22 May 2006

Hurricane Preparedness Week: May 21-27...

"Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy."

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. This year Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 21-27, 2006.

As NOAA will announce the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook at 11:00 AM EDT Monday, one can only wonder if we will have more than the 26 named storms last year. The preventive measures that have taken place are many and yet are we still as prepared as we could be? The 2005 hurricane season, the busiest and most destructive on record with 28 named storms, 15 of them hurricanes, has made many people along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts more wary as they prepare for a 2006 season. This year, researchers predict 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes.

In the 2005 Business Continuity - The Risk Management Expo survey of 251 companies raised many questions about the 30% who said they did not have a Business Continuity plan in place. The key concerns are as follows:

1. Even if there was existence of a plan in 70% of the respondents, only 27% of the key personnel are even trained on the plan.

2. Does the plan cover all hazards of just the ones that have been prioritized by the key staff?

3. How does staff communicate to their employees during the crisis?

4. How would share holders, institutional bond holders, and the board view the company when they find out that the company doesn't have or hasn't exercised their crisis management plan?

In any plan, people are the key to business recovery and survivability. And in post disaster analysis, little consideration was given to the supply-chain. The vendors, suppliers and service organizations that keep your corporate operations running each day. Many suffered tremendous delays in the recovery process because contingencies were not in place prior to the crisis event.

Communications is always the biggest failure during times of crisis. When the primary communications systems fail, that is when you will know if you have been training enough. Victims will soon find out how well you have prepared. Accurate, timely, consistent and relevant information are the foundation for any resilient framework for communications. Most city, state and federal emergency-management authorities still can't communicate by phone or radio in a crisis, because a $2 billion special outlay for so-called "interoperability" is mired in legislative wrangling or being spent without federal coordination.

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