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Monday, 20 October 2014 15:04

Proof that Being Prepared is Worth It

Written by  Vicki Thomas

prepared-hurricaneWritten by: Vicki Thomas

Typically when it comes to reading and watching news coverage of natural threats such as hurricanes and tropical storms, there is a lot of hand-wringing and questions about preparedness and communication. But just a few days after the impacts of Hurricane Gonzalo in Bermuda and Newfoundland, Canada and tropical storm Ana in Hawaii - many people are heaving a big a sigh of relief.

It used to be that the saying “you can’t predict the weather” was the catch-all for any natural threats such as hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes, blizzards, avalanches, etc. But with today’s technology and weather science, there really is no excuse for not being prepared and ready.

As was evidenced in Bermuda that while as of writing has around 18,000 homes without power (population of roughly 60,000 people) - people were preparing days in advance for the impact of Hurricane Gonzalo. In a country still dealing with the earlier impacts of tropical storm Fay that left behind power outages, downed trees and other damage - residents in Bermuda were warned and told to be prepared.

Couple this with the memory of Hurricane Fabian in 2003 that hit the islands in 2003, the Bermuda Weather Service, the government, schools, and businesses were bracing for the worst. While this might be considered now to have been a bit over-zealous (Hurricane Gonzalo was downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 2 when it did hit on October 18) - we all know in business continuity and disaster recovery - it pays to have a plan, to follow the plan and to learn from the plan.

The residents of Bermuda did just this.

In fact Premier Michael Dunkley made it clear that as of October 17, residents were expected to have completed their hurricane preparations and to be ready for the impact. As well, the British Navy sent a warship to Bermuda to act as relief assistance. Here’s a brief look at the preparations made in Bermuda in advance of this hurricane:

  • Government offices and schools were closed Friday.
  • All businesses on the island were closed Friday. This included banks and residents were told to withdraw any money the might want.
  • Shelters were opened at 3 p.m. on Thursday, October xxx (xxx days before Hurricane Gonzalo hit).
  • The L.F. Wade International Airport closed on xxxx and additional flights were scheduled for Thursday to help as many people leave the island as possible.
  • Boats were removed from the dockyards.
  • Homes and businesses were boarded up.
  • Bermuda residents took their Hurricane preparedness lists with them and hit the stores to buy all of the recommended supplies. Generators, batteries and wood were sold out across the island.

In an article titled Bermuda Prepares for Hurricane Gonzalo on weather.com:

“Everything that is on the hurricane list has been going fast and furious," Mark Steams, the general manager of the hardware store Masters, told the Royal Gazette. “People are definitely nervous about this storm, especially after the last one.”

It is refreshing to read quotes such as this and to read of the level of preparedness of everyone in Bermuda. While there was still incredible damage inflicted by Hurricane Gonzalo including roofs torn off buildings, power outages and debris strewn across the island - no one was killed. This is a pretty big deal and a testament to the level of preparation, planning and thought that occurred on the island.

This of course speaks to experience and a strong desire to not be left with a disastrous and preventable aftermath. When viewing a hurricane or a tropical storm through the lens of business continuity and disaster recovery, all too often we’re left with one question: why? Why weren’t they ready? Why didn’t they communicate? Why didn’t they remember what happened last time? Why were they so complacent?

Luckily for the residents of Bermuda, they have paid attention, learned from past experiences and are committed to being ready and prepared. As business continuity professionals, there really isn’t much more that we can ask for. Preparedness, communication, planning, and commitment to the plan all paid off for Bermuda. Now the hard work comes with the clean-up and restoration of the island, but again with the strict building codes in place - this is not as bad as it could have been.

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.

To read more about Hurricane Gonzalo and tropical storm Ana, click the following: