Harvey and Irma Underscore the Importance of Continuity Planning

With two major hurricanes impacting the United States in short order and two more systems spinning in the Atlantic, many organizations are finding themselves having to conduct or prepare for planned or impromptu continuity of operations activities. Responding to Harvey and Irma, in a recent comment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, Brock Long, emphasized the importance of developing continuity plans as a part of organizational preparedness.

While significant hurricanes make the need for continuity planning obvious, numerous other incidents can also drive organizations to have to vacate normal workplaces and operate from alternate locations – be it a planned or hasty facility, or work-from-home options. After an earthquake or notable flooding, facilities may be damaged and unavailable. A significant crime or hostile event may require the establishment of a crime scene, or after a terrorism incident, facilities may be closed for operations as law enforcement personnel conduct investigations. During a major health incident or threat, workers may have to operate remotely due to their health, that of their family members, or to minimize the threat to their well-being. Or looking at evolving threats, the potential for a malicious actor to conduct a cyberattack that may disrupt critical lifelines – such as water supporting sprinkler systems – rendering a facility unsafe, could drive the need for continuity of operations. Any number of potential incidents could force an organization to conduct continuity activities – whether they have a plan to do so or not.

Our government takes continuity very seriously and conducts routine exercises to practice major continuity of operations, ensuring our government can continue to function. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Continuity Programs (NCP) serves the public by preserving our nation’s constitutional form of government across a wide range of potential threats and emergencies. On behalf of the Secretary of Homeland Security and FEMA Administrator, NCP coordinates the planning, implementation, and execution of executive branch continuity programs in support of National Essential Function 1, preservation of our Constitutional Government.”

FEMA also recognizes the importance of assisting the private sector in maintaining operations and is developing a Continuity Resource Toolkit to support “federal and non-federal entities in developing and maintaining a successful continuity program and plan.” In the meanwhile, there are abundant resources to assist organizations prepare for the potential of having to conduct continuity of operations. Ready.gov provides some guidance and resources for planning for business continuity. That site includes a number of resources including:

Further, there are numerous organizations with the experience and expertise to assist organizations plan, train, and exercise their continuity plans and procedures.

Effective continuity preparedness can be developed following the same deliberate process detailed in the Preparedness Cycle. Preparedness is defined by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.”

As a cycle, preparedness is never truly “achieved” and there is always room for continued improvement. However, the steps to reach a desired level of readiness can be achieved, ideally with reasonable time and resources. It can’t be accomplished overnight, and shouldn’t be something we start to think about when the Category 5 Storm is rapidly approaching. But even if

you haven’t thought about continuity before, there is good news! September is National Preparedness Month!

“This September, National Preparedness Month (NPM) will focus on planning, with an overarching theme ‘Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.

“We should all take action to prepare! We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes — where we live, work, and visit. The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school, and place of worship.” For 2017, weekly themes for NPM are:

  • Week 1: 01-09 September, Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends
  • Week 2: 10-16 September, Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community
  • Week 3: 17-23 September 17-23, Practice and Build Out Your Plans
  • Week 4: 24-30 September 24-30, Get Involved! Be a Part of Something Larger

Consider using this opportunity to find out more about continuity and preparedness and getting your organization ready for the potential incidents ahead. And if you’re not sure where to start, feel free to reach out to our team. Gate 15, and our network of partners, are happy and able to assist your continuity and broader preparedness needs.

#NatlPrep #PlanAhead

Gate 15 provides intelligence and threat information to inform routine situational awareness, preparedness planning, and to penetrate the decision-making cycle to help inform time-sensitive decisions effecting operations, security, and resourcesWe provide clients with routine cyber and physical security products tailored to the individual client’s interests.  Such products include relevant analysis, assessments, and mitigation strategies on a variety of topics. 

Featured image via Ready.gov: https://www.ready.gov/september

Boston Marathon Photo via ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/4631136-3×2-940×627.jpg

NPM logo via FEMA: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/images/132821