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Critical Keys for Business Continuity During Storms Like Ida

For businesses and other organizations to develop the sort of resilience needed to withstand a disaster like Hurricane Ida, having a plan for employees and having built-in redundancy are keys to success.

Main Street of Manville, N.J. covered in debris from Hurricane Ida.
Main Street covered in debris. Four days after Tropical Storm Ida dumped a large amount of rain, and a day before President Biden tours, recovery continues in Manville, N.J., Sept., 6, 2021.
Ed Murray/NJ Advance Media
In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Ida, it’s important for businesses and other organizations to plan for not just hurricanes but other weather events that could damage or even destroy a business operation or other organization.

The damage from Ida, so far, has been estimated at about $95 billion, including many businesses that may or may not return. Having a response plan and a level of resilience before the hurricane would have benefited any organization now going through the recovery process.

“To prepare for a major land-falling hurricane such as Ida, businesses and personnel need to take necessary steps in advance to ensure resilience,” said Alison Svrcek, managing director and global director of client services and manager of business continuity at StormGeo, a global provider of weather solutions that specializes in customized weather forecasts for clients around the globe.

Svrcek also serves as incident commander at StormGeo’s Houston site, a 24-hour operation that sets an example for business continuity and resilience for the clients it serves.

For businesses and other organizations to develop the sort of resilience needed to withstand a disaster like Ida, having a plan for employees and built-in redundancy are keys to success.

“Every incident should have an emergency preparedness plan, and that’s an overall plan that governs how an organization is going to approach various hazards,” Svrcek said. “For StormGeo, we take an all-hazards approach, so we have very specific response plans for very different types of activities.”

StormGeo’s overall emergency preparedness plan has various action procedures for specific events and checklists of actions that should be taken for specific hazards.

The actions are very different, say, for a tornado, a “short-fuse event,” as compared to a hurricane, where there is time to prepare just prior to the storm. “Preparing for a tornado is going to be a much more short-term response, where you have to be prepared to activate versus a preparedness situation for a hurricane where your preparation is more structured, maybe ordering supplies, testing communication leading up to the response phase,” Svrcek said.

Of course there are keys to resilience regardless of the nature of the hazard and those include having a communication plan for employees should they need to be evacuated and a means to maintain power during an outage.

If the power goes off or the Internet is down and an organization is unable to service its customers, that is a major `liability, so there has to be a buffer to withstand that and enable continuity of operations.

“By and large, the majority of companies or organizations require that power and Internet be completely established and employees are able to fulfill their roles so they don’t go out of business,” Svrcek said.

StormGeo can never be offline and has a backup generator onsite, as well as redundant Internet sources within the plan. “In addition, we also have an alternate work location we’ve established and a third-party vendor who’s in contact with us if we need to evacuate the building and move to that alternate site,” Svrcek said. “We have that standing by and ready to deploy.”

It’s also important to establish in the plan the types of communication that will be used with employees during a disaster if evacuation is necessary, such as email and automated voice messaging. StormGeo uses a third-party vendor to help with automated voice messaging.

It’s also important to practice the plan with employees. “Houston is an example of a hurricane area, and the majority of people who live here are not from the Gulf Coast and they’ve never prepared for or lived through a hurricane before. That’s something the organization needs to take into account and make sure personnel are aware of the risks,” Svrcek added.

“In addition,” said Courtland Keith, vice president of Cross Industry for StormGeo, “employees should strongly be encouraged to follow local evacuation guidelines, if any, and to evacuate to a safe location when needed in order to avoid potentially dangerous impacts from flooding.”
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