – 2 lead.

On SMU’s next possession a roughing the passer penalty set them up at their own 44 yard line where they subsequently had two penalties of their own.  On 1st and 25 from their own 29 yard line, Garrett Gilbert rushed for 26 yards and a first down.  SMU moved the ball down to the Montana State 28 yard line where Chase Hover connected on a 45 yard field goal and the 1st quarter came to an end with the unusual score of 8 – 5 in favor of the visiting Bobcats.

Montana State started the 2nd quarter with a 7 play 67 drive ending with a 13 yard touchdown pass from DeNarius McGhee to Jon Ellis.  Following the conventional extra point, the Bobcats had a 10 point lead, 15 -5.

SMU started their next possession at their own 19 yard line and were quickly back in punt formation following three straight incomplete passes.  The punt just made it past mid-field and the Bobcats were back on offense at their own 49 yard line.  Three minutes and twenty-seven seconds later, the Bobcats were back in the end-zone on a 2 yard run by Shawn Johnson and the FCS Montana State Bobcats were on top of the FBS SMU Mustangs 22 – 5 with just over 8 minutes left in the first half.

But, SMU was not going to throw in the towel.  Down by 17 points, the Mustang went on a 10 play, 76 yard drive to score a touchdown on a 2 yard K. C. Nlemchi run to cut the deficit to 10.

Both teams then had quick, three and out series.  Then, with the clock running out on the 1st half, Montana State had to punt from their own 20 yard line with just 14 seconds left on the clock.  SMU’s JaBryce Taylor received the punt at his own 45 yard line and returned it 55 yards for the touchdown with 00:00 left on the scoreboard clock.  With two quick touchdowns before the half, SMU trimmed Montana State’s 17 point lead down to 3 and entered half time trailing only 22 – 19.

Montana State started the 3rd quarter in the same fashion as they had started the 2nd quarter with a long, sustained drive ending in a touchdown.  This time, the touchdown came on a 12 yard run by Cody Kirk.  The Bobcats then converted their second 2 point conversion of the game and were back on top by 11, 30 – 19.

SMU answered with a 46 yard drive culminating in a 42 yard Chase Hover field goal and the Mustang were back to within 8 points.

Montana State could not mount a drive on their next possession but did pin SMU back on their own 9 yard line with a downed punt.  On 3rd and 7 from their 12, Garrett Gilbert connected with Jeremy Johnson for a 66 yard pass play down to Montana State’s 22 yard line.  Three plays later, however, the Mustang turned the ball over and had to trot the defense back out on the field, still down by 8 when the 3rd quarter came to an end.

Montana State punted the ball back to SMU where the Mustang started again from their own 30 yard line.  Garrett Gilbert completed 5 passes in a row, moving the ball down to the Montana State 22 yard line, before misconnecting on 3 in a row and settling for another Chase Hover field goal – this one from 39 yards out.

Up by 5, Montana State went on a 10 play drive, but could not move the ball close enough for a field goal attempt and punted the ball over to SMU with 4:00 left on the game clock.  The Mustang took over, 81 yards away from a needed touchdown, with time running out.

The 1st play of the SMU drive did not start off well as Garrett Gilbert was sacked for a 6 yard loss.  A pass interference penalty on the next play, however, got the Mustang going in the right direction and Garrett Gilbert went to work.  After running for 6 yards, Gilbert connected on 6 passes in a row to move the Mustang down to the Bobcat 30 yard line.  Then, on a 3rd and 4, K. C. Nlemchi rushed for 16 yards and a 1st down at the Bobcat 8.  Following a run for no gain, SMU took a time out with 36 ticks left on the clock.  On 2nd and goal from the 8, Garrett Gilbert hit Jeremy Johnson for 4 yards.  And, on 3rd and goal from the 4, he hit Darius Joseph for the go-ahead touchdown!  Unsuccessful on their 2 point attempt, SMU had a 1 point lead with under 30 seconds left in the game.  When Montana State failed to score on their final play of the game, a multi-lateral pass play, the SMU come back was complete and they were the Safe Harbor Consulting College Football Crisis Management Award winners for week 2.


Businesses, just like college football teams, can experience huge deficits from business interruption events in which they must rally from behind to stay in the game.  In the area of Crisis Management, game day is the arrival of the tornado; the coming floods; the day the hurricane strikes; a fire; a regional pandemic; technology failures; or any of a variety of risks and threats that can interrupt your business processes and/or the technologies that support them.  And, just like college football teams, your ability to overcome these deficits is directly related to the time and effort you put into planning your strategies and practicing your emergency response, business continuity and disaster recovery plays.

Safe Harbor Consulting has assisted companies and organizations, large and small, in preparing and exercising their crisis management and business continuity playbooks.  To learn more about how Safe Harbor Consulting can help you prepare for your greatest comeback, please visit our website at www.safeharborconsulting.biz; visit us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Safe-Harbor-Consulting/204353729604053; or, call us at (253) 509-0233.

