Your Corporate Disaster Kit

Our Hurricane Harvey is out there.

It’s not off shore or in the humid waters that hug the equator, but deep underground, where the Juan de Fuca plate meets the North American plate. And unless they have been living under a rock for the last few years, most residents of the Emerald City know that we are overdue for a large-scale earthquake.

Stabilitas HQ is located in the heart of Seattle.* Our CTO and Washington National Guard member, Stephen Riley, is among the thousands of regional volunteers who work tirelessly to coordinate, train and plan for disasters like this. But unlike a hurricane, we probably won’t get four or five days of notice to consider what facets of our business continuity plan to implement. Like many disasters, it may hit without warning.

Seattle, WA. HQ of Stabilitas, as well as home to significant tectonic activity! Sources: Wikipedia, USGS

Scientists cannot be certain whether the big one will happen this week, this year, or in a decade — but the threat is real. The Cascadia Subduction zone reaches from Canada to California with Seattle and many populated urban centers in-between. According to a June 2016 press release by FEMA, Ken Murphy, Regional Administrator for Region 10 stated that “A 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake will be a disaster unlike anyone has ever seen . . .”

That’s not a comforting fact.

Three Elements for any Recovery Plan.

No geography is immune from disaster, but businesses can prepare for the worst — regardless of their location. Although the steps needed to protect your company and your employees are different, there are three elements to consider in any recovery plan.

1. Have a plan…

A business continuity plan contains prevention systems, risk reduction plans and recovery processes that will be implemented in the event of a crisis. Getting a company back up and running after an emergency is the main purpose of a business continuity plan. Disasters come in many shapes and sizes: cyber attack, power outage, natural disaster, etc. Your response plan should include these different scenarios — from cyber to hurricane.

During times of threat and natural disaster, moving critical operations elsewhere can mitigate and reduce risk. This is an important consideration for the modern workforce. Prior to Hurricane Irma some firms decided to close their Florida locations early and rely on remote capabilities or out-of-state locations.

Before disaster hits, make a plan. Examine risks with regard to core revenues, determine how your company will take action and plan for crisis communication. At Stabilitas our plan and processes are documented in our internal wiki, as we are an engineering heavy firm.

2. . . . and know the plan

What good is a fire escape if no one knows about it? This sounds like common sense but if only a few security, HR, or business continuity managers know the plan, the chances of failure are high. People go on vacation, phones get turned off, employees take leave . . . the list of ways communication can break down is endless.

It’s hard to give centralized guidance in emergencies. Your business continuity plan must be disseminated and taught throughout all departments prior to crisis. Many times, human resources need to contact a company’s employees during an emergency, especially in a localized area or foreign country. Logistics may also have a role to play in your business continuity plan, as may IT and engineering.

Make time to go over your plan with your employees and those impacted in a crisis. Better yet, make it part of their everyday routine. Here at Stabilitas we dog food our own software in order to make sure “tech and people” are working seamlessly. The probability of success with your strategy, your tools and your communications will greatly increase if it’s part of what people do on a daily basis. Don’t wait for disaster to strike to begin to execute your plan.

As David Burke, VP of Programs and Field Operations at Team Rubicon USA recently said of their rescue efforts for Hurricane Harvey, “It would be crazy to attempt an implementation during an event like this.”

3. Practice, practice & more practice

Red Team it. Find out where your plan is no-good. Go on the offensive with the express intent to locate your plan’s pitfalls and snags. Have your Red Team role-play worst-case scenarios and push back on preconceived notions and historical conventions. Make sure your Red Team individuals are shrewd, sharp and well versed in identifying flaws. As leaders, embrace tough findings, and create a culture for others to do so as well.

Put someone in charge of figuring out how to challenge your plan, like an opponent. Source: DOD Photo

After Hurricane Harvey flooded a chemical plant in Houston, unstable chemicals overheated causing an explosion and toxic spill. Some claim that the explosion could have been avoided if better precautions were put into place.

A similar event occurred during Hurricane Sandy, which hit NYC in 2012. While two large hospitals did place their generators on high floors to avoid flooding, components of the generators were left in the basement, leading to critical malfunctions.

The moral of these stories is to test your plan. Find the weaknesses. At Stabilitas we run practice notifications and drills with our clients. We have a scheduling tool to automate some of the drills and exercises. This is one way we Red Team and improve processes with our customers — which ultimately improves the performance of their recovery teams.

You can’t always avoid having people at the wrong place at the wrong time, just like here in Seattle we can’t avoid the big one. But we can make a plan and so can you. We’re on board to make this happen.

*Stabilitas also has teammates around the world. As we all watch the fierce hurricanes this season, we know that whether in Sydney, Denver, Atlanta, Austin, Colombia, or Los Angeles (and sometimes Hong Kong), no one is immune from Mother Nature and chance.

Not to forget: if you’re able, please consider supporting Team Rubicon, the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, or one of the many other organizations supporting Harvey, Irma, and other disaster victims.

Like what you read? Stabilitas is happy to announce that we will be at ASIS Security Conference from September 25th to 28th 2017 in Dallas, Texas at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center.

  • Sign up to meet 1:1 with founders at https://calendly.com/chris-stabilitas/20min/
  • Additionally, we will be hanging out with AS Solution and will be located in the main exhibit hall near booth #4561.
  • NEW Free Risk Feed Software. Stop by and take a look at our updated features.
  • Breakfast on us! Military Veterans in Security Breakfast at ASIS: Tuesday, September, 26th from 7:15 AM to 9:00 AM at Ellen’s Brunch 1790 North Record Street, Dallas, TX 75202. Shoot us an email at info@stabilitas.io to reserve your free spot.

posted on behalf of our CEO, Greg Adams