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Volume 29, Issue 2

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Jon Seals

(TNS) - Recent storms that deluged homes and cars, along with the likely prospect of more to come because of El Niño, have thrown into stark relief the region’s age-old approach to flood control.

Ahead of this month’s rain-related flooding, San Diego city officials repeatedly debated how fast and aggressively to perform the costly stormwater maintenance on its channels that are considered most prone to spilling over.

Officials said they inspected and cleared all of the city’s more than 24,000 storm drains and repaired several corrugated metal pipes in the run-up to the first series of storms.

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http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/Urbanization-financial-backlog-hurt-flood-control.html

Employers focus on flexible working to manage absence rates

Blue Monday is considered by some to be the day when employers should brace themselves for the possibility of increased absences as staff struggle with low morale and motivation following the Christmas break.

While a quarter (25%) of UK employers have seen their absence rates improve over the last 12 months, one in 10 have seen their rates worsen over the same time period according to new research from Group Risk Development (GRiD).

Of course it is not just on Blue Monday that organizations should be prepared to manage staff absences, but every day. There are many reasons why staff could be absent with illness being one of them. The Business Continuity Institute’s latest Horizon Scan Report highlighted that Human Illness was a major threat to organizations with 42% of business continuity professionals expressing concern about the prospect of this threat materialising. It is therefore essential that organizations have succession plans in place, so important work does not get missed during someone’s absence.

According to the study by GRiD, 57% of businesses said absence cost them up to 4% of payroll, but employers are using a range of initiatives to address this, and to improve general attendance. This includes introducing flexible working initiatives (36%), a 4 percentage points increase on last year, allowing employees to work around schedules which suit them. By introducing flexible working, it also enables organizations to become more adaptable to other crises that may arise.

It is estimated that long-term sickness absence costs private sector businesses in the UK a total of £4.17 billion a year, and is set to reach £4.81 billion a year by 2030. This makes it all the more important that employers work with staff to manage their return to work, maintain morale and invest in their wellbeing.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development, said: “It’s important that strategies to manage absence are kept up, and that rates aren’t allowed to increase as it really will have a significant impact on business costs in the long-run. That said, it can’t be denied that a quarter have seen rates improve – whether or not this is down on last year – and employers are actively introducing initiatives that focus on the health and wellness of their staff. Flexible working can help to retain talented staff, allowing them to balance home commitments as well as focus on work.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

What is the black market value of your data?

In 2008 two big banks — The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest — experienced a massive security breach. When an employee sold an old company computer on eBay, private data of over a million clients was compromised — their credit histories, details of their bank transfers and even their signatures leaked out. All of this valuable and sensitive data had been purchased for a mere £35. Two years later, in 2010, a similar story happened at NASA – the agency decided to sell redundant IT equipment left over from the defunded space programme. It soon turned out that many of those computers had contained ‘highly sensitive’ data, and the whole thing ended in a scandal.

Gigantic dumping grounds of e-waste, most of which are located in Africa, Asia and South America, are routinely scoured by professional scavengers who specialise in salvaging old equipment and retrieving valuable data left on old hard drives. In Ghana, Nigeria and Guatemala, our old hard drives full of sensitive data collected by banks, the healthcare industry and e-commerce end up on piles of landfill. Some of that data could potentially compromise national security (of most countries, including the US), while some could no doubt compromise your personal online identity. All it takes to dig it out is a lot of free time and some determination.

There are plenty of takers for your bank accounts, infrastructure and personal data. Some of them might be closer to you than others, but they all know exactly what to look for. If you’re still not convinced that it’s worth your while to wipe your storage devices properly, just take a look at this list of things that could be found on them:

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http://blog.krollontrack.co.uk/concepts-explained/what-is-the-black-market-value-of-your-data/

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's emergency disaster declaration issued for the State of Michigan.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

  • FEMA is authorized to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the designated areas.
  • Specifically, FEMA is authorized to provide emergency protective measures (Category B), limited to direct Federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program at 75 percent Federal funding. This emergency assistance is to provide water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, and other necessary related items for a period of no more than 90 days. 