Congratulations to the Southern Methodist University Mustang for overcoming adversity and rallying back from the largest deficit faced by a winning team during Week 2 of the 2013 college football season.   We can hardly wait to see what is in store for Week 3.

Certificate - Week 2 - SMU.pptx

Week 2 – Honorable Mentions

Central Michigan coming from 14 behind to beat New Hampshire 24-21

Akron coming from 13 behind to beat James Madison 35 – 33


Week 1 – Winners (To read the Week 1 article, click here.)

North Dakota State coming from 14 behind to beat Kansas State 24 -21

Troy coming from 14 behind to beat UAB 34 – 31

WEEK 1 – College Football Crisis Management Award Winners

Welcome back college football.  Week 1 is now in the books and we have two teams to recognize as the first recipients of our Safe Harbor Consulting – College Football Crisis Management Award.  But first, let’s take a look at what transpired in week 1.


Of the 75 college football games with at least one FBS level team competing in it over the first week of the college football season, 39 were won by teams that were, at one time or another, trailing in the game.  Of those 39 teams that overcame a deficit at some point in the game, ten teams trailed by more than 7 points before rallying to win their respective game.

A number of teams that won their games convincingly still trailed early in the contest before taking control of the game.  For example: Eastern Illinois was trailing San Diego State by 6 points into the 2nd quarter before winning by three touchdowns, 40 – 19; Idaho scored the first touchdown (and missed the extra point) to lead by 6 points before North Texas scored 40 unanswered points to win 40 – 6;  New Mexico State scored the first touchdown (and made the extra point) before Texas hung 56 points on the scoreboard for a 56 – 7 victory; Marshall beat Miami (OH) by 38 points after trailing by 7 at the end of the 1st quarter and being tied 14 – 14 at halftime; Murray State scored the first 7 points against Missouri and lead 14 – 13 at the end of the 1st quarter before Missouri went on a 45 point run to win 58 – 14; South Florida scored the first touchdown and lead 7 – 2 at the end of the 1st quarter before McNeese State surprisingly won by 32 points, 53 – 21; and, Ball State won by 23 points over Illinois State, 51 – 28, despite trailing by 12 points (21 – 9) with less than 10 seconds left in the 1st half!

Of the 36 teams that won their games without ever trailing in the contest, only four of those teams were the visiting team in that football game: Texas Tech (41 – 23 winners over SMU); Northern Iowa (28 – 20 over Iowa State); LSU (37 – 27 over TCU); and, as the visiting team on a neutral field, Alabama (35 -10 over Virginia Tech).

But, at the end of it all, no team came from as far behind as the North Dakota State University Bison and Troy Trojans who each overcame a 14 point deficit to win their games and secure the first ever Safe Harbor Consulting – College Football Crisis Management Award.

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Little did we suspect when we established the parameters of our award to include all football games with at least one FBS member participating in the game, that a non-FBS football team would win our first certificate of achievement – but the Bison from North Dakota State University did just that.

It is quite an accomplishment for a FCS football team to come into a FBS team’s stadium and walk away with a victory.  It is even more impressive when you consider the FBS team they beat is from a BCS conference and one of the better teams in that conference.  And, when you consider the fact that they had to rally from a 14 point deficit to achieve that victory … well, that is just down right SPECTACLUAR!!  (And, why you’ve just got to love college football.)

North Dakota State rolled into Bill Snyder Stadium in Manhattan, KS, 12.5 point underdogs to kick off their college football season with a Friday night contest against the Kansas State Wildcats, the reigning Big 12 Champions.  And, they did so with a belief that they could compete against the big boys and ready to show the college football world just what these Bison are made of.

The Bison received the opening kickoff for a touchback and started their first game of the new season from their own 25 yard line.  If Kansas State was thinking that this FCS team was just going to roll over and play dead, the first play from scrimmage was a resounding wakeup call as Ryan Smith rushed for 18 yards and a first down – and the game was on.  The Bison did not manage to gain another first down on this opening drive but they gave notice that they were here to play.

The teams then traded a few possessions without much offensive productivity.  After its second possession of the game, Kansas State punted from its own 29 yard line and North Dakota State’s Christian Dudzik returned it 49 yards to the Kansas State 23 yard line and the Bison were in business.  Five plays later, Brock Jensen completed a pass to Ryan Smith for 5 yards and a Bison touchdown.  North Dakota State had a shocking, early, 7 – 0 lead over the home town Wildcats.

This touchdown, however, appeared to wake up the Wildcats as, on the next series, the Wildcat’s quarterback, Jake Waters completed passes of 12, 12, and 11 yards down to the Bison 33 yard line when the 1st quarter came to an end.

When the 2nd quarter started, Kansas State tried to continue their drive and, after gaining 7 yards on the 1st three plays went for it on 4th and 3 and were held 2 yards shy of a first down by the mighty Bison defense.

Kansas State then held the Bison to a three and out and got the ball back on their own 22 yard line.  Four straight completed passes later, culminating with a 45 yard strike from Jake Waters to Tramaine Thompson, the Wildcats found the end zone and tied the game at 7 – 7.

The teams then played the remaining of the 2nd quarter and 1st half to a stalemate, with North Dakota State missing a 34 yard field goal attempt following an interception by Marcus Williams, and went into the locker rooms at halftime tied up at 7.

Kansas State came out of the locker room for the second half of football looking like they were ready to put these pesky Bison to bed.  Kansas State’s first possession of the second half was another quick strike for a touchdown.  Two passes of 7 yards each from Jake Waters to Tramaine Thompson was followed by a 56 yard strike to Tyler Lockette and, just 1:01 into the 3rd quarter, Kansas State had its first lead of the game 14 – 7.

Two plays later, in the pursuing possession, Kansas State’s Dante Barnett intercepted a Brock Jensen pass and the Wildcats were back in business at the North Dakota State 36 yard line.  Three minutes and six seconds later, Daniel Sams rushed in from 17 yards out and the Wildcats were up by 14 before most of the fans had returned back to their seats from getting a half time snack.

You might think that a FCS school, facing a stellar FBS program, finding itself down by 14 points in the 3rd quarter, might start thinking about the trip back home – but, not these Bison.  Down 21 – 7, in unfriendly confines, the Bison started their next drive from the 25 yard line following a touchback on the kickoff and proceeded to venture on an 11 play, 75 yard drive that ended with a Brock Jensen to Kevin Vaadeland 9 yard pass for a touchdown.

Kansas State’s next drive stalled out at the North Dakota State 47 yard line and the following punt pinned North Dakota State in at their own 2 yard line.  On 1st down, Sam Ojuri broke off a 66 yard run and, just like that, North Dakota State was back in Kansas State territory.  Four plays later Adam Keller booted a 41 yard field goal and North Dakota State was now trailing by only 21 – 17 as the 3rd quarter came to an end.

Kansas State started the 4th quarter with a promising drive, but they stalled out at the North Dakota State 35 yard line and, following a delay of game penalty, punted the ball back to the Bison.

Trailing now by only 4 points; with 8:58 remaining on the clock; and, the ball on their own 20 yard line – the FCS Bison’s offense lined up against a powerhouse FBS Kansas State defense and went on, what has to be, the drive of the week for week 1.

The Bison put together an impressive 18 play, 80 yard drive that ate up 8:30 of the game clock.  During this drive, North Dakota State converted on four 3rd downs – the longest being a 3rd and 7.  With the longest plays of the drive being an 11 yard pass from Brock Jensen to Derrick Lang and an 11 yard pass from Jensen to Ryan Smith – the Bison methodically marched down the field.  With 28 seconds left on the game clock, Brock Jensen took the ball in from 1 yard out to give North Dakota State a 24 – 21 lead over the stunned Wildcats.

When Grant Olsen intercepted Jake Waters’ pass on the first play of Kansas State’s last ditch attempt to salvage a victory, the upset was complete and North Dakota State had rallied back from a 14 point deficit to win the first Safe Harbor Consulting – College Football Crisis Management Award – an honor they would share with Troy University.

Certificate - Week 1 - NDSU




The Trojans of Troy University would kick off their 2013 college football campaign by hosting the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers on what would promise to be one of the most exciting football games on the first Saturday of the new season.  And, when the dust had settled, the Trojans would be one of two teams to receive the first ever Safe Harbor Consulting – College Football Crisis Management Award.

Troy would receive the kickoff to start the game and the excitement would begin from the very first play from scrimmage as Deon Anthony raced 52 yards on a screen pass from Corey Robinson.  Three plays later, Robinson completed a 24 yard pass to Brandon Burks down to the Blazers’ 4 yard line.  Following a rush for a loss, a small gain and a 5 yard penalty, Brandon Burks rushed the ball in from 10 yards out and a Trojan touchdown.  And, just 2:46 seconds into the game, Troy had a 7 – 0 lead over the Blazers.

But, the celebration would be short-lived as the Blazers marched the ball down field on their first possession for a game tying score of their own.  The Blazers’ drive included a 4th down conversion on 4th and 5 from the Troy 40 yard line on a 7 yard completed pass from Austin Brown to Jamari Staples.  The equalizer came on a 21 yard toss from Austin Brown to Jamarcus Nelson and, before the crowd had a chance to settle down into their seats, the football game was tied 7 – 7.

