Hurricane Preparation Tips & Resources

FREE HURRICANE PREPARATION TIPS AND RESOURCES

Be Safe!    Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail!

Many of you know I released my book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide on August 11, 2017. Since then major Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Katia, Jose and Maria have struck. Surely, many more Cat 5’s,  Cat 4’s and typhoons will be in our future.

My heart goes out to those directly impacted and to my peers that have been working around the clock to help individuals and businesses survive. I decided to quickly pull some information that deals in some way with hurricanes from the 112 chapters/414 pages in my book and post it here for free to help as many individuals and businesses as possible.

Please do not feel compelled to buy my book. Much of the information in the book enables businesses to survive natural and man-made crisis events, so it may not interest everyone although it does include hundreds of tips focusing on the safety of employees which is always our primary concern! 

The book was never intended as a money making endeavor – it was to give back and pay it forward. From the feedback I am receiving people are getting value from it so I am happy I wrote it. I just want you to have the extracted information below to help you as much as possible. Hopefully it adds some value. If you know anyone that might benefit from the information below please let them know about my hurricane information page.

Stay Safe – Marty Fox, CBCP

P.S. – I am updating this page on a regular basis but if there is anything you feel I should add to make it more valuable to people please let me know and I will do my best to include it.

The information below is meant to get you thinking about what you need. It is not a comprehensive source and you should consult your local officials as to what applies best in your locale.  Please heed all evacuation orders. Safety first!

Stay informed, and tuned in to local news advisories regarding conditions in your immediate area and follow safety instructions of local authorities and your emergency operation centers. If you do not know your  emergency management office this  FEMA list may help you.

I posted lot’s of links, resources and hurricane specific content on this page. To get you started here are a few general and hurricane related alert services I rely on that offer free online versions:

  • FEMA.gov – they offer a great deal of worthwhile info and templates
  • American Red Cross Hurricane page- great institution with important information
  • American Red Cross – Shelters page
  • NOAA- National Weather Service – is the feeder for most TV and radio reporters
  • NOAA Hurricane Page – use it.
  • Wunderground.com – Weather Underground. I value their predictions. Their maps can be viewed with various levels of detail. During a 2017 blizzard in New York their scientific discussions, advisories, maps, trackers, computer models and very cool spaghetti model ensemble page provided me with unique insight that the event would not impact some of my assets as severely as 99% of other services predicted they would be impacted. Weather Underground was correct! I really value their hurricane page – check it out. Even my wife now asks me, ‘what does Weather Underground say?’.
  • Windmapper.com – this is my favorite wind specific site. Detailed maps, speed, direction, etc. Search by zip or city. It has served me well in numerous storms. Review all the tabs, as there is a lot of information on their site
  • OpenWeatherMap.org – this service fascinates me. Great info is searchable by city AND for a programmer like me, it has a really cool API. I am making time to test the API as soon as I complete the book you are now reading. I will report the results in the free Ultimate Business Continuity Tools and Techniques Newsletter

FIRST SOME BASIC PREPAREDNESS TIPS – source FEMA with my annotations. 

  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
  • Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate – I listed much more details below…
  • Plan for your pets! More pet preparation information below. Many shelters will not accept pets. If you are forced to leave your pet behind it may not survive.
  • Fuel your vehicle early – do not wait for the inevitable gas lines!
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan.
  • Make a business communications plan. I posted essential business communications plan components from my book here – as it is too long for this page.
  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”
  • I included the overview emergency hotline / mass notification chapter below. There is too much additional guidance in the book to include on this page.

Preparing Your Home

  • Hurricane winds >=74 mph can cause at the very least trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe. High hurricane winds can cause much more damage.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
  • Consider building a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter designed for protection from high-winds and in locations above flooding levels.

Hurricane Watch

Hurricane watch = conditions possible within the next 48 hrs.

Steps to take:

Hurricane Warning

Hurricane warning = conditions are expected within 36 hrs.

Steps to take:

  • Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving

  • If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
  • Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving

  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving

  • Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving

  • Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include food and water sufficient for at least three days, medications, a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
  • Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
  • Remember – fuel your vehicle early – do not wait for the inevitable gas lines!

After a Hurricane

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

BOOK CHAPTER EXTRACT – HURRICANE INFO FROM HAZARD RESOURCES CHAPTER (I extracted  hurricane and thunderstorm specific info from the chapter  as best I could to stay on topic) :

Hazard information at your finger tips! There is more natural and man-made hazard related business and personal information below than you or I could ever hope to assemble. The great news is we do not have to!

Disclaimer: Because every emergency is different, it is important for your safety that you follow the directives of your state and local emergency management authorities and local utilities. The information provided through these linked sites and in this book is intended for general informational purposes only and is not an endorsement of any particular material or service.

Emergency Management Offices:

Here is a link to a great list of emergency management offices for every state and some additional countries which offers incredible information at your fingertips. Each office has location specific information. Many provide alert services. For example, in New York I rely daily on Notify NYC for many types of disruption  alerts. Often, I get these alerts before the news services report on them.