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders and ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Stay informed of FEMA’s activities online: videos and podcasts available at http://www.fema.gov/medialibrary">www.fema.gov/media-library and http://www.youtube.com/fema">www.youtube.com/fema; follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fema and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fema.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

BCM / DR: Managing a Schedule

When planning our various BCM/DR components, you need to build and maintain some level of a schedule.  If you don’t have a schedule built for let’s say the BIA or the development of a Crisis Communications Plan, then Executives will never know when to expect the results and participants will continually ‘put you off’.  This is because they’ll know there’s no deadline so there’s no level of urgency to complete their tasks and thus, the BCM/DR component will never be completed.

When you do develop a schedule, don’t develop it in a silo.  You need participation and feedback from everyone involved so that dates and timelines are realistic and achievable.  If not, then no one will buy into your schedule and will do what they want when they want to- if at all.

A schedule also helps other managers assign resources at the appropriate times, as it’s their job to ensure their department employees are fully engaged with work and those that have timelines and specific goals and objectives will end up with the resources.  Your project – BCM program components – will fall by the wayside because you don’t have it mapped out for when they need to have a resource(s) available to assist.  If they don’t/ know when you need someone, they can’t and won’t, keep a resource sitting on the sidelines.

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https://stoneroad.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/bcm-dr-managing-a-schedule/

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a month after severe storms, tornadoes and flooding swept across Mississippi, more than $1.5 million in state and federal disaster assistance has been approved to help those affected by the storms.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been contacted by 775 people for help or information regarding disaster assistance.

In addition to FEMA grants for individuals and families, other forms of disaster assistance are provided by partner agencies such as the U.S. Small Business Administration and voluntary agencies. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and FEMA often refer survivors to those agencies. All businesses are also referred to the SBA. Some survivors may be interested in other programs such as disaster unemployment assistance and disaster legal services.

The following is a snapshot of the disaster recovery effort as of Jan. 15:

  • Nearly 170 individuals and households approved for FEMA grants, including:
    • Nearly $1.3 million approved for housing grants, including short-term rental assistance and home repair costs.
    • More than $264,000 approved to cover other essential disaster-related needs such as medical and dental expenses and lost personal possessions.
  • 489 home inspections completed.
  • 283 visits to disaster recovery centers by people affected by the disaster.
  • Five disaster recovery centers open in Individual Assistance-designated counties.

No matter the degree of loss or insurance coverage, survivors in the five disaster-designated Mississippi counties are urged to apply for help. The Individual Assistance-designated counties are Benton, Coahoma, Marshall, Quitman and Tippah. Survivors can use any of the following methods to register:

  • By phone, call 800-621-FEMA (3362). People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired and use a TTY should call 800-462-7585. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Assistance is available in most languages.
  • Online registration can be done by computer, tablet, iPhone, Android or other mobile device at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

Survivors who register with FEMA and are referred to SBA will be contacted with options on how to apply for a low-interest disaster loan. After being contacted by SBA, survivors should complete and submit an application even if they do not plan to accept a loan in order to continue the federal assistance process. It is part of the FEMA grant process and can pave the way for additional disaster assistance. SBA disaster loans are available with interest rates as low as 2.188 percent and terms up to 30 years.

Complete the SBA application online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Call the SBA customer service center with questions at 800-659-2955. People who are deaf or hard of hearing and use a TTY can call 800-877-8339. For more information, visit sba.gov/disaster.

For more information on Mississippi disaster recovery, go to fema.gov/disaster/4248. Visit the MEMA website at msema.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/msemaorg.

