"The windows blew out and people were yelling. So I ran into the command center and grabbed the plan," said Helmantoler, a senior consultant with King of Prussia, PA based Strohl Systems, specialists in contingency and continuity planning software and services. When he heard that an employee had been injured, Helmantoler turned to a section of the plan that lists all employees with first aid skills or Red Cross certification. "There were eight people who were Red Cross certified. I went and got the one that we knew was in and she came down and was able to take care of an employee who had been blown 20 feet into a metal fence." The injured woman was also a department employee and had no shoes or identification badge and was "pretty banged up and bleeding," according to David Kreifeldt, the department's business continuity coordinator.
According to Kreifeldt, the department had just conducted a review and test of plans in progress the previous day and that review helped them respond quickly during the actual crisis. "On August 10, we conducted a four-hour tabletop exercise in which our department director and deputy director participated," Kreifeldt said. " We gave everyone a scenario of a Y2K power and partial computer outage, and we asked people to start planning what they were going to do. We gave them some time to work on it and then reviewed everyone's plans with the director taking lots of notes and asking lots of questions. We were finding lots of areas where divisions could help each other."
When the tornado hit the very next day, "we knew the plans were not quite there yet, but even a partial plan helped," Kreifeldt said. "Just the fact that we had discussed it and it was fresh in our minds, helped us to respond better. We had talked about our crisis management team during the test and where the team should report, and I was amazed when all of those people started showing up and giving status reports about what they were doing and going to do."
Kreifeldt said the department, which delivers services to people with disabilities, the mentally ill, abusedchildren, substance abusers, and the aging, and works with youth corrections and child support issues, is building its plans around ensuring the well-being of its clients. "Our first concern is their health and safety," he said. "Right after the tornado, our director wanted to know in the damaged area how many of each type of client we had. We had talked about that being one of the first things that the director was going to need to know, and we had a full report by the following morning."
In addition to providing a real-life test the tornado has "made people take contingency planning much more seriously," according to Kreifeldt. "A lot of positives have come out of this, but people keep asking me not to make the next test so real." The state had plans for another test this week; but elected to postpone that exercise in order to review lessons learned from the tornado response."
Strohl Systems, the global leader in continuity planning software and services, is headquartered in King of Prussia, PA. Strohl Systems products include LDRPS Business Continuity Planning Software, BIA Professional' Business Impact Analysis Software, and Incident Manager Command Center Automation Software. Strohl Systems Consulting Division provides consulting services to organizations interested in assessing vulnerabilities and/or constructing business continuity plans. Strohl Systems Education Division provides business continuity educational events and seminars worldwide. The Utah State Department of Human Services is currently using both Strohl Systems software and consulting services.
Buffy Rojas is Director, Corporate Communications for King of Prussia, PA-based Strohl Systems. Rojas is the recipient of numerous journalism awards and, for the past four years, has written exclusively about business continuity and disaster recovery issues. She was formerly the editor of Contingency Planning & Management magazine.