By Howard B. Price
NEW YORK — With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season just two weeks away, it’s fitting that the business continuity community takes time this week to bolster public awareness of the importance of operational resilience to any public or private organization.
May 14th-18th is Business Continuity Awareness Week – promoted by the UK-based Business Continuity Institute and observed around the globe. And it’s a perfect time for broadcasters to review the plans they have in place (or don’t) to sustain critical operations in the event of a disruption.
So, let’s take the advent of hurricane season as a starting point for your own self-assessment. We all know what happened last year – Harvey, which brought flooding rains and high winds to south Texas; Irma, which wrought devastation through the heart of Florida from the Keys into Georgia and beyond. And Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean, and where, as of this writing, some 22,000 customers are STILL without power – from a storm that hit in SEPTEMBER.
Even if you do not operate in a hurricane zone, there are a plethora of other hazards that threaten your operating area, for which you should be planning, and testing the validity of plans already in place.
Hawaii’s Big Island is confronting a volcanic eruption; wildfires are burning on the US mainland; there are sections of the nation dealing with drought; others which perpetually need to worry about floods. Or blizzards. Or windstorms. Or things that can happen anywhere, like a hazardous materials incident, or a flu or other pandemic.
There are scads of planning resources available online – so many of them free that even if you didn’t want to hire a business continuity or emergency planning professional to design a program for you, you could do it yourself. Just a quick visit to Ready.gov, FEMA.gov, CDC.gov – and the websites run by your local and state emergency management and response agencies – will give you a terrific running start on the process.
But as anyone who does this for a living will remind you, the PLAN is actually less important that the planNING. That is, the willingness of your organization to collectively and comprehensively think about what could happen — how you would continue to operate if your critical operations were interrupted RIGHT NOW, THIS MINUTE — is more important than the actual planning document itself. Good process produces good plans which, if well-exercised, can be invoked purely on “muscle memory.”
This concept is especially important to creating a “culture of resilience,” because while we tend to rely on modern science to forewarn us of many untoward events, most notably severe weather, there are so many other events – less extreme but no less impactful – that could befall us. Periodic organizational discussions reveal knowledge and resource gaps that could impair your ability to respond effectively and efficiently to sudden disruptions like power outages, telecom failures, cyberbreaches, vandalism, hostile intrusions, or a severe injury or illness afflicting someone on your staff.
Business Continuity Awareness Week is the perfect time for you to run a short, spontaneous exercise to see how they’d respond to the foregoing events, or others that may be unique to your service areas. The results will be eye-opening and will create opportunities for fixes that will assure your ability to serve your stakeholders – listeners, clients, investors and the community-at-large – when they need your help the most.
And if the findings of your wargaming leave you shocked and overwhelmed, give me a call – and allow me to celebrate Business Continuity Awareness Week by helping YOU survive.
Howard B. Price, CBCP/MBCI is the former director of business continuity & crisis management for ABC’s News and Technology & Operations divisions, and has also served as senior manager, enterprise business continuity planning for The Walt Disney Company. A certified business continuity professional, and the founder of MediaDisasterPrep.com, he brings cost-effective resilience planning, innovation and thought leadership to the media industry. Reach him at HowardBPrice@gmail.com or 917-414-1751, and follow him on Twitter @mediadisaster.