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Disaster Recovery Journal had another successful show at Fall World 2011, Sept. 11-14, at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina.

“We again heard wonderful comments on the sessions, workshops and the overall event,” said DRJ President Bob Arnold. “We strive to ensure we are covering the pressing issues facing business continuity professional today. I believe, from the collected conference evaluations, DRJ’s Fall World ‘11 was one of our highest rated shows to date! We would like to thank not only all of our attendees, but the wonderful presenters for making it such a huge success.”

DRJ’s 45th conference drew more than 930 registered attendees to San Diego with more than 1,200 in total attendance.

“We also had a huge turnout at our certification reception on Sunday afternoon,” said Arnold. “Industry leaders John Copenhaver (BCI), Jim Nelson (ICOR), and Cheyenne Haase (BC Management) discussed the future of business continuity professional certification. We are extremely proud to announce partnerships with both The BCI and ICOR.”

DRJ Fall World 2011 Gold Sponsor Send Word Now sponsored Mardi Gras-themed party for the Monday Night Hospitality.

“Send Word Now hosted another great party Monday evening,” said Arnold. “Our attendees really enjoyed themselves.”

Other conference sponsors included COOP Systems, eBRP Solutions, IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services, Recovery Point, SunGard, MIR3, Strategic BCP, xMatters, Atlantic.Net, Cassidian, EMC², Ernst & Young, EVault, Everbridge, Fusion Risk, KPMG, Recall, Verizon Wireless, Volo Recovery, Mail-Gard, Forrester Research, FedEx Custom Critical, Business Continuity Institute, and Public and Private Business Inc.

“The exhibit hall again featured the leading service providers in the BC/DR space,” said Arnold. “You can still browse the online exhibitor guide at DRJ.com if you were not able to join us in San Diego.”

Sharon Meier won the $500 attendance prize drawing while Timothy Colon and Robin Whitley each won $250. All three attendees also won a free pass to a future DRJ conference.

“Planning is already underway for Spring World 2012 in Orlando,” said Arnold. “Our new senior level track is an exciting addition to our stellar lineup of sessions.”

DRJ’s Spring World 2012 will take place March 25-28, 2012, at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. For more information, see pages 67-71.

Jon Seals is an award-winning journalist and the editor in chief of Disaster Recovery Journal. Seals is a member of the Disaster Resource Guide Editorial Advisory Board and the Mid-America Contingency Forum.

Click here to view photos of DRJ's Fall World 2011.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt of an interview with John B. Copenhaver, MBCI, discussing his passion for community resilience and his views on the current state of business continuity management.

One of the key developments affecting BCM in recent years has been the emergence of numerous national business continuity standards. What is your view on standards and do you believe an ISO standard is important?

I have changed my opinion on this. I used to be a strong supporter of a single global standard, but now I am not sure. While I believe an ISO standard would be helpful, my concern is that the focus on standards is a focus on symptoms rather than the underlying illness. We have been talking for years about how to get the attention of top management, what methodologies to use, what the right terminology is and so on. However, while these things matter, they are not necessarily the root cause of why we as a profession are not as effective as we might be.

I think that there are deeper problems to address, such as what does effective BCM look like, where is the discipline heading and where will it be in five years time? As a discipline, business continuity has been around for a long time and it is unsettling that we still have not found answers to many of these fundamental questions. If top executives do not understand what we do, then is that their fault or ours? If we have been preaching the benefits of BCM, ERM, DR etc for this long and still very few executives get it, then we’ve got to accept responsibility.

There is much talk about “operational resilience” being a more encompassing discipline than BCM. What are your views on this development?

Let me start by saying that I do not believe we have done a good job of understanding what key stakeholders really need. We have been trying to sell them what we have rather than asking them what they think they need. Whether what we sell is BCM, ERM or operational resilience, the problem is that we are not optimising our ‘value proposition’ to those who pay our salaries if we do not understand the world they face. We need to map our skill set to their world rather than trying to make that world fit ours.

Where do you see BCM fitting in an organization, in particular with regard to ERM, emergency planning and crisis management?

