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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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For the past 28 months, America has experienced one national disaster after another: multi-state blackouts, raging wildfires, floods, violent hurricanes, and more — all leading to costly long-term enterprise and community (local/regional) disruptions. In every instance, these disasters illustrated shortfalls in preparedness and recovery capability across a number of areas, but possibly none as acute as individual and group skill development. After all, people and their skills and resources (or lack thereof) have been, are, and will be the nucleus of every catastrophic occurrence.

With the world on edge and the dangers quite real, enterprises can no longer ignore or underestimate the importance of implementing concerted business continuity (BCP) programs. But stand-alone planning is not enough. Each public and private organization is obligated to work with personnel, neighbors, and allies fostering development of the necessary skills and resource management practices that will prepare and protect people, enterprise operations, and numerous assets in an emergency.

What’s Needed

What is needed is a collaborative mindset and program that encompasses all those invested in the success and ongoing operation of an enterprise or a community.

Skill Basics

For years, disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) planning have been topics that were relegated to the “IT people” to worry about. Believe it or not, to a large extent, these subjects are still considered by many to be just “IT issues.” Wrong! Even though skilled information technology professional may be able and do provide essential leadership and technical skills to the mix, DR/BC are not something that an organization can just do. They require specific skills, training, tools, and experience across every function that often is lacking, within most enterprises and communities.

Furthermore, organizations have to go beyond staff training to educate their vendors, customers, and clients on emergency processes, procedures, and the required skills to support and enable each. Enterprise stakeholders must understand their roles and required tasks and be able to prepare and work collectively toward resuming normal business operations following any declared emergency. And there must be a regular awareness of the quality and sustainability of ongoing business continuity efforts throughout all levels and functions of an organization and across the community.

A good way to enable such collaborative training and skill development is through the use of interactive, collaborative, Web-based software, which helps guide and track individual and communal efforts and enables learning in a shared environment using team-based activities and common goals. Such software tools could also help coordinate exercises and tests, analyze results, and capture lessons learned to speed learning and enhance performance.

Enhanced Skills Through External Coordination
Coordination of business continuity plans, requirements, and training should include — but not be limited to — the following:

  • Customers
  • Vendors
  • Government agencies (e.g. FEMA, DHS, city/state offices)
  • Unions
  • Banks Insurance companies
  • Legal consultants
  • Emergency response services
  • Chambers of Commerce


Businesses must wholeheartedly embrace emergency preparedness as a part of their corporate culture and governance initiatives, and government agencies at all levels must do their part to meet businesses at least halfway by offering various skill-based and other incentives to develop and implement effective business continuity programs.
Such incentives along with pooling of resources will further help organizations to properly train and support their personnel as “partners and neighbors” in BC programs.

Stronger Skills Using Shared Resources

Lessons learned are an important component of training and skill development. Organizations can analyze what worked and what was less successful, incorporating that information in their plans, methods, and programs.
Collaborative training also calls for sharing important information such as insurance coverage, application of Good Samaritan laws, emergency management roles and tasks, resources available for emergencies, contact information, communication protocols, and much more.
When there is so much at stake, easy access to relevant information, sharing of resources, and cooperation among business partners and neighbors are keys to awareness, ownership, accountability, reduced risk/cost, public confidence and safety, and long-term survivability. The alternative — should disaster strike — is chaos, lost assets, or even total enterprise or community failure and destruction.
Training and planning need not be cumbersome. With the right thinking, approach, and toolkit, cooperative skill development, a successful BC program is well within your reach.


Matthew Van Kirk is the principal of OpWatch, a division of Paradigm Solutions Corporation. Van Kirk has 20 years of diverse management, Big 5 consulting, and solution/system engineering experience in both private and public sectors. Prior to joining OpWatch, Van Kirk worked for KPMG LLP, KPMG Consulting and GE. Matt holds an MBA in business management and technology from Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and a bachelor’s degree from West Point (USMA). Van Kirk can be reached at 800-679-2856 or www.opwatch.net.