Troy’s next possession started off with a 10 yard penalty and ended with a fumble by Khary Franklin recovered by Derek Slaughter of UAB on the Troy 42 yard line.  As often happens following a quick turnover, UAB immediately went for a big play and hit it with a 42 yard touchdown pass from Austin Brown to Jamari Staples.  And, just like that, UAB had themselves a 14 – 7 lead.

Things then settled down a bit as the two teams exchanged punts the next few possessions going into the 2nd quarter.  UAB mounted a little bit of a drive early in quarter 2 but missed a 49 yard field goal attempt.  A few series later, Troy missed a field goal of their own from 38 yards out.

On the last possession of the 1st half, UAB moved the ball down to the Troy 33 yard line and, living up to his name, Ty Long booted a 50 yard field goal to put the Blazers up 17 – 7 at halftime.

UAB mounted a sustained drive to start the second half, ending at the Troy 29 yard line, but this time, Ty Long missed his field goal attempt.  Troy then marched down the field and scored a touchdown on a 23 yard pass play from Corey Robinson to Eric Thomas to bring the Trojans back to within 3 points.

Once again, however, the Trojans’ celebration was cut short as Jamarcus Nelson returned the pursuing kickoff 97 yards for another UAB touchdown putting the Blazers back on top by 10.

UAB then tried to surprise the Trojans with an on-side kick but the men of Troy were up to the task and secured the ball at the UAB 46 yard line.  The Trojans proceeded to march the ball down field to the UAB 1 yard line, where they were stymied and had to settle for an 18 yard field goal by Will Scott.

UAB answered right back again, however, and had another quick strike with a 62 yard touchdown pass from Austin Brown to Jamarcus Nelson.  And, UAB had their biggest lead of the game, 31 – 17, as the gun sounded ending the 3rd quarter.  But, the 4th quarter would belong to Troy.

With possession of the ball to start the 4th quarter, Troy completed a 12 play 67 yard drive with a Jordan Chunn 11 yard rush up the middle for a touchdown, bringing the Trojans back to within 7.

UAB punted on their next possession pinning the Trojans in on their own 6 yard line.  From there, Corey Robinson hit Eric Thomas for 17 yards; Jordan Chunn for 7 yards; and, Chandler Worthy for 15 yards before Wilson Van Hooser fumbled the ball following another completed pass, recovered by UAB and returned to Troy’s 46.

Aided by a couple of costly UAB penalties, the Troy defense stiffened up and forced UAB to punt the ball from their own 48 yard line.  Hunter Mullins shanked an 11 yard punt and the Trojans were back in business from their own 41 yard line with 5:45 left on the game clock.

On 1st down, Jordan Chunn rushed up the middle for 19 yards to the UAB 40.  Three plays later, Troy found themselves at 4th and 3 from the UAB 33 yard line with 3:36 left in the game.  Following a time out to discuss the play, Corey Robinson completed a 31 yard bomb to Chandler Worthy to the UAB 2 yard line.  Following a 1 yard, roughing the passer penalty, Deon Anthony punched it in from 1 yard out and the Trojans had tied the score at 31 – 31.

Jamarcus Nelson fumbled the UAB kickoff return but UAB was able to recover it on their own 27 yard line to avoid a disaster.  UAB was just able to cross midfield before the game clock ran out following a false start penalty.  With the game tied at 31, Troy had rallied back from a 14 point deficit to force overtime.

In the first OT period, UAB started on offense and were held without a first down by a toughened Troy defense before botching the snap on a 37 yard field goal attempt.  The Trojans then ran for 16 yards on 1st down in their possession and set up for a game winning, come from behind victory, 30 yard field goal by Will Scott.

As the stats sheets were tallied, this game included some amazing accomplishments.  Troy’s Corey Robinson finished the game 30 for 32 in passing, setting an NCAA record for completion percentage in a game with at least 30 passing attempts and UAB’s Jarmacus Nelson had amassed an amazing 367 all-purpose yards to set a UAB team record.

And, at the end of a truly epic and exciting 1st game of the 2013 college football season, the men of Troy are recipients of the first Safe Harbor Consulting – College Football Crisis Management Award.  An honor they share with the Bison from North Dakota State University.

Certificate - Week 1 - Troy


Businesses, just like college football teams, can experience huge deficits from business interruption events in which they must rally from behind to stay in the game.  In the area of Crisis Management, game day is the arrival of the tornado; the coming floods; the day the hurricane strikes; a fire; a regional pandemic; technology failures; or any of a variety of risks and threats that can interrupt your business processes and/or the technologies that support them.  And, just like college football teams, your ability to overcome these deficits is directly related to the time and effort you put into planning your strategies and practicing your emergency response, business continuity and disaster recovery plays.

Safe Harbor Consulting has assisted companies and organizations, large and small, in preparing and exercising their crisis management and business continuity playbooks.  To learn more about how Safe Harbor Consulting can help you prepare for your greatest comeback, please visit our website at www.safeharborconsulting.biz; visit us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Safe-Harbor-Consulting/204353729604053; or, call us at (253) 509-0233.

So, congratulations to the North Dakota State Bison and Troy Trojans for overcoming adversity and rallying back from the largest deficit faced by a winning team during week 1 of the 2013 college football season.   Now, let’s get ready for Week 2 – we can hardly wait.

Week 1 – Honorable Mentions

Fresno State coming from 13 behind to beat Rutgers 52-51 in overtime

UTSA coming from 13 behind to beat New Mexico 21 – 13




SHC Announces its Crisis Management Football Awards Series

Safe Harbor Consulting, LLC (SHC) is happy to announce the upcoming 1st Annual, Crisis Management Football Awards Series.  Each week SHC will identify the College (FBS teams) and NFL Football team(s) that came back from the largest in-game deficits to win that week’s game.

Visit the SHC blog (http://safeharborconsulting.biz/blog2/) each week to learn about the previous week’s largest comebacks in games played by FBS College Football Teams and NFL Pro Football Teams.

“We will highlight how those teams were able to overcome that week’s largest deficit to win their respective football game”, says SHC’s CEO Joe Flach.  “We are looking forward to discovering how college and pro football teams manage the crisis of falling behind in football games and rallying for a win before time runs out.  This should be a fun and exciting way to enjoy the football season while also highlighting crisis management issues.”

Safe Harbor Consulting is a management consulting firm that specializes in crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery for large, medium and small corporations.  “We suspect that the ability to come from behind in football games is a direct result of the preparations and practices that the teams go through prior to and throughout the season”, states Flach.  “At Safe Harbor Consulting, we help companies and other organizations prepare and exercise their crisis management programs enabling them to recover from business interruption events and technology disasters – and rally from behind before they experience serious financial and reputational losses.  We had the idea of combining our love and passion for business continuity planning with our love and passion for college and pro football and have instituted this year’s SHC Weekly Crisis Management Football Awards.  We hope that other football fans enjoy this feature in our blog as much as we are sure to.”

For more information about Safe Harbor Consulting and how we can help you plan for and/or exercise your business interruption game plans, please visit our website at www.safeharborconsulting.biz or visit us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Safe-Harbor-Consulting/204353729604053.

And now, are you ready for some football?

R U O K?

Many business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency response and crisis management programs currently utilize some sort of automated notification tool to alert employees of an incident and/or to call them to action following a disaster.  I have written past blogs about being careful with what you say in the recorded message being used for this notification because you can never be quite sure who is listening to the message – but, now, I want to know if you are making sure you also use this tool to ask, “Are you okay?”

I often hear business continuity and disaster recovery planners remind employees that job one is to ensure the health and welfare of employees and job two is to recover business operations and the tools to support them.  I think it is important to practice what we preach and to construct our emergency messages in the same vain.  I think it would be nice to first put in some information on how the company can help the employee, if they need, prior to asking the employee to help the company by engaging their recovery plans.

And, this does not just apply to messages being recorded (or typed) for the automated notification systems.  If your program still relies on phone call trees, I think it is a good idea to include this verbiage in a suggested script to be used for these calls.

Furthermore, I think it is important to keep the “Are you okay?” mantra going throughout the recovery effort.  I think it is important to do more than just make sure that employees know how to contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), but to also make that ask throughout the effort.  Not only should you help keep the employee okay by enforcing shift limits and making sure no one over does it in their anxiety to help the company through a tough time – but you need to make the ask.  Ask them if they are okay before they show signs that indicate otherwise.

And, finally, that same ask should be made after the incident is over.  There are many emergency response programs that require a mental health recovery period following participation in an incident.  You may want to consider a similar policy for certain members of your emergency response, crisis management, business continuity and/or disaster recovery teams.

Making sure the employees are okay during and throughout an emergency may require more than what your EAP has to offer.  There are companies out there that provide at time of disaster mental health assistance that can be on-site to help identify problems and help resolve issues when they arise.  You should consider including these types of companies in your program directories.  One such company, Empathia, is included in the My Links section of this blog page – but there are others, as well.

Just a thought.  And, I hope this blog finds you OK!

Is “The Cloud” Clouding Our Judgment?

The cloud does not only happen in a cloud. The cloud is simply a nebulous way of depicting the magic that happens between geographically distanced technology interacting over a network. Clouds have been long used as a way to pictorially represent a network connection between two end-points without trying to depict or represent the hardware, technology and software that resides inside. Clouds have been around for a long time in technical schematics but the term “cloud computing” has only recently come in vogue as an answer to everyone’s technology prayer. It is, in a manner of speaking, a cute little marketing gimmick.