I’m not sure – which is an odd answer for someone who has been in the profession for so long. There might not even be a singular “best answer” to that question. We need to start with an understanding of what is already there in organizations. For example, we know that there is a strong security presence for both physical elements and IT. We also know that there is ERM which includes elements of risk management generally outside of the BCM remit, such as financial and political risk. We know that there are a number of related disciplines within medium-to-large sized organizations, but I don’t think we have ever all sat down together to establish how we can work together for the greater good not only of our company but the community at large.

We have a certain level of understanding of the roles played by other disciplines such as emergency response, crisis management, operational risk etc. There is clearly value in what we do but I simply do not think we have ever got together with those who occupy the spaces around us to discuss where we fit in the overall hierarchy. We seem to be constantly battling to establish our particular territories rather then working together.

I believe that a particular passion of yours is community resilience. What changes do you think are needed in the way governments, local councils, NGOs and voluntary organizations deal with this critical issue?

We must get away from this top down approach which is based on the assumption that national government knows best. This is a questionable basis upon which to start any initiative. Often we do not speak to the communities themselves about what is important to them; which is usually that they get power and water to their homes, their rubbish is cleared away, schools are open and they can get to the supermarket. Often these things are overlooked. We need to provide communities with an opportunity to tell us what is important to them rather than trying to dictate what is important.

We must also help communities pull together and provide them with means of communication and co-ordination so they can better use the resources they already have. We need to give them the information they need to make informed decisions about how to respond and to provide guidance on best practice.

Finally, what are your hopes for the future of BCM?

I would like BCM to become a discipline which is better understood and one which works more effectively as a discipline with the other players in the ‘sandbox’. I see it as being more focused on goals and results, and less on specific plans and steps. I see it evolving into something which is more usable and provides greater value than the labyrinthine discipline we have today.

John Copenhaver, MBCI, is chief executive officer of the Contingency Management Group and a senior advisor at BCI. Copenhaver is has served in a number of senior executive roles, including as a presidential appointee to FEMA and as president and CEO of the DRI International.

Public and private interdependencies have always been an important focus of PPBI! This column hopefully gives you an idea you can put into practice.

So first, let’s define what we mean by interdependencies. Interdependencies are relationships that encompass primarily outside entities, both public agencies and private companies, which can affect your ability to recover from an outage and conduct business.

Simply stated, interdependencies require that companies not only focus on their own individual recovery plans, but they must also consider external influences that can significantly impact their ability to recover in a timely manner, or possibly recover at all!

To address the issue of understanding interdependencies, we have developed a seven-step approach that will help you create an awareness of the interdependencies that affect your organization’s business continuity planning and its ability to recover in a timely manner. It can be used as an aid in conducting an interdependencies assessment within your organization. The process of conducting an interdependencies assessment, and the resulting awareness and information will help you:

  • Identify the potential impact of various external infrastructure and business disruptions on your organization.
  • Identify the impact of the interdependencies on your organization’s recovery times and points.
  • Improve the awareness of the various reliance’s you have with, and between private and public organizations.
  • Determine potential steps and actions to mitigate or lessen the impacts, on your organization, of outages among the interdependent organizations.
  • Lay the foundation for continual evaluation of external interdependencies.

The better you understand interdependencies, the more prepared you will be to respond to them. You will be able to develop relationships with public agencies that strengthen your recovery capabilities and reduce the need for inefficient interaction and potential friction when problems arise. You will also better understand the impact on your ability to operate or to recover, based on the recovery capability of other companies or businesses with whom you transact business or upon whom you rely.

The steps in identifying interdependencies include:

  1. Creating awareness of the Interdependencies issue within your organization
  2. Defining a scenario and determining the geographic area that should be considered
  3. Identifying public agency interdependencies and impacts
  4. Identifying private sector business interdependencies and impacts
  5. Prioritizing public and private interdependencies for assessment
  6. Reviewing the scenarios and the interdependencies that might occur
  7. Taking corrective/preventative steps to lesson the impact of interdependencies

Step 1. Raising Awareness and Preparing for the Workshop

The first step in the Interdependencies process is to create a sense of awareness to the issue of interdependencies.

