Weathering the Storm: Tips for Coping with a Disrupted Climate

Tips for Coping with a Disrupted Climate

The current ongoing disruption in long-standing weather patterns means that organizations everywhere are at risk of being struck by punishing natural disasters. Today’s post looks at how companies can ensure they will be resilient in the face of any type of extreme weather event, including fires, floods, and everything in between.  

Related on MHA Consulting: America’s Red Zones:  
Where Natural Disasters Cluster and What It Means for You

The Rise in Extreme Weather 

There was a time not long ago when weather patterns were stable and each region had a fairly settled risk profile when it came to extreme weather events. Recently, the old patterns have been upended. In some areas, familiar weather threats have intensified, as with wildfires in California and hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. Other places are seeing threats that are almost unprecedented for that locality, such as southern California receiving its first-ever tropical storm watch

These shifts mean that many facilities that have long been in harm’s way now face even greater risks. And formerly tranquil areas are increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events.  

In this environment, prudent business continuity professionals will want to make sure their organizations are reassessing their weather-related risks and preparing accordingly.  

Creating Checklists to Protect People and Assets 

There are two main steps organizations can take to ensure they are prepared for the increasing possibility their facilities will be impacted by extreme weather.  

The first is to create checklists laying out the steps employees should take in the event a weather-related threat emerges (or review and update their existing checklists). These checklists should address such matters as securing facilities and assets, protecting employees, and conducting emergency shutdown procedures (of production lines, IT systems, power, and so on). The checklists should also set forth the procedures for notifying employees of the threat and sharing information on where they should go and what they should do.  (Here are some tips on creating effective checklists.) 

To be useful, these checklists need to be fairly detailed and far-sighted in terms of timing milestones. It is not enough to say, “If a wildfire approaches, move Asset A to a safe location.” The checklist should detail where and how the asset will be moved and any special provisions needed during transport and storage (such as heating or cooling). The checklist should also take into account the fact that, at the time of an emergency, other organizations are likely to be seeking to move assets of their own, possibly creating bottlenecks and resource competition. 

These checklists should be incorporated in the business continuity or emergency management plan, with lists being created at the level of individual departments and also for the organization as a whole. 

Integrating Emergency Response with Business Continuity 

The second step organizations should take to protect themselves against weather risks is to make sure their weather-emergency response checklists are integrated with their overall business continuity plans. This step is frequently overlooked but very important. 

Beyond minimizing the impact of the approaching weather event, the organization can and should be having conversations about how it’s going to continue its mission-critical operations in the face of the fire, storm, or whatever it is. A checklist should be created with the aim of maintaining or quickly resuming essential business activities; call it the how-to-keep-the-business-going checklist.  

As an example, if a company has a call center on the Atlantic coast that serves the entire country, the weather-emergency response checklist for the center might set forth the steps for shutting it down, protecting its assets, and ensuring that the employees are transported to safe locations. The BC checklist would lay out how the company as a whole can maintain adequate call center functionality for the three or four days the center is offline. 

Adapting to the Risks of Today’s Weird Weather 

In an era marked by the disruption of long-standing weather patterns, businesses must be proactive in adapting to the escalating risks posed by extreme weather events. Business continuity professionals should make it a priority to continually reassess the weather-related threats to their organizations and prepare accordingly. 

Businesses must create or update checklists outlining the steps employees should take when weather-related threats loom large, from securing facilities and safeguarding employees to executing emergency shutdown procedures. They must also integrate their weather-emergency response checklists with their overall business continuity plans, ensuring that their mission-critical operations can be sustained during wildfires, hurricanes, or any other type of weather-related adversity. In this way, they can ensure that even as the weather becomes more and more erratic their organization’s future remains secure. 

Further Reading on Weather Risk 

Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.

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