Hazard Information:

The two FEMA links below are favorites of mine. They have information and checklists on many hazards in convenient pdf format. Use them as is or customize them for your crisis management program. 

  • https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1549-20490-4629/natural_hazards_1.pdf
  • https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1549-20490-2128/natural_hazards_2.pdf

Special Triple Mashup Resource:

Three additional resources I use on a regular basis are Ready.gov Prepare for Emergency Page, the DisasterAssistance.gov site and FEMA’s ‘Know Your Hazards site. They contain hazard related guidance, checklists, videos and FEMA scenario specific playbooks for organizations, including tabletops. I encourage you to visit all three sites. I also included tabletop guidance and my customized tabletop in the book..

BONUS – For your convenience I created a special triple mashup consolidation of the three sites. The first resource for each hazard is from Ready.gov, then the FEMA playbook (where available), followed by additional resources. Again I stayed with hurricanes and t-storms here rather than list the 14 other hazards in the book:

Hurricanes – Learn terms, facts, and safety tips to help you before, during, and after a hurricane. You can also read about the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and the five hurricane categories.

Thunderstorms & Lightning I included this on the free hurricane post as it can apply to hurricanes – All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. On average in the U.S., lightning kills 51 people and injures hundreds more each year. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.
  • Thunderstorms & Lightning – (Ready.gov)
  • Protecting your property from high winds (FEMA) can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining your building to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the exterior shell of your building, should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city. For buildings with Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) walls, a type of wall often used for commercial buildings, one example of wind protection is inspecting and maintaining the walls.

BOOK CHAPTER – Ideas for Your Disaster Supplies Kit – Basic, Beyond and Way Beyond
Employees should keep a kit at home and you may want to consider purchasing kits and go-bags to be kept at work. Leverage FEMA and the Red Cross for additional ideas. This is a starter list, not a definitive list of items. You must add, delete and modify to fit your policies and procedures. Partner with local officials and you business Safety and Security experts on this project.

Tip – Doctors can be difficult to find during a hurricane. Many hospitals now offer telemedicine. During a hurricane some make it free. Check prior to a storm if your hospital offers this service.

Tip – Family and friends directly impacted are under a lot of stress. If you are outside the impacted zone reach out to those impacted to help them relieve stress as much as possible.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit Suggestions

A basic emergency supply kit could include the some or all of the following items:

  • Water – One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

First Aid Kit Suggestions

In any emergency, you or a family member may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies, you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt. In addition to this list you should review the Red Cross suggestions.

Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class and CPR training, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in decontamination.

  • Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontamination
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
  • Prescribed medical supplies, such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment

Non-prescription drugs:

  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative

Other first aid supplies:

  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

Supplies For Unique Needs

Remember the unique needs of your family members, including growing children, when making your emergency supply kit and family emergency plan.

For Baby:

  • Formula
  • Diapers
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk
  • Medications
  • Moist towelettes
  • Diaper rash ointment

For Adults:

  • Denture needs
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eye glasses

Ask your doctor about storing prescription medications such as heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin and other prescription drugs.

If you live in a cold climate, you must think about warmth. It is possible that you will not have heat. Think about your clothing and bedding supplies. Be sure to include one complete change of clothing and shoes per person, including:

  • Jacket or coat
  • Long pants
  • Long sleeve shirt

Documents – placed in a waterproof container (I also include saving vital records for businesses below):

  • Driver’s license or government ID card
  • Social security card
  • Marriage license
  • Credit cards
  • Phone numbers of family and friends
  • Bank account numbers

Book Extract – Alternative Communication Channels

During a hurricane some channels have more of a propensity for not being available. For example, cell phones are very unreliable in my experience. Unfortunately many people have given up more resilient landlines for cells in the past decade. Use any and all of these ideas.

Below is a handy-dandy list of my favorite communication channels. I am always on the outlook for new ones and in the book I discuss $99 satellite pingers and other exotic ways to communicate in an emergency and track assets. You might want to consider using some or all of these to reach people.

Some are basic and others may be considered innovative such as a favorite of mine – PTT (push to talk). The more methods you have to reach people the better your odds are to be able to connect and communicate important information.

Use these and add your own.

Voice:

  • Work desk
  • Work mobile
  • Home phone
  • Personal Mobile
  • Google Voice, Skype or other IP phones – when cells are down these may still work as they ride a more stable infrastructure. I use Google voice during crisis and non-crisis events.
  • Satellite phone (Sat phone)
  • Zello, Mororola, walkie talkie type push to talk (PTT) apps. Zello can even connect to physical two-way radios. When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria and there was no power I was monitoring a steady stream of voice messages  from San Juan and other cities in Puerto Rico. As an aside, my family is hooked on Zello. We use it every day for non-crisis communications. Recently emergency responders and companies have taken notice of Zello and are using it extensively. You can set up private password protected groups. Just push the big button and talk. It has many features and options. There are public responder groups you can listen to that provide real-time info. Zello has free and paid versions. Zello for Android. Zello for IOS.

