• United States



An All Hazards Approach

May 18, 20103 mins
Business ContinuityData and Information SecurityIT Leadership

Most all organizations face hazards categorized as natural, technological, human, and material. Many emergency management programs assess the hazard likelihood compared to the potential human, property and service impacts, the level of preparedness to respond, and the resources necessary to survive such emergencies.

Natural hazards seem to pose the biggest risk in the form of severe weather activities (electrical storms, ice storms, blizzards, hurricanes, and tornados). Although floods occur regularly in certain areas, you may not be at risk since your locations are built outside of any flood plains. Some are also in moderate earthquake zones but the probability of getting hit with a sizeable earthquake is unlikely (many in moderate zones are not even aware). 

Severe weather activities can lead to injury or even death. Recent New England ice storms are examples of how property damage is affected through the physical losses associated with downed trees and power lines. The downed lines caused cascading events as a result of heavy ice accretion. This created temporary service impacts to data centers and led to some structural damage at several facilities. As per plan, your generators should activate automatically but you may experience difficulties with external fuel suppliers due to impacts associated with their employees even making in to work. You can acquire fuel from contingency sources. Periodic review of your response procedures may result in the implementation of new preparedness strategies.

Technological hazards (fire, supply chain shortages, structural damage and hazardous material (hazmat) exposures) are addressed through a series of preventative measures. You should periodically test your fire suppression systems and drill monthly in at least one of your facilities. Primary and contingency contracts should be in place to ensure no supply chain issues occur impacting your financial status. If you have such a facility, you should drill on the production floor in response to hazmat spills of dangerous chemicals used in sanitization activities. Due to this preparation, you should greatly limit any occurrence of this type of incident.

Human hazards such as terrorism, hostage situations including VIP situations, bomb threats and potential pandemics could occur but the probability for most organizations is low. You can use third party services for VIPs and international business travelers. This service includes 24×7 alerts delivered directly to phones, PDAs or via e-mail as well as comprehensive briefs and travel information on our evacuation procedures.  You can then integrate with local law enforcement, local emergency management committees as well as state emergency response commissions ensuring their awareness of your response plans and your integration with their plans.

Hazardous materials could cause impacts to life should a casualty event occur however it is (in most cases) unlikely to occur based upon historical records that you can research for your organization and area. Regardless, you may find that you are within 100 miles of nuclear facilities and should the prevailing winds shift towards your facilities during a radiological event, you could suffer an exposure. Chemical hazards could impact you if an accident occurred on nearby railways. You may find that chlorine gas is transported along this line regularly although no incidents have occurred many years.

It is wise to share your prioritized plans with corporate stakeholders, drive updates, improve your preparedness, secure funding and establish activity tracking. To assist in the effort, find two spreadsheets that can help you start moving towards an all hazards approach to emergency management.