A Midyear Emergency Plan Review

A tsunami engulphs northern Japan. Ten magnitude 7-and-above earthquakes shakeup things from Argentina to the Aleutians, New Zealand to Pakistan. More than 1600 twisters flatten communities everywhere from “Tornado Alley” to Massachusetts.  Catastrophic flooding in the North. Cataclysmic fires in the South. Then came the “Killer Heat Dome.”

All this year, and it’s only July.

Ominous portents of things to come? Climate change asserting itself? Or just really nasty coincidences? Does it matter? Whatever the case, wherever you are, ya gotta be ready. So maybe it’s a good time for a midyear emergency plan review.

How Fresh is Your Plan?

Organizations don’t stand still, things and people change. Contact names, phone numbers, email addresses all may have shifted since your last major crisis. Post-storm debriefs or the results of drills may have resulted in decisions to change processes or other details. If your plan has been posted online in your intranet, your backup hard copy binders may be out of date. And if the only copies are in binders, disks, or flash drives, you’ll want to make sure the latest copies are out there.

When’s the Last Time You Practiced?

Your people have probably had plenty of practice dealing with “normal” emergencies, if there is such a thing.   If you’ve had at least a tabletop exercise with a really good debrief in the last 12 months, good for you. But when’s the last time you had a “full functional” exercise, or tested yourself against a 100-year storm scenario? If you’re squared away for hurricanes or ice storms, is your restoration machinery as well-oiled for tornadoes, or other hazards that come without advance warning?

What About the Rookies?

If everyone in the storm room knows the first names of each other’s grandchildren, you’re probably overdue to break in some new blood. Bring in some of those less experienced people during the next storm. That’s a great opportunity to mentor tomorrow’s storm bosses. Check your succession plans, second roles, and depth charts. They may need replenishing, before all those boomers retire, taking their wealth of institutional knowledge with them. Or you can leave them to the tender mercies of being thrown into a sink-or-swim situation, like the one cited in this quote from the Idaho Law Review:

A venturesome minority will always be eager to get off on their own…let them take risks, for Godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches- that is the right and privilege of any free American.

16 Idaho Law Review 407, 420-1980.

Are There Threats Within?

In a CNN interview with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called for utilities to be aware of potential internal threats, responding to a case in which an individual successfully infiltrated five nuclear generating stations. That’s food for thought that would give any utility security official indigestion.

But internal threats can take many forms. Workplace violence can be a significantly disruptive force (see EPP’s May, 2009 newsletter article, “The Business Disaster Waiting to Happen”). And internally or externally, hackers have been wreaking havoc on everything from Sony to the Defense Department. So it’s probably a good idea to re-check both your physical and cyber security processes as part of the midyear emergency plan review process.

How About an Emergency Plan Review SWOT Team?

Emergency Preparedness departments are endemically understaffed and over-tasked. You may have little time and fewer resources to take on your regular work, much less the additional concerns listed above.

So you might want to think about forming a “SWOT Team,” a group of key, experienced restoration pros who can help with a brief midyear emergency plan review of your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. At the very least, your “SWOT Team” review should be able to surface and validate some key priorities and Critical Success Factors to work on.

To reach a port, we must sail – Sail, not tie at anchor – Sail, not drift.

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