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Volume 31, Issue 4

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Monday, 22 December 2014 06:00

A Look Back and Thinking About 2015

Written by  Vicki Thomas

weekly column-crystal-ballChristmas is only a few days away. The New Year is a little over a week away. Both a busy time and time of reflection and looking forward. In keeping with this theme of looking back and ahead, we’ll use this last column of 2014 to review the themes and topics that caught our attention.

In the 10 columns that we’ve posted, we’ve taken a look at a wide range of business continuity issues.

Interestingly our first column on September 30 was about a fire that resulted in many cancelled/delayed flights and our most recent column was about cancelled/delayed flights due to a software failure.

We wrote a lot about the weather and the environment: the eruption of Mount Ontake in Japan, Hurricane Gonzalo, tropical storm Ana, and the impacts of climate change.

For two consecutive columns we wrote about the Ebola virus.

We discussed occurrences that at first glance might not appear to be threats to your business but in reality can have huge ramifications: cybersecurity threats, poor customer relations, and the long-term impacts of riots.

In a column that was very hard to write, we looked at a very real threat to security and trust in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, ON.

Plane delays. Weather problems. Illness and disease. Business missteps. Random shooting.

Sigh - really nothing uplifting or positive in these themes. So what are we supposed to do with these themes and issues when we’re trying to look ahead (and be positive)?

Learn from them. Don’t forget them. Be open to new ideas. Communicate and speak up. Remember that no one plan or decision is perfect - things are going to happen - it’s how you adjust and respond that impacts the outcome of the disaster or threat.

There are so many business continuity lessons that can be drawn from these 10 columns, but rather than give you a bulleted list of lessons, we thought that instead it would be more useful to give you some of the more telling and poignant words from these 2014 columns.

(We thank you for reading and responding to these columns. 2015 is right around the corner and with a new year comes both opportunity and success. All the best to you for the rest of 2014 and into 2015. We’ll back in early January with a look at the events that caught our attention.)

When Disaster Strikes - The Response and the Impact

Aviation analyst Joseph Schwieterman of dePaul University in Chicago, was quoted in a September 27 article in The Guardian as saying,

“This is a nightmare scenario when we thought systems were in place to prevent it. Technology is advancing so fast that … there’s less of a need for air traffic control to be so geographically oriented. I think the FAA’s going to find itself under a microscope.”

The widespread impact of this fire as well as how easy it was to bring a halt to over 2,000 flights has raised concern amongst passengers. Quoted in the September 26 Guardian article is Gary Campbell a passenger who had to settle for a refund on his flight,

"That it is so easy to disrupt the system is disturbing.They need to see how to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.”

Ebola and the Human Reaction

On March 25, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea reported an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever. This outbreak was initially noted in the southeastern districts of Guekedou, Macenta, Nzerekore and Kissidougou. In addition there were reported suspected cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

On September 30, 2014, the first Ebola-affected person was identified in Texas.

According to the CDC, this Ebola outbreak could see as many as 1.4 million cases in four months from now.

Controlling the Virus

It is so very easy to make a mistake when dealing with such contagious viruses such as Ebola and enterovirus D68 - as Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse diagnosed with Ebola has highlighted. Romero thinks that while she was removing her protective suit she may have accidentally touched her face with one of her gloves.

A small mistake but one which can and does happen so easily. For those of us in the business of disaster recovery and business continuity - what can we learn from how these “surprise mistakes” are being handled?

Proof that Being Prepared is Worth It

What can you take away from Hurricane Gonzalo and Bermuda? Proof that the plan does work. Proof that being prepared does pay-off. Proof that people will do what you tell them when they know why they need to do it. Proof that open communication and honesty works. Proof that we don't need to wait for hard lessons - we can simply look around and see how others are responding to natural disasters and threats - and learn from these experiences.

What is the Risk that Comes with Trust?

When we go to work, we expect to be safe. We don't think twice that for most of us, our office doors are not locked. Pretty much everyone can walk in. Guests are offered coffee and pointed to the nearest chair to sit and wait for their appointment.

Consider this explanation of the security on Parliament Hill and the surrounding area from an Ottawa Citizen article:

Parliament Hill’s security is divided among four agencies sharing responsibility inside and outside the buildings. The House of Commons’ security handles buildings under House jurisdiction while Senate Protective Service is responsible for East Block and east side of Centre Block.

The RCMP is responsible for the grounds and the security of the Prime Minister but Ottawa Police take over for streets in the broader parliamentary precinct beyond Wellington Street.

On the surface everything looked perfectly fine. On the surface everyone was doing their job. Scratch just below the surface though and that’s where the unease remains - leaving trust and openness at risk.

What are the real risks that come with trust?