Spend some time researching private and public partnerships and sharing that information with other in your organization. Great sources to research are the FBI and DHS supported InfraGard organization www.infragard.net, Michigan States’ Critical Incident Protocol site www.cip.msu.edu, groups like ChicagoFirst www.chicagofirst.org, The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships www.ncppp.org and of course Private and Public Businesses Inc. www.ppbi.org.

In addition, you may choose to go out and meet with external organizations you identify, both to understand how they would react to an outage, validating or mitigating your concerns, as well as to help them understand your plans and requirements.

Step 2. Define A Scenario

This step will help you understand the scope of potential interdependencies, based on the types of disasters that may strike. Remember that any scenario must be one that impacts more than just your organization. Hence, an equipment failure, fire, flood, power outage or other localized problem would probably not result in an interdependencies concern.

To determine how interdependencies would impact your organization, the infrastructure disruption under consideration would probably be the result of a number of different scenarios, such as:

  • A natural disaster, of regional proportions, such as a flood, tornado, hurricane, ice or snow storm
  • A terrorist event
  • A man-made event, such as an accident, malfunction, or deliberate disruption, which might affect a single infrastructure, such as electric, telecommunications, or water, or a single building

When you think about the scenario, make sure it is one that would not only impact your organization, but one that would involve public agencies and other local businesses, so that the interdependencies can be evaluated.

This scenario should also be one that external groups would acknowledge if you elect to involve them in discussion at some point.

Step 3. Identify the Public Sector Interdependencies

Public agency interdependencies are those that encompass outside public agencies, which can affect your ability to recover from a disruption and conduct business. Typical issues that arise with public agency interdependencies include:

  • Unavailable utility services
  • Denied access to your building
  • Transportation restrictions
  • Unavailability of medical services

To understand public interdependencies, you should first identify and list all external interdependencies by type, including:

  1. Emergency management agencies
  2. Federal government agencies
  3. State government agencies
  4. Local government agencies
  5. Utilities – electric, gas, water, telecommunications
  6. Public services – police, fire, public safety, emergency management & transportation

Your discussion should cover the following questions:

  1. Why is there an interdependency concern?
  2. How would that interdependency issue impact your organization?
  3. Who can you speak or meet with to discuss this?
  4. What action should you take?

Step 4. Identify Private Sector (Business) Interdependencies

Private sector interdependencies are those that encompass outside companies that can affect your ability to recover from a business disruption and conduct business. These might be companies that you exchange information with, count on to conduct business, buy from or sell to or rely upon in some other way.

To address this, you should identify and list all external business interdependencies by type, including:

  1. Customers
  2. Suppliers
  3. Trade associations, if applicable
  4. Business-critical equipment and facilities vendors
  5. IT and facilities service providers and contractors

Following the identification of the interdependencies, you or others in your organization will probably want to meet with all of some of the businesses to learn more about what impacts could occur and what the effect of them would be.

Your discussion should cover the following questions:

  1. Why is there an interdependency concern?
  2. What is the organization’s overall recovery strategy
    • What is covered
    • What is not covered and why not
  3. What is the recovery time objective by shared application (time to recover and make operational)
  4. What is the recovery point objective by shared application (how current will the data be)
  5. Who is their recovery vendor and primary site if using a shared vendor
  6. What are the major business to business interface points, systems, data feeds
  7. Who is their contact point during a disaster, and how to contact
  8. What major concerns do they have about their recoverability

Step 5. Prioritize the Most Critical Interdependencies

While you may find a number of interdependencies that can impact your organization, it is important to select and address the most critical ones first. Select the six (could be more or less, depending on your decision) interdependencies from both the public group and the private sector group which have the highest potential to disrupt your recovery process.

Considerations for selecting a most critical interdependency include:

  • Potential frequency of disruption
  • Degree of impact
  • Likelihood of resolving the issue

Step 6. Review the Scenarios and Interdependencies that may occur

Now that you have selected the top priority interdependencies, conduct a round-table discussion with your continuity team to discuss each one and determine the actions you should take.

