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.