Cybersecurity a Growing Concern for Retailers and Consumers

Think about how you would have reacted if you shopped at or worked with:

Wal-Mart: in 2009 the development team’s computer system was hacked and data was stolen from cash registers. This information was transferred to a computer in Eastern Europe. In response to this breach, according to a fortune.com article Wal-Mart's Chief Privacy Officer said:

"the company was doing its best to "segregate the data, to make separate networks" and to "encrypt it fully" to safeguard from future data hacks.

Apple: nude photos of celebrities made the rounds online thanks to hackers who broke into iCloud accounts of these celebrities. This timing couldn't have been worse for Apple who was getting ready to release the iPhone 6. From Apple,

“None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple's systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone.

Thinking Beyond the Typical Threat

It's time to think beyond fires, floods, and hurricanes when it comes to threats and your business.

CTVCalgary@nenshi An email from The Gap. How has Remembrance Day become a shopping event?? So disappointing!

@Gap Remembrance Day (Veterans Day US) is not in any conceivable way a marketing opportunity. WTF guys smarten up.

Hold the Weather Jokes - Things are Getting Serious

Yes, this weather does impact us all. On a local and personal scale we’re dealing with lots of snow, dangerous driving conditions, cold temperatures, and flooding basements. On a global level we're dealing with much more which will have an even larger and lasting impact. Consider these words from Dr. Kim:

“Dramatic weather extremes are already affecting millions of people,” he said, pointing to soaring temperatures in Australia this month and last week’s record snowfalls in New York State.

“As the planet warms further, heat waves and other weather extremes which today we call once-in-a-century events would become the new climate normal, a frightening world of increased risk and instability,” he said.

“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” he said, and have serious consequences for development budgets, and institutions like the World Bank Group. (Financial Times)

It’s time to think in a broader scope of how the changes in weather systems will impact us five, 10, 20 years from now. Oh, and are you ready if you can’ t leave your home for a week?

Riots: Do You Have a Plan?

Businesses outside Ferguson in the broader St. Louis area are also being affected. Gary Jaffe, CEO of St. Louis-based educational literature company GL Group, a recent Inc. 5000 honoree, says a number of employees are temporarily staying home from work. Some who live in Ferguson are scared to leave their houses, while others in St. Louis are scared to use the roads. Parents with children at closed schools are in a childcare bind. (inc.com)

When people smash windows, steal things, or set buildings and property on fire, that all has direct economic costs. Moreover, if people are rioting they are not working, and even those who are not involved in the disturbances are affected - they cannot get to work, shop or otherwise carry on with business as usual. Some studies have suggested that the LA riots in 1992 ultimately cost the city nearly $4 billion in taxable sales and over $125 million in direct sales tax revenue - that in addition to $1 billion in property damage and the loss of many lives.(investopedia.com)

Victor Matheson (College of the Holy Cross) and Robert Baade (Lake Forest College) found that the steps toward recovery are relatively clear after natural disasters: Communities tend to join together to build shelters, clean up, and storm-proof structures against future events. After rioting, by contrast, it’s much harder rebuild confidence and community trust among frightened business owners, or to convince new employers to move in. “It’s not as simple to just stamp out violence and anger,” Matheson says. And reluctance to rebuild is dangerous because it is self-perpetuating, he adds. (time.com)

Flight Delays Highlight Bigger Problems

(From Air traffic meltdown caused by unprecedented computer failure, The Telegraph)

MP Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Committee, said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will be asked about the incident when he appears before the panel on Monday.

She said: "I am very concerned about this major breakdown in UK air traffic control and the impact of the disruption this failure has caused on airports, airlines and passengers.

"In such circumstances safety remains paramount, but going forward it is vital that we establish what happened, and what NATS must do in order to ensure the same problem does not recur in future.

"I also hope that the committee will call NATS and the CAA to give evidence to us, so that we can get to the bottom of what led up to this weekend's events.”

While flights have now resumed and most people were fortunate enough to get to their ultimate destination, the fall-out from a rather short disruption will have long-lasting effects. As a business continuity professional, consider these statements:

(From Air traffic meltdown caused by unprecedented computer failure, The Telegraph)

Former air traffic controller for NATS, Martin Clipp, blames cost-cutting for a lack of investment in the systems.

"The system runs pretty much at full pelt, we have 99 per cent capacity at Heathrow, that means if the slightest thing goes wrong the effects, the ripples going out are enormous," he said.

"If you do not invest - and they are not allowed to invest - in my view and in a lot of other controllers' views, it is something for nothing. You get what you pay for."

Former transport minister Stephen Hammond said: "There needs to be a full, quick investigation and we need to have a plan in place to rectify it and have that ready for next week.”