Actions might include:

  • Assigning responsibilities to the team to take ownership of individual interdependencies
  • Meeting with the external organization or agency to better understand what they would do when an outage occurs
  • Share your recovery strategy and plans with the critical interdependency organizations (confidentiality permitting). This is especially important to do with fire, police and local emergency management personnel.
  • Determine a course of action for each interdependency

Step 7. Taking Corrective or Preventative Steps to Lessen the Impact of Interdependencies

As important as it is to identify and resolve interdependencies, it is also important to factor them into your recovery strategy and plans. Consider the following changes or considerations to your continuity program:

  • Modify your business impact analysis process to make sure identification of interdependencies is an ongoing process
  • Ask questions about new critical vendors, suppliers, and partners when establishing contractual agreements
  • Consider that if some interdependencies cannot be mitigated, resulting in that your recovery time and point may be unachievable, requiring either communication with management or a change to your strategy
  • Consider how your spending on continuity and recovery might be impacted by interdependencies. (i.e. Are you spending to achieve a level of recovery that interdependencies might not allow?)

Summary

Conducting an interdependencies assessment is an important and prudent step to take as a part of your overall continuity strategy. Your continuity program and your ability to recover will be significantly improved by addressing this important issue.

John Jackson is an executive vice president at Fusion Risk Management. Jackson brings to Fusion more than 30 years experience and is widely regarded as an early and current visionary leader in disaster recovery and business continuity. Jackson serves on the DRJ Executive Council and PPBI Board of Directors.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures from the Fry Fire Department in Sierra Vista, Ariz.

A) Three levels of evacuation readiness

  1. Evacuation alert – In effect when fire danger is extreme. May be in effect for weeks or months.
  2. Evacuation watch – Will occur when a fire or other threat is imminent, moving toward occupied area, and resources are mobilized to fight it. May last a few hours to days.
  3. Mandatory evacuation – Will occur when emergency officials order people to leave ahead of advancing fire or other threat.

B) How will we know when it is time to evacuate?

When an “evacuation alert” is called, watch for updates from the sheriff’s office, US Forest Service, and Fry Fire District. Residents should check for updates at one of the Fry Fire District Stations or by phone non-emergency number at 378-2665.

During the “evacuation watch” level you will be contacted by community radio, phone, or in person by the Chochise County Sheriff’s office or CERGT volunteers. You will be contacted again at mandatory evacuation. You should be familiar with the three stages of evacuation readiness. Keep in touch and stay informed.

C) What To Do To Prepare For An Evacuation

During evacuation alert: Prepare your home for the possibility that you may have to leave it rather than stay to protect it during a wildfire. In addition, prepare items to take with you by knowing where these things are and be ready to load them into the car.

1) Protect your home.

a. Check gutters and lee (downwind) side of structure for leaves. Burning firebrands and embers will be carried to and drop into the same places that dry leaves accumulate against buildings. Rake under open decks, walkways, and wheelchair ramps and enclose with metal screen. Leave hoses coiled on bare ground near hose bibs, several feet from wall and disconnected. Leave ladder on the ground near access point to roof. Rake around the base of wooden power poles. Remember: no power means no water in many cases. Leave driveways clear.

Bring things indoors. Lawn furniture, trash cans, kiddie pools, toys, garden equipment, hanging plants, flags, wind chimes, and any other lightweight objects may fly around in fire-generated wind.

b. Look for potential hazards. Dead limbs overhead can blow or break off and block driveway or fly onto power lines, roof, or windows in high winds. Remove and drag them away from the house. Review how to turn off electricity and water. Refresh your memory of how to turn off electricity at the main fuse or breaker and how to turn off water at the main valve. Dig to clear underground valve boxes.

c. Review how to turn off propane gas at the tank. Rake around propane tank, removing grass and leaves to 15 feet away. Propane tanks often become dislodged in floods. Gasoline tanks on metal stands should be checked for clearance from flammable materials, and be sure to secure the hose well above ground. Move flammable liquids and portable propane tanks to open areas safe from fire.

d. Prepare to cover the outside of all windows of your home. Large single-pane picture windows are especially prone to shatter in the heat of a fire, admitting burning embers to an otherwise fire-safe house.

e. Prepare to move objects that may get damaged by wind, heat, or water to safer areas of your home. If there is time when you are ordered to evacuate, after packing and other preparations are done, move television sets, computers, stereo and electronic equipment, firearms, and easily moveable appliances such as microwave ovens to higher levels of your home and away from windows. Wrap them in sheets, wool blankets, rugs, or burlap. Put ammunition inside a refrigerator or pack it for transport out.

f. Prepare a crate for each pet. Get animal used to crate and write your and your animal’s name on the crate. Tape leash and resealable bag to crate with medications and animal and health records (needed if you have to kennel your pet). Make sure your pet has ID tags on or tape written ID information to its collar. Have food and dishes ready.

