Skating through disaster

Lowcountry Kayaker's picture
  • 600,000 homes and businesses without power

  • 12 fatalities

  • 77 Oklahoma counties under federal emergency declaration

As Oklahoma exits tornado season and enters ice storm weather, is your business prepared?

A couple weeks from now mark the anniversary of the mid-December 2007 ice storm. The above figures for Oklahoma’s most devastating ice storm dwarf the previous high of 255,000 without power during the January 2002 ice storm.

(the lyrics say it all)

According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, other major ice storms since 2000 include:

  • Dec. 25-27, 2000: 120,000 w/o power, 27 fatalities, $170 million damages

  • Jan. 28-30, 2002: 255,000 w/o power, 31,000 power poles snapped, $100 million

  • Dec. 3, 2002: 55,000 w/o power

  • Jan. 12-15, 2007: 100,000 w/o power, 19 deaths

While most of the fatalities were due to automobile accidents, other causes include hypothermia, asphyxiation while trying to stay warm in enclosed spaces, slip and falls, and falling tree branches.

Unlike tornadoes, these storms are often predictable. According to the Tulsa National Weather Service Forecast Office referring to the Dec. ‘07 storm, “The event was forecast well in advance by forecasters at WFO Tulsa.”

Why the grim reminder?

Have you serviced your generator since last winter? Do you have fuel or did you use it in the lawn mower? Remember how to start it? Or do you plan to read the instructions while your chattering teeth grasp a flashlight?

Do your employees know what to do? Is there an orderly mechanism for them to communicate with key personnel? Have you identified key personnel? Do you have backup people in case some of your key players can’t respond?

Have you walked around your business and home looking for vulnerabilities? Is it time to call the tree trimmer?

These are a tiny fraction of the questions that will be answered in an up to date business continuity plan (BCP). Disaster recovery plan is another name for this document. By either name, business continuity as defined in the Disaster Dictionary is “The continuance of systems, processes, and procedures that are mission-critical to a business.”

A 2007 survey conducted by Hewlett Packard revealed that “... 18 percent of enterprises, 31 percent of small businesses have no business continuity plan.” This survey was skewed towards IT intensive organizations so I suspect that the numbers are far lower for businesses in general.

A BCP requires time, money, and employee buy-in. Too many business owners choose to “wing-it” through disasters. Will your customers wing-it or will they find your BCP-prepared competitor?

Dilbert's Disaster Plan