Category Archives: business continuity plans

How to Correctly Analyze 100-Year Threats for Risk Assessments

Starting a risk assessment in northern Virginia and going through the threat list they say, “You can take earthquakes out – we don’t have earthquakes here”!

Hey, Haiti didn’t have earthquakes!

Vermont didn’t have major floods!

Connecticut doesn’t have tornados!

Like Murphy’s Law, as soon as you discount a threat, and think, “it will never happen here”, it happens!   The earthquake in the mid-Atlantic in August was a wake-up call for those who that they would never have earthquake damage.

One of the reasons that security risk assessment is so highly valued as an analytical took, and why it’s required by so many governments is because it DOES take into account the 100-year flood, the 75-year drought, etc.

Natural disasters can be so overwhelming, and catastrophic, that they must be considered in any proper risk assessment.  This is why some areas are not suitable for building housing tracts, because they are in a 100-year flood plan.

Because human memories are short, just because YOU haven’t experience a flood
along a meandering creek, doesn’t mean it will never happen.  

Always check the long-term probabilities when you start a risk assessment and make the numbers work for you!

Avatar, the Field and the BP Oil Spill

As the old drill-baby-drill cry loses its appeal, the coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico are beginning to understand that they will feel the devastating consequences of the BP oil spill. 

The U.S. is a bicoastal country – 50% of the entire population of the United States lives within 50 miles of a coast.  And pays extra in housing prices to live there.  Ignore for a moment all the businesses that will be impacted – and think about buying a $4 million dollar house on the water – and have the water turn into an oil slick. 

I watched Avatar last night and noticed how the movie depicted the planet, Pandora, as an interconnection of elements that you could SEE how they supported  and depended on each other. 

That illustrates our relationship with our own Earth and how if one thing changes, it effects everything along the food chain (literally, in this case).  So the oil gets the birds and the blue crab larvae and the shrimp and now they are saying it may wipe out a generation of sea life.

As a species, we generally do not recognize that our connection with the earth is every bit as interconnected and tangible as the network on Pandora.  We need the earth to give us water, provide us with food (whether you are a vegetarian or not), provide water and shelter, medicine – everything – even manufacturing of plastic comes from the earth through our use of petroleum.

 That is also why ideas about animals are often so ‘un-evolved’, meaning they are thought of a things, not spiritual beings.  Time magazine ran an article on animal intelligence several years ago and said, at the conclusion of the article, “if we recognized and were aware of how sensitive and intelligent animals actually were, we would have to change everything we do as humans.”

News flash — we ARE going to have to change everything we do – we have to find our connection to the earth and the animals and plants who share it, or we will continue to have these devastating environmental disasters and wake up one day to a wasteland that can no longer support us. 

If you’ve watched “What The Bleep”, which is a movie that explains new developments in quantum physics – and I highly recommend that you watch it…  you will reach the same conclusion – that the electric Field exists on our planet and connects you and me to every dog, every blue crab, every tree, every blade of grass.  There is no artificial separation.  We are them and they are us and we are the same thing – just a different sector of the same energy field. We are Pandora. 

Oil spills and other disasters make this living network more apparent by watching, hour by hour on CNN, how one event affects everything, first in the Gulf, then in the entire coastal area touching the Gulf, then probably the Caribbean – who knows how wide the damage will be from this one oil platform. 

Do you feel the connection?  A few years ago, I got a great book about ‘curing the incurable’ and it was a collection of Russian folk remedies – from a former doctor to the Russian Olympics.  One of the remedies was how to use trees for healing – complete with details about which trees were most responsive – how to tap into the energy of the trees and use them by standing eighteen inches from the tree and putting your hands on the trunk…

This oil spill may dissolve political differences and even national differences and show us, one more time, how interconnected we are with the earth – and I’m hoping that we will find a positive way to use that information.

Pandemic H1N1 – Part 2

This is my second post on the H1N1 flu. I have a daughter-in-law in the high risk category — she’s expecting twins in December and didn’t want to get the vaccine — but I did finally convince her. Also: while I was hosting my 150+ person webinar on how to handle the pandemic’s effect on your business — one of my employees came down with the ful. He was very sick for the first 3 days, and then slowly improving but still with a fever after five days.

We asked several questions during the webinar, which was very well attended by banks, hospitals, credit unions, and other companies. The one that surprised me was that only 40 percent of the people had a pandemic plan in place and about 20 percent didn’t know if they had plan or not. When we are discussing alternate staffing plans, the place where you might see the most impact is in the IT area. IT managers and network managers usually have knowledge not shared with the rest of the organization.

It’s easy to get a temp to fill in as a receptionist, to add a salesperson, or replace clerical or admin functions, but to get someone who knows your network and how all the configurations work is a trickier proposition — and FLASH — IT and network people also get the flu!

One of the amazing facts from the webinar was that older people — that is, anyone who was alive in 1957 or right after, has a very low chance of getting the H1N1 virus (unless they have another underlying condition like asthma). This is because a similar strain went around the world is 1957 and so people from the era are relatively immune.

Other considerations to contemplate during this pandemic is whether to relax your requirements for employees to have to get a written doctor’s excuse — doctors may not have time to write one — and employees who only have the flu, but are staying at home sleeping, may not have to visit a physician or hospital. Another aspect to consider is whether you would rather have people stay out LONGER, to make sure they don’t infect others in your company.