D) DURING EVACUATION WATCH:

1) Gather essential supplies, legal papers, and family pictures.

2) Turn off automatic irrigation systems to ensure you have a full pressure tank of water if you lose electricity. Water manually and sparingly.

3) Keep fuel tank topped off on vehicles that you frequently use. If you own a roadworthy RV, plan to bring it. Move other vehicles and travel trailers to a safe, open area where they won’t burn or block fire vehicles.

4) You will need these supplies when you leave you home. Store them together in a duffle bag or other large container in advance:

n flashlight for each family member with plenty of extra batteries – tape switch to OFF until needed

  • battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • first aid kit and prescription medications in their original bottles, plus copies of the prescriptions
  • eyeglasses (with a copy of the prescription) and hearing aids with batteries
  • water
  • foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking – three days worth, plus a can opener and utensils
  • items that infants and elderly household members may require*
  • medical equipment and devices such as oxygen tanks, dentures, crutches, and prostheses
  • changes of clothes for each household member
  • washing kit, soap, towels, rolls of toilet paper
  • sleeping bag or bedroll and pillow for each household member
  • checkbook, cash, and credit cards
  • state and city maps of the area (Arizona and New Mexico)
  • cell phone, batteries, charger, and outlet strip
  • Chochice County phone book
  • pet supplies, medicines, food, water, dishes, leashes, and medical records

E) IMPORTANT PAPERS TO TAKE WITH YOU

  • driver’s license and/or passport, social security card, birth and marriage certificates
  • proof of residence (deed or lease) plus recent utility bills
  • insurance policies and vehicle titles
  • stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
  • wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns
  • computer back-up disks (or consider bringing the CPU itself with cord)

n family photographs are often the only thing that most disaster survivors wish they’d brought along

F) WHEN ORDERED TO EVACUATE

Close all windows, turn off water and power except to pump and water tank. If possible, turn off propane, load vehicle, and go. Time may be very short so prepare ahead of time.

If you only have moments before leaving, grab these things and go:

  • medical supplies, prescription medications and dentures
  • flashlight, batteries, radio, first aid kit, bottled water (one gallon per person and per pet)
  • clothing and bedding: a change of clothes and a sleeping bag or bedroll, sleeping pad, and pillow for each household member
  • car keys and keys to the place you may be going (friend/relative)
  • pets, crates, and pet supplies (food, dishes, leashes, medicine, and pets’ medical records)

G) WHERE DO WE GO WHEN WE ARE TOLD TO EVACUATE

1) You will receive instructions when you are ordered to evacuate, but you can help by taking an active role and planning ahead for your own needs. Residents should contact a friend or relative who lives in the non-threatened area and arrange accommodations. Leave a note on fridge with the names of people evacuated from your household, your cell phone number, and your intended destination if not using a local shelter.

2) Evacuees without pre-arranged accommodations will be directed where to go, most likely to a school or community center.

3) The fire station will most likely NOT be used to house evacuees since it may be in use as a command center. Parking is very limited.

4) Register your names and destination with emergency personnel as you leave.

H) PLAN AHEAD WELL BEFORE AN EVACUATION

1) Make a visual or written record of all of your household possessions.

2) Record model and serial numbers.

3) This list could help you prove the value of what you owned if those possessions are damaged or destroyed and can assist you to claim deductions on taxes. Photograph or video all items in your home, including expensive items such as sofas, chairs, tables, beds, chests, rugs, wall units, art, firearms, and satellite dishes. Photogram or scan documents listed above. Store a copy of the records somewhere away from the home such as a safe deposit box.

