Business Continuity Lessons from the 2017 Hurricane Season
It was an ingenious move for an organization that had to stay operational throughout the storm. As CNN reported, "having family close by and safe certainly helped ease the nerves of journalists providing their community the latest updates on the hurricane's path and the damage it could do to their city."
Business Continuity Concerns Fueling an Increased Sense of UrgencyMost organizations don't have the luxury of a bunker. But the Herald wasn't the only quick-thinking employer that needed to have their people front and center. And the importance of being prepared has renewed urgency in the wake of the post-Maria heartache in Puerto Rico.
For us, it's been about flying in to provide care for children of first-responders. But there were lessons that applied to numerous businesses and benefits:
Call in the reserves
If you're handling a crisis or natural disaster, you're not going to have extra hands inside the organization to manage ancillary (though essential) supports. During Harvey and Irma, our hospital clients like MDAnderson Cancer Center and JFK Medical Center didn't have to call around to find child care for their doctors and nurses. They knew we'd be there. We did our jobs!so they could do theirs.
Have clear policies and know where to go for info
During the storms, several companies made news (good and not so good) for inconsistent policies on going to work. There was also confusion about where to get info. Start now to assemble business continuity policies and communications plans. Don't forget to make use of social media. Business continuity will depend on it.
Assess vendors reach
How local can your national provider be? One of the reasons we were able to respond quickly after Harvey is because our coast-to-coast network already included a large contingent on the ground in Houston. There were no long waits for people to fly in (a bonus since many flights were grounded); and no guessing if they'd arrive.
Ensure your Plan A has a Plan B
In a crisis, regular procedures might not apply. So how can you use existing supports in novel ways? During the recent storms, our back-up crisis plan reimbursed client employees if they had to hire the sitter next door; it also enabled in-home sitters to be booked on-site in hospitals in case doctors and nurses needed to bring children with them.
Make sure to debrief
Unprecedented events call for scrappy solutions; but those same solutions can (and should) be tweaked later into official policy. Many hospitals, for example, gave themselves high marks for ferrying in doctors and nurses. But those same hospitals are rethinking their approaches to support personnel and supplies. "If you're planning for a disaster," an MDAnderson administrator told MedPage Today, "have you touched base with lab medicine to make sure they have what they need?" After the crisis, schedule a check-in to assess what worked, what didn't, and how to turn improvisation into a solid crisis plan.