As far as business continuity and disaster recovery planning is concerned, we should not think of the cloud as the savior to all our recovery challenges. In fact, the only thing that is really new is the term. Technology continuity programs have utilized networks to distance end users from the technology they use; to allow flexible access to other resources to meet increased demand or adjust to unexpected problems; and, to back up data to off-site locations for a long time. Before the term “the cloud” became a cool thing to say, we simply called it remote computing.

But the fact remains, there is still hardware and software at each end of and within the cloud itself that can break and require redundancies, quick fixes or alternate modes of operation depending upon the timeliness you need that functionality back in play. In other words – we still need disaster recovery plans.

Furthermore, the cloud represents some additional risks and threats itself. Just as the cloud is used to avoid depicting what happens inside, it also hides who might be inside there with you. Networks can be compromised. You may not know who else is inside that cloud looking at, duplicating and/or changing your data. In addition, much of the cloud concept now includes having solutions where data and applications are warehoused on technology that houses other organization’s data and applications as well. All of this opens up risks of compromise, sabotage and cyber terrorism. In fact now, some endpoints that do not have adequate backup solutions in place can take down numerous companies with one incident. There are several industries that utilize the cloud to access a monopoly-like third party service provider to help them function. If that organization experiences a failure without adequate backup systems in place – an entire industry could be jeopardized. One example that immediately comes to mind is the airlines industry. There are few service providers that provide flight control data necessary to board planes, perform crew scheduling, and manage operations. If one of those entities experiences a prolonged outage – many airlines may be non-operational until the systems can be brought back up on-line.

Like almost everything else in life, the cloud provides many benefits but it also has potential risks and downfalls. I simply suggest that business continuity and disaster recovery planners do not let the hype of “the cloud” to cloud our judgments on what is needed in our continuity programs. In many cases, the use of the cloud simply relocates single-points-of-failure or moves risks and threats from internal assets to vendor supported assets, but the risks and threats are still there and the impacts of failure still remain.

Another Day, Another Headline

So, if you and/or the organization you work for are not yet convinced that you need complete and well-rehearsed Emergency Response, Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity and Crisis Management Plans in place today – I am not sure that you will ever be convinced.

In the past few days we have seen an example of an emergency caused by a direct and willful act to cause harm and destruction in the incident at the Boston Marathon; and, an example of an emergency caused through accidental means in West, Texas.  These events occurred as some companies continue to assess their responses to and management of the disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy – an example of an emergency caused by nature.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to go very far back in our recent history to discover other compelling examples of why we need to be prepared for these types of emergencies and catastrophes.

It has been less than two weeks ago since I delivered a final Findings and Recommendations Report to a large international company with numerous physical locations in the Northeastern United States that were impacted by the carnage caused from Superstorm Sandy.  This analysis included the evaluation of other, like sized companies, in the region and how they responded to and managed this incident.  One of the not-so-surprising conclusions reached was that the ability to efficiently and effectively respond to this event was directly related to the amount of pre-planning and plan exercising that had been completed in the years prior to the storm.  This is a common finding following most of these types of incidents.  Those organizations that prepare for and practice their responses to emergencies fare better during these events than those that do not.  This only makes sense.

What stops many organizations from preparing and exercising is their belief that they are not susceptible to these types of events.  The headlines of the past few days, few months and few years, suggest that that is just not true.  Everyone is at risk.  Even if you are not in an area that experiences violent weather events, floods or earthquakes; even if you operate in an area that is relatively secure and isolated, the Boston Marathon and West, Texas incidents should prove – that it just doesn’t matter.

Bad things can and will occur.  Be prepared.  You owe it to your employees, your customers and family.  If you think otherwise now, you are just not paying attention.  Hoping that nothing happens is no longer a valid strategy.

Once again – our thoughts and prayers go out to yet another community in West, Texas, having to deal with the tragic loss of lives and homes.  I hate to think about what the next headline might bring.

The Boston Marathon Tragedy

I am always hesitant to immediately write about lessons to be learned from a tragedy such as what occurred during the recent Boston Marathon for fear that it might come across as an ambulance chasing kind of attempt to garner attention or attract more business.  But, on the other hand, it is when the news is news and people are focused on the incident and the meaning behind it, that the lessons can most readily be learned.

First of all, let me make it clear that my first thoughts are always with the victims of such a tragedy.  I cannot imagine the horror and pain suffered by those who were so horrendously impacted by this heinous act of cowardice.  To be enjoying what should be a moment of pride and celebration for just crossing or nearing the finish line with your loved ones waiting to share the accomplishment with you and to have it all interrupted in an instant of violence is simply devastating.  Even though I work in emergency preparedness and crisis management, I cannot help but shed tears every time I watch these events unfold.