I) METALLY – VISUALIZE THE PROCESS, CONDITIONS OF AN EVACUATION

Doing the “mental homework” will help you stay calm in an emergency situation. Expect it to be chaotic and for you to feel frustrated at the lack of information coming from emergency responders. This is to be expected, but you can help by assisting and reassuring others who are in the situation with you.

Arizona experienced its worst fire season ever! Conditions are ripe with the extreme draught. Combine this with human nature, toss in a lot of wind, and the devastation begins. Citizens had better be ready to go fast!

The Monument Fire (only one of many burning at the same time in Arizona alone) was classified as the top fire in the country. This was not because of the acreage it was eating up but because of the homes, animals, and businesses it was threatening and ultimately destroying. The acreage involved was considerably smaller than the Wallow Fire in Northeastern Arizona that was burning simultaneously and was classified as Arizona’s worst fire in history based on the amount of acreage it has destroyed. As of this writing, the Monument Fire has destroyed 57 homes and four businesses in a matter of days. This number will grow as crews begin to assess the full situation.

The Monument Fire started in a remote area of the rugged mountains on the U.S. and Mexican borders. It is common for fires to start here, but they generally stay there. Sadly, not this one. Mother Nature was on its side and pushed the fire to the top of the mountain. On Sunday, June 19 the winds went ballistic, providing sustained winds at 30-mph and sending 50- to 60-mph gusts at normal elevations with higher gusts on those mountain slopes. The fire swept down the slopes driven by the high winds and, in one day, took out 14 homes and four businesses. At this point, thousands of people had been evacuated and more were in pre-evacuation status.

Evacuees had very little notice to get out of the area – 30 to 60 minutes in many cases because of the fast moving fire. For notification of evacuation, the reverse 911 was utilized along with house-to-house notification by public officials as they offered assistance gathering up things so homeowners could quicken their departure. Hourly, the evacuation status kept changing. The city and firemen’s command centers had to relocate as the fast-moving fire even threatened their operation centers.

The communities in the path of this beast were rural with acreage and many farm animals (cows, horses, pigs, goats, chickens, etc.) to be evacuated. There was also all of the “family pets” (dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, etc.) to be transported to safety. Most of the animals were evacuated, thanks to the efforts of the evacuees and the community, but many animals were burned or destroyed. One equine rescue center had 36 horses to move. They all got out, but one was severely burned as he got confused and ran back into the flames. There are tons of stories like this one that will break your heart. One wonders if some of it could have been mitigated if people had been better prepared.

Most of the locals were not ready for an evacuation situation which resulted in high stress, lack of direction, confusion, anger, tears, and fear – you name it and that emotion was part of the evacuation chaos. They hadn’t anticipated the need of a checklist of what to do in the event of a fast-moving fire. Such things as insurance and medical information, extra supplies of medicine, spending money, photos of their belongings in case they lose them, important phone numbers, cages, collars, food, feed dishes, litter, and pre-determined destinations of safety for pets and livestock. Once extricated from their homes, where do they go now? It is a hot summer in the desert, and shelter is needed for all. Many residents had no means to transport their animals and then keep them safely cared for.

The community of Sierra Vista (which could eventually become part of the evacuation group in a worst-case scenario) and all neighboring communities rallied, but it took valuable time to get the logistics moving. Hotels provided rooms at drastic reductions; two schools and the college in Douglas set up shelters for people and animals with the cooperation of the City of Sierra Vista and Red Cross; animal hospitals, training centers, and animal day care centers opened their doors for dogs and cats; concerned and Internet savvy people started Facebook discussion topics and offered shelter for animals and people in their homes. Unfortunately, people were on the move and couldn’t tap these resources easily without prior contact information or help.

Bisbee, Douglas, Benson, and Tucson all rallied to help this community, but they are about a 45-minute drive from where the daily information updates are given. People were reluctant to leave the Sierra Vista area or leave all the resources and information needed for help. People slept on uncomfortable cots a few feet apart in noisy, lighted gymnasiums instead of leaving the adjacent communities so they were close to the evening updates provided by the public officials. However, these updates were not covered well by the local and Tucson television stations.

Restaurants had to close due to lack of staff to operate since the staff had their own problems (many had been evacuated). Stores ran out of high-demand items. The local large animal feed stores were evacuated, making food for these animals unavailable. Hay for the large animals was being brought in by individuals from their own stash or buying it at places an hour or so away and transporting it to the shelters. Food for all types of animals was donated by companies in Arizona and California (they were donating to both of the areas affected by the fires).

Animals were as stressed as their owners. They were removed from their homes and couldn’t understand why. They just knew their lives had changed drastically. They were not eating normally, which resulted in digestive issues. The shelters had designated rooms for the animals that could not be kept with their owners. They were all kept in cages, and the rooms had a variety of animals including dogs, cats, etc. Volunteers (including veterinarians) worked around the clock to provide the animals with food, water, and medications. The dogs were walked a couple times a day or so unless they resisted coming out of their cages. Owners were known not to show up to take care of their own animals. Some small cages had two dogs so frightened they wouldn’t come out. Some were not taught how to walk on a leash and would freak out, but there was no room to let them run free. It was nearly 100 degrees where they were being walked – no shade – and it took a toll on the volunteers and the animals. Since I was one of the walkers, I can attest to how physically and emotionally draining it was (and I was not one of the evacuees). The cats never got out of their cages unless the owners came to see them. Small litter boxes were located inside the cages. While being fed, one escaped its cage and ran out of the building and into the desert. Volunteers were not necessarily familiar with working with dogs but wanted to help, and volunteers were desperately needed. Some were fearful and would walk the dogs but not touch them. Every volunteer was needed for the animals’ sake. The city’s homeless folks were bringing animals in and then staying in the rescue center even though they were not evacuees. People were bringing animals in and saying that they were not going to be picking them up and instructing the caregivers to find them a home. One can imagine how many animals will be homeless when the shelters are ended.

Initially, horses, pigs, and chickens went to a sectioned-off area at a local riding club. These large animals are not easy to shelter. They needed lots of portable corals, feed and water buckets, pitch forks, and of course hay. Special items for pigs and chickens were needed. The communities and companies came through – even from as far away as California. At one count, there were 250 horses at one rescue center alone, making it look like a city of its own. Many more were evacuated to private homes and other public locations such as fairgrounds in other cities. Fortunately, schools were out for the summer, so volunteers were more readily available especially during the week when so many people were not available.

Stress levels were extreme, and tempers would flair at the slightest issue. It is difficult to stay calm and collected when you can’t get a straight answer on the status of your home and animals. Information was not centralized, and the communication of that information was very scattered from news media, Facebook, Red Cross, a variety of public officials, and the firemen who were so diligently trying to get it under control. At one point, there were 26 different aircraft dropping water or retardants on these flames. Nobody knew the real facts at any given time.

When it was somewhat safe for certain neighborhoods, but not cleared for return, people were allowed to examine their homes and pick up any needed supplies. They had to sign up with the officials and were escorted to and from their homes. They had to show proof of residency. Others were allowed to return only to be told on that same day to evacuate again as they were planning backburns on the fire.

Are you “ready and set to go?” Think it can’t happen to you? Think again! People need to be prepared to leave their homes in a moment’s notice no matter where you live. You must be responsible for you and your loved ones (human or animal) and not depend on the community or government, especially in the early days. In the case of company executives, you may also be responsible for your company, so prepare yourself in advance if you want to reduce the chaos.

Sara Williams, CBCP, is a business continuity consultant for Jack Henry & Associates. Williams recently rolled off the DRJ Editorial Advisory Board after four years of service.

protecing-homeAs home PCs and Internet access have become more and more widespread, the number of home-based businesses has also increased enormously over the last few years. Today it is very easy for many entrepreneurs to run their businesses entirely from home simply because it is possible, as well as cost effective. But working from home is not without its dangers as it brings various major and minor risks not usually associated with working in a regular office.

However, as soon as the words “business continuity” and “disaster recovery” (BC/DR) are mentioned, most home business owners start imagining pictures of a costly and complex rocket science that is only applicable for large companies.

Plenty of home-based businesses and tiny organizations live under the misconception that BC/DR activities are beyond their expertise or affordability. These misconceptions frequently cause many small businesses to lose their data, equipment, or even ruin their business completely for trivial reasons.

