While most Americans spent summer reveling in longer days and (hopefully) better weather, data center teams were preparing for hurricane season. With volatile weather blanketing the country over the summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calculated a 65% chance of seeing an above-normal number of storms this season with a projected 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes.
There's no such thing as being too prepared. Forget plans A and B — what about plans C, D, and E? Waiting too long to enact emergency preparedness plans can have disastrous consequences. Two days prior to a Category 3 hurricane making landfall is not the time to discover that someone failed to stock up on batteries, let alone secure the data.
The increased frequency and severity of weather events requires a more comprehensive and measured approach to emergency planning and management.
Image courtesy of Cyxtera
Preparing facilities for hurricane season is critical for the safety of your personnel and your ability to continue business operations. Determining when to begin preparing for a hurricane, keeping aware of a hurricane track’s progression, and identifying those critical activities that are needed before, during, and after a hurricane’s progression help meet this goal. To help with your own emergency preparedness planning, here are some key ideas to consider:
Cone of Uncertainty. Put your emergency plan into action at the first indication one of your facilities falls within the cone of uncertainty. When it comes to emergency preparedness, the more time you have to put your plans into action, the better (we start with a minimum of five days before expected landfall). But, Mother Nature is fickle, and you won’t always have that much warning. That said, assume you will be hit and act accordingly as you count down the time to projected landfall.
“The increased frequency and severity of weather events requires a more comprehensive and measured approach to emergency planning and management.”
The Matrix — Emergency prep plans have strong commonalities regardless of geography or event. Neo and Morpheus aside, implementing a risk-rating matrix can help you determine the top risks specific to a given location and inform how investments are made to ensure you have a resilient system. Along these lines, if your company is global, make sure that your plans meet (and preferably exceed) local regulations.
Practice, practice, practice — You should be running practice drills within your organization once a year at minimum. Twice is even better if you want to build a culture of preparedness within the company. You likely have an annual compliance requirement to ensure your business continuity and emergency action plans are kept up-to-date, but it’s also a good idea to review your plan in the wake of a hurricane or other disaster to determine what did and didn’t work well and how those items could be improved upon.
Participate in your own rescue — Take advantage of the many tools and services that exist solely for the purpose of tracking and alerting people to severe weather. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for instance, has a suite of free tools to help maintain local emergency situational awareness. The FEMA app provides alerts in real-time from the National Weather Service, while the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert provide severe weather updates (no sign up required). Consider becoming a member of the National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC), a clearinghouse to enhance information sharing between private and public entities before, during, and after disasters. If you want something tailored to your business needs, you might want to think about contracting with a company that can monitor your employees’ and managers’ whereabouts in a storm and provide them with critical alerts surrounding severe weather and other emergent situations.
Lock the doors — This applies both literally and figuratively as ne’er-do-wells are poised to take advantage of the chaos that follows any disaster. Ensure your facility has adequate protection from looters and other criminals, as well as strong cybersecurity solutions in place that will keep hackers out. Train your staff to be on the alert for phishing emails, especially those that purport to be soliciting aid for victims affected by the storm.
The increased frequency and severity of weather events requires a more comprehensive and measured approach to emergency planning and management. However, solid planning and familiarity with the risks to your facilities, coupled with employee education, will go a long way to minimizing losses and speeding recovery.
Matt Wombacher is director of business continuity and disaster recovery at Cyxtera.
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay