Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Sue Hornstra Kerr, co-founder and co-president, Continuity First

Sue Hornstra Kerr

Rick Steele

It's unlikely that anyone needs reminding of the loss of life and home and livelihood, of the billions of dollars in damage and devastation caused by storms during the last hurricane season.


Although much of the Gulf Coast, laid waste by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, has yet to recover, rebuilding efforts have well begun.


As businesses and residents look to get back to living normal lives, a new hurricane season approaches. And most businesses are not ready for what is likely to be another season of powerful storms, said Sue Hornstra Kerr.


Kerr, who consults with businesses and agencies on business continuity, spoke with Staff Writer Ethan Butterfield on how to prepare for the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season.


WT: Is it true that most businesses have no disaster preparedness plan?


Kerr: Vast numbers of businesses do not have these plans. The ones that do usually are the regulated businesses, such as financial companies, and some health care companies.

But when you get away from larger organizations and into small and midsized companies, they just have not put the effort into the planning.

WT: How long does it take to put a plan together?


Kerr: You can probably come up with the framework in three months or so, depending on the size and complexity of the organization. To get a full-blown plan, you're talking about six months to a year, but part of that depends on the resources available and how much time they can devote to it.

WT: Maybe it's too late to develop a plan for this summer, but there must be some steps companies can take to better prepare themselves for this hurricane season?


Kerr: Absolutely, because every day, when you leave your office, you need to be prepared not to go back to it the next day. You need to have a plan that says, "This is what I'm going to do in the event I can't walk back into my office tomorrow."

WT: How should companies prepare for when disaster strikes?


Kerr: Set up a structure within your organization where you have command and control. If you have not established command and control before an incident happens, your probability of surviving that disaster and moving forward decreases considerably. You need to make sure that you know who's going to be making the decisions, that you've got an alternate for that person, and that these folks know what they're doing and how they're going to do it.

WT: Do they have to establish backup offices?


Kerr: Correct. They have to know where their emergency operations center is going to be, where they are going to go to make those decisions. Is it going to be a conference bridge? That's fine, but they need to make those decisions now, so the conference bridge is established now.

The next important thing for them is to set up a communications mechanism. Ensure that personnel know how they will communicate and how they can be reached.

The next thing is to know what their mission critical processes are. What are the most important things to bring back up first?

A lot of businesses don't necessarily understand that, and so waste their resources on less critical things.

WT: For an IT company, what might those key functions be?


Kerr: Your computer operations people; in other words, those who are going to keep your systems up and running. Make sure you know whom they are, that you've got backups for them, and that the systems themselves stay up and running. Which brings us to the next point about backups: Make sure the system backups are up to date, and that they're going offsite.

WT: Can you give one more key aspect of ensuring that your company is ready for a disaster?


Kerr: Make sure you encourage your personnel to have family plans. You can't expect people to come in and work for you if they're worried about their families. You can't make them do it, but you should at least encourage them to do it or to have food and water. And make sure their pets are included in those plans.

Go to the American Red Cross' or the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web sites, both have excellent resources on the types of things that you would put into a family kit and the types of family plans you should have.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here
close
SEARCH
contracts DB

Trending

  • Dive into our Contract Award database

    In an exclusive for WT Insider members, we are collecting all of the contract awards we cover into a database that you can sort by contractor, agency, value and other parameters. You can also download it into a spreadsheet. Read More

  • Is SBA MIA on contractor fraud? Nick Wakeman

    Editor Nick Wakeman explores the puzzle of why SBA has been so silent on the latest contractor fraud scandal when it has been so quick to act in other cases. Read More

Webcasts

  • How Do You Support the Project Lifecycle?

    How do best-in-class project-based companies create and actively mature successful organizations? They find the right mix of people, processes and tools that enable them to effectively manage the project lifecycle. REGISTER for this webinar to hear how properly managing the cycle of capture, bid, accounting, execution, IPM and analysis will allow you to better manage your programs to stay on scope, schedule and budget. Learn More!

  • Sequestration, LPTA and the Top 100

    Join Washington Technology’s Editor-in-Chief Nick Wakeman as he analyzes the annual Top 100 list and reveals critical insights into how market trends have impacted its composition. You'll learn what movements of individual companies means and how the market overall is being impacted by the current budget environment, how the Top 100 rankings reflect the major trends in the market today and how the biggest companies in the market are adapting to today’s competitive environment. Learn More!