Awareness, Thy Name Is Disaster

On this day more than 70 years ago, the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor. By any standard, aClyde s Corner Awareness Thy Name Is Disaster December7 2012t any time in our history, this horrific event would be considered a disaster. More than 2,000 American citizens were killed and more than 1,000 injured. Many of our naval ships were lost, and almost 200 aircraft were destroyed. Our president at the time, Franklin Roosevelt, in a speech to Congress said that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was “a date which will live in infamy.”

Clearly, military strategists and professionals have since studied what took place that day. Without question there were “lessons learned.” We can probably think of other disasters that also will also be remembered as days that will live in infamy. September 11 comes to mind, as do the anniversaries of many large disasters across the globe. Our more recent storms and floods, though small if measured by lives lost, are large by virtue of the emotional trauma, enormous damage to property, and the financial impact of loss and rebuilding.

In our business continuity world, we write our “after action” reports and study what we did right and what we did wrong following incidents, outages, and disasters. We take corrective action as appropriate, and many previous doubters are now singing from the same sheet of music. Our senior leaders (who may have been lukewarm about
and sometimes saw us as “sky is falling” types) suddenly start to see the light. Disasters and catastrophic events make converts of the unconvinced and doubters. If we look back on recent storms like Katrina, Irene, or Superstorm Sandy, we can identify the warning signs (remember certain disasters make appointments) and we can definitely update our programs and plans with real-life experience and outcomes as our guide.

I’ve been reading with interest that many experts are defining the changes that must take place to better prepare us for a storm of Sandy’s magnitude the next time around. Some businesses are still struggling to get the IT bit back in place. Some companies lost their buildings and their people are struggling to rebuild and replace homes and belongings. Power companies, even though their post storm public assertions indicated readiness, are left scratching their heads about what they could have done differently. Individuals like you and me are asking ourselves about our own contingency plans and readiness solutions. Editorialists and news columnists are weighing in with their two cents, telling us that planning is the right thing to do and having good plans for approaching disasters is a good business decision.

Everyone who can watch a TV or listen to a radio news channel or who was affected has become a resiliency expert, critic, or maybe just a willing participant for responsible planning. We have all become instant critics of almost anything and everything. And I think that this is ultimately a good thing for our profession. Awareness thy name is disaster. Is it any different in your organization? When we have outages, the experts emerge and the men (and women) on white horses arrive with the answers to all of our questions and profess that the solution is easy. I am certain that our conference in June, although still many months removed, will feature information on the aftermath of Sandy and ways we can improve. I hope so. And I sincerely hope that there are no other major disasters to discuss and ponder between now and then.

Many good ideas to harden our infrastructure, our shorelines, and telecommunications capabilities have emerged post Sandy. Many smart people are helping governments and communities devise responsible continuity solutions, which include life safety for those most at risk. When the smoke clears and personal and corporate life moves towards normal, we will have an opportunity to make things better via responsible planning and creative thinking. Let that be our guide always.

Clyde Berger
Director of Volunteerism and Vice President

PS — Volunteer Day will be June 3, 2012, and not June 4 as previously noted in last week’s column. We have moved it up a day. Opportunities for volunteering will include home construction (which may include building, painting, clearing debris, and cleanup) and food bank (which will include the sorting of food and home products). We still have the possibility of working in a community vegetable garden (I would like to know how you feel about this option), and we are investigating the viability of doing a drive for boots and shoes (new shoes can be dropped off at the conference). We also will provide “on your own” volunteer opportunities while you are in the Philadelphia area for those who cannot participate on June 3. I’m looking forward to a great volunteer experience, and I am personally setting a goal to top last year’s 77 volunteers! Please help me reach that goal