There will be many so-called “lessons learned” that come from this incident.  Some of them valid; some of them, simply, the wrong conclusions.  The news media is and will continue to step all over each other trying to get the better story and trying to out-analyze the other channels in an attempt to gain greater market-share.  There is still much to assess and much to learn.  Most of the real, valid conclusions are still weeks away – when, unfortunately, some other news story will steal the headlines and those of us that were not directly impacted will have moved on with our lives.

At this point in time, I can merely speculate on what will be discovered, but I do have some of my own opinions.  I think that this event shows us that the U.S., that for such a long time, has been somewhat void of the risks and threats of terrorism when compared to many of our international friends, must now acknowledge that we are susceptible to these types of risks.  And, in my opinion, I think we will learn that this type of terrorism does not require a sophisticated, organized and well-financed group with a political agenda to carry out such an incident with relatively large impact (considering the numbers of people injured).  No, I think we will learn that any idiot with access to the internet and with evil in their heart can pull off this type of terror.  What this means is – everyone, everywhere is fair target for such a tragedy.

There are already many people, and there will be more, second-guessing the security at this event and calling for more stringent security for future, similar events.  I, personally, don’t think that is the answer.  There is always more we can do to try to prevent these occurrences, but, I think this incident shows us that there is always an opening for terrorism.  Where ever you have mass gatherings, there is an opportunity for someone(s) to do damage.  Yes, we need to do everything we can to prevent these tragedies but there is a point where prevention starts to hinder our freedoms.  The other side of the equation is to be prepared.

I have already heard many people suggest that we need to keep on living, and I agree.  But, we can keep on living with a higher level of preparedness.  I think the people of Boston responded pretty well to the tragedy.  The level of preparedness they had for foreseen medical issues resulting from running a marathon were leveraged to help respond to this unforeseen incident.  The people they had in place managing the event were the right people for responding to this tragedy and, I think, they responded admirably.

There are other things we can do as individuals to be better prepared for incidents such as this.  Having pre-established meeting areas – including virtual meeting places via common people to call – is just one example.  There are others that I am sure you have already read about in other articles.  I am just going to go way outside my area of expertise and way outside the considerations of business continuity and suggest that one way we can help prepare ourselves for these types of tragedies is to remember to say our “I love you”s before we are impacted by these types of events.

I am about to board a plane to the Continuity Insights Management Conference in San Diego.  I am sure the Boston Marathon tragedy will be vastly discussed, formally and informally, by the many professionals that will be in attendance.  I am sure to hear a wide variety of opinionated causes and corrections – some, I will learn from; some, I will shake my head at.  What I am going to make sure I do, however, is to say my “I love you”s before getting on the plane.  That is one lesson we should never forget.

Out with the Old In with the New

Well, we are now several weeks into the new year and, as crisis management and business continuity professionals, we are happy to see 2012 in our rear view mirrors.  Maybe it is just the relative recentness of Hurricane Sandy, or the fact that she devastated such a wide and highly populated area in the United States, but 2012 seemed to have been a very busy year for business continuity planners.  And, this is not just in terms of responses to a number of disasters, but also in terms of preparing for high-risk events such as the London Olympics, the US Presidential Party Conventions and several Political Summits throughout the region.

I guess some of the reasons we were so busy are good reasons.  I am witnessing a much higher level of awareness for the potential of business interruptions occurring from mass gathering events.  I have been somewhat impressed with the levels of preparedness from both the public and private domain for events such as the Olympics and the Conventions.  It seems people are starting to realize the benefits of the private and public sectors working together in preparation for these events.  Coordinating work schedules and being aware of commuting challenges and potential mass gatherings, coupled with work from home solutions and proactive strategies for shifting work-flows and employees away from the congestion during the most active event times, seem to all have helped businesses and communities cope with the challenges of hosting such events.

And, I think, by planning for these kind of scheduled interruptions, our programs have been strengthened and improved, allowing us to better respond to the unscheduled interruptions that seem to be happening at an alarmingly more frequent rate with a much wider footprint.

This article from Huffington Post does a pretty good job in summarizing the challenges we experienced in 2012 caused by disaster.  Even though there are a number of “disasters” associated with wildfires in the US this past year, there are enough other events that support my statement that 2012 was a busy year.

The one quote that stands out to me in the Huffington Post article is from the acting director of the U.S. National Weather Service, Laura Furgione, who states, “The normal has changed, I guess. The normal is extreme.”  Well, if extreme is our new normal, it is up to all of us to make sure that “prepared” is our new posture.

Whereas, I am glad to put 2012 behind us, I am also anxious to make sure that we, as planners, have grown and applied the lessons learned from these events in our 2013 and beyond plans.  Do not fall into the trap of believing what we learned from Hurricane Sandy only prepares us for the next Hurricane.  Focus on the impacts.  Some of the lessons learned from Sandy are applicable for any event that immobilizes a large portion of our workforce, or forces closure of a number of our key facilities, or results in widespread power outages, and on and on.

