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Ahh, 2020, the punches just keep coming.

From wildfires to hurricanes, from social unrest to a pandemic, business continuity professionals have been put to the test—not just here in the U.S., but around the globe.

With just less than two months left in the 2020 hurricane season, we’ve already burned through all this year’s storm names and have moved into the Greek alphabet for named storms in the U.S. At the time of this blog, Hurricane Delta had just made landfall in Louisiana, an area still recovering from hurricane damage earlier this season. California is still working to contain fast-moving wildfires, and one of the earliest snowstorms on record was noted for bringing snow to the U.S. in early September.

A single significant weather event can cost a government millions of dollars in recovery costs, which directly affects business operations, some of which may not survive after a weather-related disruption. Hurricane Laura in August, for example, is estimated to cost $14 million and that area, which is still recovering, is in the bullseye for another significant storm—Hurricane Delta.

Around the globe, here are some of the other extreme weather events we’ve experienced so far:

  • In Australia in 2020, brushfires wiped out millions of acres, killing people and wildlife, and devastating the landscape.
  • Responders in France and Italy were actively searching for missing people lost in recent flooding, and England also experienced significant flooding this year.
  • A bomb cyclone dumped a record 30 inches of snow in a single day on a province in Canada in early 2020.
  • In Siberia, one of the world’s coldest places in winter, temperatures reached a record-making 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit this summer.
  • Pakistan and India experienced flooding and loss of life from this season’s monsoons.
  • Japan has had more than 500 earthquakes this year.
  • And parts of Africa have dealt with the impacts of flooding this year, too.

It’s not surprising, when you look at all of the events and data, that weather remains a significant facilitator for organizational disruptions.

Weather and Business Continuity

According to BCI’s Horizon Scan Report 2020, extreme weather events were number three on the risk index for future threats. Respondents said extreme weather risks were imminent threats during the next 12 months.

Extreme weather events draw close watch from business continuity professionals, not just because they can stall or shut down operations, but because they can also lead to significant financial losses. According to the BCI report, extreme weather events rank number four on the list of costliest disruptions, with the average cost per largest event topping more than $1 million USD[MOU1] .

There is good news, however. Business continuity professionals who work in areas prone to these disasters are often well-versed in weather-related disaster response and planning, but we can’t overlook complications further caused by the pandemic such as dispersed staffing challenges with remote teams and depleted financial and other resources.

But we’re also seeing areas unaccustomed to weather disruptions adjusting disaster response plans for unexpected events, from earthquakes and snowstorms to flooding. As a matter of fact, according to BCI’s Emergency Communications Report 2020, adverse weather is one of the main triggers for emergency communications plans.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to include the unexpected in our resiliency planning.

It’s better to plan for a potential disruption and never have to put those plans to work, than to take a “it’s never happened here before” approach and get caught off guard when something does.

For example, you may think since your area has never had a wildfire, you don’t need that in your planning, but what would happen if someone camping or having an outside fire let it get out of control and suddenly, trees and fields around your organization were on fire? It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.

So whether you’re in an area prone to weather disruptions, or you’re just closely watching trends, what can you do to build a strong business continuity program that’s robust and flexible enough to handle both expected and unexpected weather events?

Here are a few tips:

Rely on trustworthy data

In the era when people flippantly use the phrase “fake news,” it’s important for business continuity professionals to establish reliable information sources for pending weather events. That’s not just for what’s on the approaching radar, but also sources that provide enough information that you can employ horizon scanning and be aware of potential impacts, long before an actual disruption occurs. A business continuity solution that includes geo-mapping capabilities and real-time map layers can also help you monitor weather events and potential disruptions. When planning, always be sure seek out trusted, respected sources from local, national, and industry-respected sources. Here are a few worth mentioning for our U.S-based clients: BCI, Ready.gov, and the National Weather Service. [MOU2] 

Establish an emergency communications plan

A well-planned emergency communications strategy may be the key to effective response and recovery during a weather-related event. There are many working components of this including advanced planning and executive buy-in and support. You may also find it beneficial to invest in an emergency notification management system, which can help you deliver communications across multiple channels, while ensuring you’re getting the right messages to the right contacts—with current and up-to-date information. And don’t forget about employee awareness and training. It’s important to ensure your employees and other stakeholders are aware of what types of communications you plan to send during a crisis, which channels they’ll be delivered across, and who they’ll be from.

Establish and communicate roles and responsibilities

It’s important that before you’re in the heart of a crisis, that all of your team members understand their roles and responsibilities. While weather events often lead to communication disruptions—phone lines down, loss of power and internet, loss of cell service, etc.—you may find it beneficial to use a business continuity and disaster response solution that enables off-line access to your playbooks, including tasks assignments and task communications. A mobile application with off-line (and secure) capabilities may help you most effectively weather your next big storm.

Don’t forget your supply chain

As we’ve seen with COVID-19, a disruption can have far-reaching and widespread effects on your supply chain. So even if you are in an area that may not have a history of disruptive weather events, it doesn’t mean the same is true for your suppliers. Be sure to include them in your weather event planning, too.

These are just a few quick tips to help you think about planning for weather-related disruptions. If you’d like more ideas or need help adding weather events to your business continuity planning, check out some of our on-demand demos:

Have other questions or need additional support? Contact an Assurance advisor today.

Topics: Business Continuity| Incident Management

Assurance Software

Written by Assurance Software

Assurance Software takes your company’s enterprise-wide business continuity and resiliency program to the next level. With Assurance as your go-to partner for continuity and resilience, you can confidently mitigate risk, manage recovery, and safeguard your employees, customers, operations and brands.

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