Clydes Corner  PTSD Meets BCP Nov 30 2012There’s no real debate about the fact that disastrous events are happening with alarming frequency across the globe. The 24-hour news cycle makes us disturbingly aware of all the bad things happening to innocent people and corporate entities. We, as business resilience professionals, work hard to be prepared for the unexpected. We strive to find new and creative ways to predict the next catastrophic event that could interrupt our mission-critical business functions and have lasting effects on our staffs. We are generally successful in finding the answers to our robust BIAs, and we get good information about the risks and likelihood of them happening. But how much do we know about the effect on our psyche, attitudes, and the way we see the world going forward?

There are many studies and reports about post-traumatic stress disorder of which we  Business Continuity Planning (BCP) experts should be aware. Are our people affected differently than are first responders? Do we all look for warning signs in ourselves and our staff that something is troubling us, and is the cause the most recent outage we responded to or simply the onslaught of bad reports on the nightly news? How are our children affected by being part of a disaster scene? Can we be of any help in soothing their fears and bringing comfort?

I have a friend here in New York whose apartment in Long Beach, Long Island is not currently inhabitable due to the on-going issue of no power. One month out from the storm, she still cannot go back to her home. Her place is seven stories up and no visible damage can be seen. She is fine physically, but emotionally she is starting to show the strain of her ordeal. Staying with supportive and kind friends gets her through the days. But I see that she (one of the ordinarily most optimistic and upbeat people I know) is starting to feel worn down. Her process to secure assistance is a long, frustrating, and foreboding ordeal. How will she be when all is back to normal? Can I expect her to have the same cheerful attitude that she once had? I truly hope so. This person and people like her have joined support groups where participants talk about how they are feeling and what they have been through. This verbalization of feelings and facts helps them to move forward slowly.

I will be interviewing this friend and many others, as I create both a presentation and article about the impact disasters have on ordinary people. I will be reaching out to find individuals to talk to for this research and welcome your thoughts and experiences. Please share them with me.

Something that I have already learned through my discussions and research: People tend to feel better when helping others. I know I do. People who have lost so much somehow summon the strength to help others. How is this so?

So here are a few pieces of information that I extracted from the internet if you have been affected by a disaster:

  • You must recognize that feelings of disbelief, helplessness, fear and anger are very common
  • It takes a while to adapt to a crisis situation
  • You may be busy surviving or helping others to survive yet you will have mixed feelings of pain, uncertainty, and relief
  • In disasters sometimes small things are big in helping us to feel less helpless
  • Seek out things that you can control
  • Find small bits of normal activities to seek temporary ‘normalcy’
  • Maintain connections where possible
  • Listen to a friend tell their story, cry together, laugh where appropriate, and exchange hugs
  • Volunteer if you can to help others and let others help you
  • Think positive thoughts and seek silver linings when at all possible

I guess that I am interested in this side of our business, as I have always cared about those I worked with and those I was seeking to help with their BCPs,  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERPs), Disaster Recovery Planning (DRPs), and Content Migration Packages (CMPs). I’ve always said that BCP is a people business, and although our ultimate goal is to maintain control, continue critical business activities, and ensure revenue stream, it’s always about the people first. Our ever-present need to care, share, and feel compassion are human traits that cannot be suppressed. And there’s no need to; we are people first after all.

Next week, I hope to provide greater detail about how you can be a part of our volunteer efforts through the Disaster Recovery International Foundation and at our conference in Philadelphia. Mark your calendars; June 4th is Volunteer Day.

Clyde Berger
Director of Volunteerism and Vice President

P.S. Yesterday, while leaving the downtown of my community, a young woman was waving her arms in what seemed to be my general direction as I drove out of a parking lot. Not knowing what she wanted, but being in my usual hurry, I slowly drove off, only to turn back within a hundred feet knowing I needed to help. I circled back and approached the young woman who had accidentally just locked herself out of the car – with her one-year-old son inside. She was dressed in a jogging suit – not quite warm enough on a cold New York day, and the baby was crying. We unsuccessfully tried to get into the car and ultimately called 911 with my cell phone because hers was, of course, inside the car. She had the perfect storm of calamities. She also got a very happy ending as a young police officer was able to open the car and all was well. My new friend’s name is Katrina (as in Hurricane Katrina…go figure), and she just moved to New York from Utah weeks before Superstorm Sandy. Welcome to New York Katrina!