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Volume 30, Issue 3

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Emergency Response, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: Putting Incidents in Context

Emergency Response, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: Putting Incidents in Context

You’ve likely heard the terms before and may have a vague idea of their definition, but how do emergency response, disaster recovery and business continuity really work together during an incident? This blog post will walk you through these phases.

 

Putting Incident in Context

You are sitting in your office building and the fire alarm goes off. Following health and safety procedures, you head outside and smell smoke. You can see flames coming from the top two floors of the building. The fire department has arrived and is setting up to put the fire out. Your colleagues are moved away from the building, and anyone who is hurt is treated. You are left to wonder when, if ever, you’ll be able to come back to work.

Within three days your IT group has you set up with a laptop so that you can work remotely. You and your colleagues work together online and through conference calls. Eventually, after the damage to the office is fixed, you get a notice that everyone can return to work as normal.

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A Little Help from My Friends - Gasoline Supply Chain in Northeast

We have all heard the news that gasoline is in short supply along the east coast, especially in New York City, New Jersey and the shore of Connecticut. But why is gasoline selling at 19 cents lower per gallon in Upstate New York?

Refineries and distributors of petroleum products have a supply chain that demands they "move" product and accept new deliveries. With fewer sales along the east coast due to power outages, the supply on hand must go somewhere else. No one can purchase normal amounts of gasoline in the nation's most demanding market.

So, suppliers look for half-full tanks in outlets (gas stations) away from the coast. How far away, you ask. A FaceBook Friend yesterday told the story of driving from Poughkeepsie (75 miles north of NYC, up the Hudson River) to Red Hook (90 miles north of NYC) looking for a gas station that had gas. Yet, here in Central New York, gasoline has dropped from $4.04 per gallon to $3.85 per gallon. Why, because tanks in Central New York gas stations are taking the fuel that distributors can't sell along the coast. In order to make room for these deliveries, gas stations have lowered the price per gallon to sell more gasoline. The Federal Government kills two birds with one stone. They supply free fuel using military resources that are not electricity dependent, and they support the oil companies by purchasing the excess fuel the oil companies have no way to distribute.

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Trunk or Treat - a story of Resilience

In Schoharie, New York, where over 200 homes were damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the community is demonstrating resiliency today, Halloween, in the throes of Hurricane Sandy. With so many homes, streets, sidewalks, and other potential hazards due to flooding, the community celebrated Halloween with "Trunk or Treat." Several community residents bring their vehicles to a central parking lot, decorate their trunks, tailgates or hatch backs, and invite children to "Trunk or Treat" by stopping at each vehicle. Many homes were uninhabitable in 2011, and many still are. Without safe passage along debris-laden streets in the village, the idea provides a safe and enjoyable way for children to have fun on Halloween.

This is one terrific example of resiliency. Others observed this year are the e-mails sent by insurance companies and banks to customers who may have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. My insurance agency sent me an e-mail with instructions on how to contact them and how to file a claim if damages occurred due to Hurricane Sandy. Banks have sent messages to customers indicating relaxation of due dates on credit cards if the customer loses access to either electronic or postal payments.

These examples of preparedness and response illustrate what FEMA is referring to in the Whole Community doctrine and what DRJ conference courses and articles have espoused for several years. We all need to participate in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

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The GAP in DR/BCP/EM Technology

The GAP in DR/BCP/EM Technology

Recently I attended a concert at my grandchildren’s school in a small, rural community in Upstate New York.  A small child in the row behind me was using what appeared to me to be a tablet computer. Amazed by the use of technology, even by very young children, I had thoughts of how widespread the use of sophisticated technology had become, even in remote areas.  There have been times when I felt government agencies and some businesses assumed the presence and use of technologies to be far greater than actual.  I challenged a DHS employee on the use of GIS and various mapping capabilities, stating that rural communities lacked such capabilities. He replied that his information was just the opposite, that the use of GIS and other mapping functions was very popular and widespread.

From my experience in rural counties, computing capacity is not as great as reported by the DHS.  This raises the question of capabilities of small and medium-sized businesses to use sophisticated systems often displayed in the DRJ exhibit hall and in articles about systems including rapid notification, GIS, and applications for emergency and business continuity planning and response.  Is preparedness as well equipped as we often assume?

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