Tag Archive for hurricane irene

Is 2011 Becoming the Year of the Disaster?

What is going on with the weather this year?  My wife and I moved out to the Pacific Northwest over three years ago, for reasons I will not bore you with, and are sitting up here without a worry in the world, while the rest of the country has been bombarded with weather and geological related incidents one right after another.

This year has truly been an epic year in terms of these events in the United States.  Certainly, each and every year brings its own challenges, but this year seems to be one right after the other.

We kicked off this year with the Groundhog Day Blizzard that crippled much of the nation from New Mexico and Northern Texas to New England and Eastern Canada.  Who knew at that time that this was just the beginning?

Shortly after this huge snowstorm, which contributed to the next crisis, the flooding began.  We have had historic levels of flooding on the Mississippi River, Missouri River and others. 

Then, the tornadoes started to occur.  The 2011 tornado season was one of the worst on record seemingly making the news every night with a new city being devastated.  According to this Wikipedia article, there have been 1,764 tornadoes in the US in 2011 – that’s a lot of tornadoes and a lot of damage!

Then, while the weather takes a little break, we get a nice little earthquake on the East Coast.  Nothing real significant (easy to say, sitting here in Gig Harbor, WA) but just a little something to rattle the cages of those who didn’t expect an earthquake to be rattling their cages.

And, that “little break” the weather took didn’t last long, as right on the heels of the earthquake, Hurricane Irene decided to give the East Coast a visit.  It turns out she was not as bad as some prognosticators predicted, but she was pretty bad nonetheless.

So, what’s next?  Oh, how about a few little Texas fires – and by little, I mean Texas-style little, which is pretty huge to the rest of us.  A little more flooding in the Northeast, perhaps – check.

I am currently working with an East Coast company to help them plan for an Emergency Response exercise.  We are quickly reaching the conclusion that they do not have to exercise given the number of real life implementations they have had and are even now currently experiencing with more floods in New Jersey.  Enough already!

Safe Harbor Consulting opened our doors as a new business continuity, disaster recovery, and crisis management consulting firm earlier this year.  Some folks have accused us of causing these disasters as a way of promoting the need for our services.  I assure you, our connections with the man above are not that good.

And I have only talked about incidents impacting the US!  Imagine how long this blog would be if I started listing worldwide events.  I am almost afraid to ask, “What could be next?”  The answer is likely to be in a future blog.

Be safe, folks.

Hurricane Irene – The Aftermath

There are still plenty of homes and businesses without power – and may be for days to come; there are still plenty of streets and communities under water – with lots of clean up to come; there are still plenty of insurance claims to be filed and resolved – with lots of tears to accompany the frustration.  But, all in all Hurricane Irene was not quite as bad as most models projected.

There will be some discussion, no doubt, on the merits of being safe rather than sorry and the benefits of preparing for the worst versus the media sensationalizing the news and people and governments overreacting to the threat.  I, personally, could almost argue both sides of that discussion.  Although I hate this phrase, I’ll use it:  “it is what it is” or, in this case, “it was what it was”.

As stated above, in the first paragraph, it is not over for many, but the “exciting” part of the story has come and gone without too much damage being done, especially in terms of corporate crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery programs are concerned.  If your experiences suggest otherwise, I would love to hear from you.

One interesting point to note, particularly on the domestic side of things, the American Red Cross has a terrific Safe & Well website where people, once they are safe and have access to the internet following a crisis, can post information about their whereabouts and status so loved ones can be informed.  I am not sure how well publicized this is at this time and how many “loved ones” know to look here for information, but, I think it is a terrific concept.

As I watched the media coverage for hours, it always struck me as somewhat hypocritical that reporters and camera men (and women, I suppose) stood in the wake of the storm telling people how important it is to evacuate and take cover.  If you are going to report from the middle of the storm, people (yes, the stupid ones, but there are plenty) are going to take that as a sign that they can, too.  It is almost like issuing them a challenge – obviously, it can’t be so bad; if the news reporters can stand there, so can I.

Hurricane Irene did, at least, do us the favor of inflicting the most harm over the weekend with minimal impact to commerce and allowing some time for clean-up prior to kicking off our work week.  Thanks, I guess.

Now it’s back to business.  And, back to business for business continuity planners is to ensure this event, even if it was not as impactful as anticipated, allowed us the opportunity to revisit our level of preparedness and discover opportunities for improving and preparing our programs.  Certainly, I can imagine that many of you discovered shortcomings in your communications program for disseminating information concerning your organization’s practices and procedures in response to this pending and then immediate threat.

I am glad that Hurricane Irene was not as bad as some people thought it would be.  The downside of this, however, is that the next time, fewer people will take heed to the warning remembering the, somewhat false alarm they experienced here.  I think there was this, “cry wolf syndrome” somewhat at play with Hurricane Katrina – where they had gone through hurricane after hurricane with limited impacts that they took the warnings lightly.  Let’s hope this is not the case here.

New York City Evacuations Begin

According to this article, Mayor Michael Bloomberg just ordered the mandatory evacuation of around 250,000 residents.  Let the emergency begin.

The evacuation process itself has the real risk of turning into its own form of an emergency or crisis.  I can imagine that store shelves are already bare of essentials and not so essentials as the panic sets in and people begin to hoard everything from milk to water to beer to toilet paper and who knows what.  It certainly is not a bad idea to be prepared – but by storing up a month’s worth of staples for an event that may last a few days is not an effective and efficient solution.

Good luck to all of you in the NYC area with your commutes this afternoon.  I hope that the chaos the evacuation causes does not do more harm than good.  In a place like NYC when the evacuations begin, looting and theft cannot be too far behind if the civil authorities are not prepared.

I hope my concerns do not come to pass and I hope this all just ends up being a well organized, exercise in precautionary measures for an event that is not as bad as feared – time, I guess, will tell.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Hurricane Irene

Her she comes, ready or not.  As Hurricane Irene treks up the East Coast of the United States, individual home owners and businesses brace for her impact.

By now, you should know if you lie in her projected path and you should have prepared best you can.  The video clip in this article tells and interesting story about the potential impact Irene could have on NYC.  It shouldn’t surprise most people that the real damage is mostly likely caused by the flooding and water surge that accompanied a hurricane.  The video clip states that New York City has 17 low lying flood zones.  I wonder how many places of business fall in the footprint of these zones?

Then, of course, there are the residual effects.  If the NYC subway system is shut down, how does this impact your employees’ ability to get to work?  Do they have work from home capabilities?  What about your customers – if you depend on their presence at your place of business?

I, along with many of you, will be watching intently the next few days.  For me – I will be watching from afar.  If you are in an evacuation area or near the projected path of Irene, I wish you well.

Please feel free to post comments to this blog with any lessons learned or other stories about how Hurricane Irene impacted you, your home or your place of business.  I would love to learn from you.

Good Luck.

Disasters With Warning and Those Without

In just a matter of days, locations on the East Coast of the United States will experience both a disaster that comes with some advance warning, in Hurricane Irene, and a disaster that seemingly pops up out of nowhere, with no advance warning, in the earthquake centered in Virginia.
For events like a hurricane, organizations should have a checklist of actions to take 72, 48 and/or 24 hours before impact that can prepare them for the potential threat and lessen the impact of the event.
For scenarios like the one that played out yesterday on the east coast, organizations need to be ready in a moments notice to react, respond and recover from the threat.
Luckily, yesterday’s earthquake had limited impact to both domestic and corporate facilities – although there may have been a few laundry bills that had to be paid.  And, hopefully, Hurricane Irene will, likewise, have limited impact on the East Coast.
In both cases, however, there should be plenty of opportunity to learn a few lessons to improve our overall disaster preparedness posture – let’s hope organizations take advantage of this opportunity.
And, even if your company or home does not and did not lie in the path of either of these two events, you can prepare yourself for similar scenarios and … test, test, test your level of preparedness through plan walkthroughs, table top exercises and/or mock disasters.
I hope you fared well in yesterdays earthquake and that Irene decides to pass us by unharmed.  But, I also hope each event allows you to take advantage of the heightened awareness of the possibility of crises to update, improve and better socialize your crisis management, emergency preapredness, business continuity and disaster recovery programs.