Tag Archive for risks

Deadly Volcanoes

Last night I stumbled upon an interesting episode of “Nova” on PBS – “Deadliest Volcanoes”

Now I am not suggesting everyone update their emergency preparedness and business continuity plans to prepare for a volcano eruption, but it did present a pretty scary scenario of just how devastating a volcano can be.  We even have recent history of how volcano ash clouds can be very disruptive to the air travel industry with the recent eruptions in Iceland – (Eyjafjallajökull in 2010) and Alaska (Mt. Redoubt in 2009)

There were stories included about potential eruptions all over the world, including some relatively highly populated regions, including Naples, Italy; Japan; Yellowstone and others.  The Yellowstone situation is actually pretty interesting, because it is not what one would normally think about when considering volcanic eruptions.  The Yellowstone “super volcano” does not include the cone shaped mountain spout that most of us associate with volcanoes. 

Then they started talking about the volcano that practically sits in my backyard!  I am awed by the sight of Mount Rainier each and every clear day that she appears on my horizon.  I have lived here for only 4 years, but natives of the area tell me she is always an amazing sight that you will never get used to.  I knew Mt. Rainier was an active volcano – similar to her sister mountain, Mt. St. Helens, which erupted relatively recently in 1980 with significant damages being incurred – but, never really thought about the risk too much.  Well, this episode has given me a little greater appreciation of what could be in our future.  Interestingly enough, this segment suggested that the eruption itself, as devastating as it may be, would probably be the least of our worries.  No, there is a phenomena known as a Lahar, which is a catastrophic mud and rock slide that flows down the volcano into the valleys below.  A Lahar caused by an eruption in Mt. Rainier has the potential to reach all the way to Seattle destroying much of what lies in its path.  The nearby town of Orting, WA, even has a Lahar warning system installed in their community. 

I found this episode to be very educational and informative.  You may want to watch it, too.  Unfortunately for me, my seven year old son was listening to the show from another room and is now terrified by that beautiful mountain that we often hike near and around.  I hope he is not so scared that he won’t want to take another hike out there with me – it is truly inspiring. 

Check out this show if you have time – and, check out the risks that might be near your places of business.

Monitoring Developing Threats

Traditionally, business continuity and disaster recovery planners are responsible for identifying the needs for continuity and recovery of business and technology operations after a business or technology interruption event occurs.  The planning methodology also includes analyses to identify potential threats to the business / technology environments and to speculate on the probability a particular type of event might occur.  Some programs also include policies and procedures for responding to the event as it unfolds within the aspects of an Emergency Response and Crisis Management program. 

My question for this blog entry is:  Who monitors the current state of affairs and tracks potential threats that may be developing?

In some environments, there are active Security Departments who constantly monitor potential, developing threats.  I have seen a few Business Continuity Programs that maintain an active Command Center monitoring the stability of work environments.  But, for the most part, I think most organizations do not have any department or area responsible for this task.

This may only be a relevant issue for large, multi-national firms.  If your organization has facilities in hurricane prone areas, who monitors the pending storms to identify facilities that may be at risk when storms develop?  If your company has facilities in unstable political environments, is someone responsible for monitoring civil unrest threats that may develop?  If an earthquake occurs, or a nuclear explosion were to happen, or a volcano erupt, or a chemical spill happen – how quickly would your organization know whether or not one of its facilities and/or employees are in harm’s way?  How quickly would a Command Center be established that can monitor and track the response and impacts of such an event?

How proactive is your organization in monitoring developing risks and threat before they have a detrimental impact on your facilities?  How proactive should it be?  I don’t believe there is a one size fits all answer to this question, but I do think it is something every large firm should consider.  Identifying potential threats in advance of them having an adverse impact on your organization may be the difference between a successful response and a failed one.

At the very least, it might be useful for business continuity and disaster recovery planners to routinely check out the FEMA website for disaster events and developing threats.  And, if your organization does track these threats through another department, such as the Security Department, make sure you are aware of their notification and escalation process and that your team is included in the loop.