A company full is 20-40 year olds is probably going to have more absences because they have small children at home. If you look at the flu maps for the last four months in the U.S., you can easily see that the flu started in March-April 2009 and then died down when school was out. School in session resulted in the 2nd wave of the pandemic that is still increasing, as we enter into the usual flu season.

If all the data was analyzed, I’m quite sure they would find that the concentration of children in school, colleges and universities is a big driver in keeping the flu numbers increasing.

One disturbing note was — children may not be protected completely from the first vaccine, but may need a booster. I saw this on the news this morning, and, with vaccine in short supply anyway, the idea that boosters may be needed would be very unwelcome.

By the end of next week, we should get a better idea of the trending of the flu waves and that will help companies in planning for increases absences. At the beginning of H1N1, experts were predicting a 20-40% absentee rate — so don’t take your eye off this pandemic.

Did you Wash Your Hands Today? RISK and the H1N1 PANDEMIC

The CDC reported on August 29, that, as of April 15, 2009, total of 9,079 hospitalizations and 593 deaths associated with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses
have been reported to the CDC.

I put on a seminar last week with the Florida International Bankers Association in Miami, Florida, and one of the topics on the menu was the H1N1 Flu. Now, about ten days later, the media is starting to report on H1N1 sweeping through the college campuses and elementary schools. It hasn’t hit employers hard yet, but I am confident that it will.

And this time it comes with some surprising statistics. The younger you are, the more at risk you are. Apparently if you are over 60, or born after 1956, you are mostly immune because a similar flu that made the rounds in ’57 gave people alive at the time, antibodies that will protect you this time.

I have noticed the increase in sincere doctors talking about how they are going to immunize their own children – that is, after the new vaccine comes out in mid-October.

Hospitals have already been hit especially hard by the recession, due to the increase of patients who have lost their jobs, and therefore their health insurance; and that has increased activity in the local emergency rooms. But look what the forecast is for hospitals at the height of the possible epidemic — Under some models, seriously ill influenza patients could require 50 to 100 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds at the epidemic’s peak, stressing the medical and public health systems to the point of overwhelming some hospitals, and could cause from 30,000 to 90,000 deaths, concentrated among children and young adults.

I went to the local grocery and stocked up on hand sanitizer for the office and also lots of foil-wrapped sanitizing wipes – keeping them in my purse and suitcase, for those occasions where I have to shake a lot of hands.

What is the effect on a business if H1N1 does reach pandemic proportions?
Your personal risk varies depending on your age. Older workers will not be affected but take a look at your workforce and calculate how many have young children or school age children.

Since transmission increases in group settings, and kids are known for not being the most hygienic of creatures – there is a better than fair chance that your employees will have children who get sick and they will have to stay home with their children.
Some schools may have to close for 4-8 weeks. Especially since elementary school teachers are often in the target group and often have small children themselves. In my own office, two-thirds of the associates are under forty and half of those have small children. One expert said that if the 30% figure holds, then expect a ten-fold increase in absenteeism.

If your organization is part of the critical infrastructure, you might want to get a professional assessment of your risk, not just to identify it, but to get a set of operating procedures you can use if the pandemic does materialize.

Here are a few things to think about:

1. Encouraging an option for employees to work at home.
2. Deciding in advance what to do when an employee tells you he has H1N1.
3. Cross-training for important as well as critical functions.
4. Think about curtailing employee travel, if necessary.
5. Consider the impact if public transportation is not available, or
Not safe to use.

Seriously consider getting some No-Doz for your employees over sixty who may have to work much longer hours!!


Hurricanes and Risk – Unexpected Consequences

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong — will go wrong.  Natural disasters like earthquakes, power outages and hurricanes always seem to prove that this old axiom is still true.

Many people are allergic to change and when their environment starts to change drastically, as it will in a natural disaster — say a hurricane. And when the environment and familiar patterns start to break down, people get anxious, anxiousness turns into nervousness and in a state of anxiety, bad decisions are made.

The continual push to have emergency responders train, train and train some more, the importance of doing drills and testing emergency plans reflects the importance of people feeling COMFORTABLE and FAMILIAR with the disaster operations and steps toward recovery.   Almost every requirement, whether it is for a physical security standard like FEMA 426 (How to Protect Buildings from Terrorist Attacks), to a bank standard like the FFIEC (Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council) the requirements requires disaster plan testing, and training for the personnel who will be affected by the disaster. The better and more frequent the testing and training, the better the plan will perform during an actual disaster.

Stories keep making the rounds about the South Street Seaport outage in lower Manhattan, and the emergency vehicles who raced to the scene and found there was no electricity to plug into. 

If we put aside the original disaster, then you will often find peripheral activities that are thrown off and do not behave as planned.  When I first moved to the DC area, we had a major power outage in the high rise office I off the beltway.  No problem — the building manager had a diesel generator up on the roof.  But he had stored the diesel fuel in the basement, and it was about 88 degrees that day.  He managed to carry the fuel up the 16 flights of stairs to the waiting emergency generator, but he was hot and tired and when he poured the diesel, he slopped it over the side and it spilled down the outside the building and then soaked into the walls, and we had diesel leaking out of the electrical outlets!   If you ever drive by the “Darth Vadar” building right at Route 50 and the Beltway — you can still see the stain on the building.

So when hurricanes are heading west, north and east, all at the same time, it’s a good idea to encourage your associates to breathe deeply, calm down, and take extra time to make sure that things get done correctly. 

One of my friends is leaving Brownsville to get away from Hurricane Ike as I am writing this.  And I had Hurricane Hanna visiting Annapolis less than a week ago.

Stay safe.