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FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Washington.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local and Tribal Governments Can Include as Required:

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health. Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state, eligible local and tribal governments on a cost-sharing basis. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
  • Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.  (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)

How to Apply for Assistance:

  • Application procedures for state, local and tribal governments will be explained at a series of federal/state applicant briefings with locations to be announced in the affected area by recovery officials. Approved public repair projects are paid through the state from funding provided by FEMA and other participating federal agencies.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders and ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Stay informed of FEMA’s activities online: videos and podcasts available at http://www.fema.gov/medialibrary">www.fema.gov/media-library and http://www.youtube.com/fema">www.youtube.com/fema; follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fema and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fema.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal from Nestle, Archer Daniel Midlands Co. and Cargill Inc., allowing a slave and child labor lawsuit to proceed against the three food industry giants.

Three plaintiffs who claim they were trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work harvesting and cultivating beans in Cote d’Ivoire, and allege that the companies aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labor and arbitrary detention they suffered.

According to Reuters:

The plaintiffs, who were originally from Mali, contend the companies aided and abetted human rights violations through their active involvement in purchasing cocoa from Ivory Coast. While aware of the child slavery problem, the companies offered financial and technical assistance to local farmers in a bid to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa, the plaintiffs said.

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http://www.riskmanagementmonitor.com/legal-woes-highlight-dangers-of-the-food-industry-supply-chain/

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

Striving for Balance Between Data and Power

The data center is becoming more efficient by the day. This much is a given. But data loads are also increasing at an exponential rate, which leads many to believe that the two trends will cancel each other out: more data, but processed more efficiently, leading to a net neutral effect on things like energy consumption.

But is this really the case? Will our insatiable demand for data be met in perpetuity, or is there a risk that at some point it will exceed the support capabilities of worldwide energy production?

For starters, let’s look at the data side. According to Synergy Research Group, the cloud market alone is growing at a rate of about 28 percent per year. This is in terms of revenue growth, not infrastructure development, but it still points to a rapidly expanding market that will have to invest in new buildings and systems if it hopes to maintain this pace. And since this is the cloud, expect these facilities to be large and getting larger. The silver lining, of course, is that giant regional facilities serving multiple enterprises are bound to be more efficient than multiple smaller data centers each serving one owner.

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http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/infrastructure/striving-for-balance-between-data-and-power.html

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

BCI: The high cost of natural disasters

The high cost of natural disasters

Not much more than a quarter of global economic losses caused by natural catastrophes during 2015 were covered by insurance according to a new report by Aon Benfield. During the year there were 300 separate global natural disasters, as defined by the report's authors, significantly more than the 15-year average of 269 events. These caused a combined global economic loss of US$123, yet only US$35 billion was covered by insurance.

Despite the higher than average number of incidents, losses were down overall with the global economic loss being 30% below the 15-year average of US$175 billion, and the total insured loss being 31% below the 15-year average of US$51 billion. The Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report highlighted that there were 14 multi-billion dollar economic loss events around the world, with the costliest being forest fires that burned out of control in Indonesia. At US$16.1 billion, The World Bank noted that the economic loss from the fires represented 1.9% of the country's GDP.

Stephen Mildenhall, Chairman of Aon Analytics, said: "In many regions, economic catastrophe losses are very material relative to national GDP and yet are insured at much lower levels than in the United States and Europe. Of our top five economic losses, four occurred outside the United States and yet none of these was a top 10 insured loss owing to low insurance penetration in the affected countries."

The study reveals that the three costliest perils – flood, severe thunderstorm, and wildfire – accounted for 59% of all economic losses during the 12 months under review.

Steve Bowen, Associate Director and Meteorologist at Impact Forecasting, said: "While a notable uptick in recorded natural disaster events did not directly translate to greater financial losses in 2015, the year was marked by 31 individual billion-dollar disasters, or 20% more than the long-term average. For just the fourth time since 1980, there were more than 30 such events in a year. Asia once again incurred the greatest overall economic losses, representing 50% of the world total and four of the five costliest events. Despite 32% of global economic losses occurring in the United States, it accounted for 60% of the insured loss and seven of the top 10 costliest insured events."