The German writer, artist, politician Johann Wolfgang van Goethe once said, “The greatest tragedy in all of life is to experience the pain but miss the lesson.”   I hope that the pain experienced in 2012 was not for nothing.

Now, bring on 2013.  I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

An Update on Pandemic Planning

Well, it is flu season again in the United States and in Corporate America that means it is Pandemic Flu Preparedness Planning Season again.  However, please do not confuse the Seasonal Flu with a Pandemic Flu.  This website from Flu.gov includes a terrific table at the bottom of its page, defining the difference between the two.

Over the past few months, Safe Harbor Consulting has been active with a number of clients in updating their Pandemic Plans and conducting Pandemic Response Simulated Exercises.  One common opportunity for improvements in these programs is with regards to the inclusion of Threat Level Tables within their Plans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a Pandemic Flu Threat Level Description Table detailing 8 Pandemic Phases.  Because the last two phases of this schematic are not numbered, they are often left off of the Tables included in the plans we review.  The WHO Threat Levels consist of 6 Pandemic Phases, numbered 1 – 6, and a Post Peak Phase and Post Pandemic Phase, which are not numbered.  The chart included on this website, shows the most up-to-date Table.  It is recommended that Business Plans written specifically for Pandemic Response, ensure that they include the two Post Peak and Post Pandemic phases in their strategies.

Furthermore, the WHO Program addresses world-wide threats.  Many US-based plans we have reviewed uses the WHO’s elevation of a Pandemic Threat Level as a “trigger” to engage in response and/or prevention actions.  In reality however, your response would be significantly different if the virus in question had a presence in the United States.  For example, raising the Pandemic Threat Level to a phase 3 or 4 with a virus known to be present in the Unites States should cause plans to be engaged, whereas, a Phase 4 or 5 with no evidence of the virus in North America may still have you simply on Alert.

Some mature plans we have reviewed understand this issue and as a result have included a revised Threat Level Table published by the U.S Federal Government.  Our warning concerning this situation is that the US policy is to amend the WHO Threat Levels on a case by case basis every time the WHO declares a Pandemic Alert (Phase 4 or higher).  The table being used in many plans is based off of the last time the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) published a table, which is now obsolete.

The DHHS states:

“In the United States, pandemic phases will be defined based on the global phase and determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. During the pandemic phase, additional subdivisions may be defined based on the extent of disease. In actual practice, the distinction between the various phases of pandemic influenza may be blurred or occur in a matter of hours, again underscoring the need for flexibility.”

Therefore, we warn people to not be too confident that those are the same definitions used for the next pandemic to hit the United States.

All in all, most of the plans we review are in pretty good shape, otherwise.  And, it is great to see that this issue is not being forgotten about given the media has lost some momentum on this topic and the attention pandemics were getting a few years back is not as prevalent.

Pandemics are a reality that should (must?) be planned for.  Many of the issues we plan for are common for any incident that results in a depleted or immobilized workforce.

If you have additional information on Pandemics or wish to correct anything we may have stated in error, we would love your feedback.  In the meantime, stay healthy and stay prepared.

Businesses Driving Businesses to Plan: The Planning Impetus

One of the greatest challenges, I think, with getting companies (and by this, I mean the BOD of companies) to pay more attention to and invest more capital in business continuity and disaster recovery plans is that there is no real “pain” in not having a plan unless a disaster occurs.

I mean, what pain does a company really realize by not having a viable business continuity plan?

There are no fines; no penalties; no lost revenue; no competitive disadvantage to really speak of.  Sure, us BCP/DR professionals will try to convince you this is not entirely true … but, come on, what pain does the Executive Suite really feel?  Be honest.  Any fines or penalties for not having a plan will only be levied when this fact is discovered FOLLOWING your inadequate response to a disaster.

The BCP Planners complain?  So what … it’s their job to complain.

Failed audits?  Big deal – pretend to fix the issues – just don’t spend too much money doing so.

Me, personally, I don’t think the government will or necessarily should audit plans and levy fines or penalties.  No, the impetus for getting BCP/DR planning really rolling in Corporate America (or World-wide) is when the big guys finally get so concerned with interruptions that might occur with their vendors and suppliers that they start making having viable, certified plans in place a condition for doing business with them.

This is when the pain will be felt.  Having your customers demanding you have plans in place in order to win or maintain their business will impact your bottom line.  Not having plans will be a competitive disadvantage.  And, you can bet your bottom dollar, the Executive Suite will ensure that this business requirement is fulfilled to their biggest customers’ satisfaction.

In my mind, when the big fish start to worry about the plans of their suppliers, BCP and DR planning will become a much more important strategic concern for all the smaller fish.  And, I think that time is coming.  Until then, good luck trying to find the pain points that work in your organization.