Losing a business due to market forces or financial losses beyond your control is understandable. But losing your business due to silly mistakes or lack of basic precautions is a different ballgame that must be tackled by having a proper home-based BC/DR plan.

For example, a particular home-based businesswoman suffered a serious business disruption just because she lost her mobile phone and had no back-up contact list. So how can one implement a BC/DR for their home-based businesses without hiring an expensive specialist? Simple. Just follow the easy precautions below to have a reasonably good BC/DR plan for your home-based business.

  1. Keep your business materials safe from children and pets. Your child can easily ruin all your business documents for his or her coloring project or paper airplanes. For example, the famous scientist Thomas Edison lost hundreds of his research papers due to a fire accidentally triggered by his pet dog. Have a small fire extinguisher handy.
  2. When working from home use a separate room if possible. Keep all work documents, computers, diskettes, CDs, phones, etc. in a room that can be locked. Ensure the business room is fire-proof, water-proof, pest-proof, and child-proof.
  3. Do not load games and other fancy stuff like free screensavers on your business computers at home. Just have the essential business applications. Freeware, shareware, games, etc. can cause freak problems and virus attacks.
  4. Learn how to configure your Internet connection, install necessary software, anti-virus programs, etc., on your own. Store all CDs, manuals, and license keys of all software safely.
  5. Take the help of professionals and vendors for software installations you are not sure about, as there could be several post-installation settings and configurations. Do not use old and outdated software. Keep upgrading to the latest versions whenever and wherever possible. Never play around with software settings and features without knowing the consequences.
  6. Buy a reliable back-up device and back up your data regularly. Have multiple backups for safety. More importantly, learn to verify your backups and how to restore your data.
  7. Have a print-out of all important phone numbers, e-mail IDs, vendor contacts, etc. and keep it updated periodically. Also save all important numbers on your computer, mobile, and e-mail as a backup.
  8. Have two business e-mail IDs if possible, and configure e-mail ID1 to send a one-way copy of all e-mails to e-mail ID2 for back-up purposes. But do not have a two-way setup as it can crash the mailbox through the ping-pong effect.
  9. Have your computers, printers, UPS, etc., under proper hardware maintenance contracts.
  10. Review your insurance policies. Does your work insurance cover losses at home? Does working at home invalidate your personal and home insurance? Do not leave laptops and other important business material in your car. If the car gets stolen, or mowed down by a truck, you will lose important data. You will probably not be able to claim this under your insurance policies either.
  11. Ensure that every computer is running the latest version of a reputable anti-virus program. Have a periodic and mandatory update policy to tackle new viruses.
  12. Ensure that your electrical outlets are safe and properly grounded. Your home probably wasn’t designed to be a work environment, too, so be careful about overloading the electricity supply with too many plugs and extension leads going into too few sockets.
  13. Scan important documents and store the images on a disk.
  14. Do not share your business computer with children, friends, relatives, etc. Have a separate computer for them to use.
  15. Review everything you do and simplify as many things as possible. For example, if you have difficulties in operating a complicated accounting software, switch over to manual methods if possible.
  16. Learn everything you need to know. Also teach one or more of your trusted family members or friends about running your business when you are sick or traveling.
  17. Save relentlessly for a rainy day and don’t start leading a lavish lifestyle. Never become overconfident about your competency or earning abilities. Just because you are earning well now does not mean you will continue to do so forever. Markets, economy, health, customers, etc., can take a nose dive and ruin you within weeks.
  18. Be cost effective to your customers. If you increase your overheads you will soon become unaffordable to them.
  19. Finally, take any other safety precautions necessary depending on the unique nature of your work, home, location, availability of support, etc.

While the above list is not exhaustive, it can give you a good BC/DR head start for protecting your home business. Just think of all the nasty things that can happen. You need to take appropriate precautions. Essentially, you should learn to think like a coward and implement all necessary safety measures to protect your home business. Finally, we can conclude this article with a great Chinese proverb that says, “Only a coward can create the best defenses.”

Thejendra BS is an IT manager from India. He is also the author of several books, including Practical IT Service Management, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity, and God is No Angel. For more information visit www.thejendra.com.