Email:

  • Work email
  • Personal email

SMS – text messaging

  • Work mobile device
  • Personal mobile device

Push Notifications

  • Some mass notification systems include apps that allow for push notifications with geo-fencing capabilities so you can dynamically send messages to people within a certain geographic area.  More details on this benefit are in the technology part of this book.
  • Cable TV – crawl on bottom line. I currently use this as a communication channel for my employees.

Radio Broadcast – many people depend on radio during disruptive events.

Public address system

Alarm system

Other communication tools to consider:

  • Desktop alerts – a small widget that allows you to send alerts to thousands of user’s desktops in seconds. A must-have in a crisis, such as an active shooter. My favorite mass notification tools include this feature/benefit.
  • IP desktop physical phone such as Cisco. You can send alerts to the digital screen from good mass notification tools.
  • Slack – I use it for instant messaging and much more. I like using it for disruptive events and business as usual communication and collaboration. It is getting very popular
  • Yammer – organizations are now catching on to this collaborative communications tool
  • Skype for Business – instant messenger, voice, video conference, auto-attendant
  • Twitter – Twitter – Twitter – it can offer great value if used in an intelligent manner
  • Facebook private page for your organization and Facebook Connect are valuable. Props to Zuck for focusing on helping people report their status during a crisis.
  • XML, JSON and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds – these are great methods to send and receive news. They have free readers for IOS and Android. An incredible number of sites allow you to access their RSS feeds
  • Apple FaceTime voice, videoconferencing. Fun fact – I had a part in bringing to market one of the earliest desktop video-conferencing systems in the 1990’s named VIDEOVU. Today there are many choices for IOS, Android and on the desktop
  • Virtual presence meeting places – Second Life, SoCoCo
  • Digital signage boards – They are valuable when employees are moving around your locations. Messages can be dynamically pushed to the boards through an application programming interface (API) from various software systems including my favorite mass notification systems.
  • Pagers – I will bet you $1 there are still a bunch out there. I know some hospitals that still use them. Why not, they are reliable.
  • Smoke signals and drums. Oh, I am just kidding, OR am I? I can think of at least one influential use-case where it is being used to signal an important appointment of a person.

New methods of communication are being developed all the time. Keep your eyes open to interesting new channels, apps and Internet of Thing devices that you can use for crisis communication. Amazingly, computers can be controlled with brainwaves and eye movement which is wonderful for people that cannot move their hands. At some point in the not too distant future direct mind-to-mind control will become a reality.

Book Extract – Creative Power Sources for Devices:

I write more extensively about creative ways to power devices and using tiny sensors that use little or no electrical power in my book. Here are some ideas:

  • Charge an old laptop before a storm. You can use it during the storm as a big charger for cell phones.
  • Solar power cases for cell phones
  • I have used the Pocket Socket for years. I can crank and power most any small device and it is really nice workout! It is very portable. I carry it everywhere. A few minutes of charging will get you a minute for emergency calls. Crank more and you will get more minutes – and a better workout.
  • Crank radios such as Eaton are valuable. Many come with USB outputs.

BOOK CHAPTER – EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER
An Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or Command Center is a central command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management at a strategic level during an emergency, and ensuring the continuity of operations for your organization.

Having a well thought out and tested Emergency Operations Center is critical to successfully managing your response and recovery.

Here is a basket-full of EOC tips:

Tip – You should implement multiple options for your physical EOC /Alternate EOC in case one or more is not available at the time of crisis. Options include your production site, a sister site if geographically feasible, hotel or vendor location.

Tip – Your EOC /Alternate EOC can be dedicated space or a meeting/conference room that will be commandeered during a crisis.

Tip – Your physical EOC /Alternate EOC must include equipment and a battle box with all supplies and documentation you will need to make decisions and communicate both internally and externally. Visit the Emergency Operations Center on a regular basis, especially if you will be using a conference room in a sister site. Make sure your supplies are locked up and have not disappeared. Please inspect batteries, headphones, supplies, water and laptops.

You do not need any surprises at time of disaster. It is frustrating to have headsets available but the batteries are dead or missing. Use a checklist to review all important supplies, equipment and plans to insure you are ready and do not miss anything.

Tip – You will need subject matter experts to help with making decisions. Make sure your conference number is full-featured. Muting and operator assistance are essential, as you could have a lot of people on the call and invariably in the real-world someone will put you on hold and there will be background music. Did that ever happen to you with 50 people on the call? It sucks if you cannot stop the music!

Tip – You must also have a virtual Emergency Operations Center. A conference line is essential, as there will be times you must meet at a moment’s notice during non-working hours. In my experience, many incidents occur during the evening, weekends and very early morning. Welcome to our world!

Tip – Make sure the conference line can accommodate more people than you expect to call. Getting a ‘conference full’ during a crisis is real nasty. I have seen that on occasions and it is BAD! If you think you might top out at 50 people on a call – get a line that supports 150 or more!!

Tip – Here is a little trick you might find useful: if you are inviting people to the conference call by email or text and you know they are using an iPhone you can format use ‘phone number’, ‘password#’. An example would be 5555555555,1234#. When the recipient clicks on the link, the iPhone will automatically dial the phone number, automatically input the participant code and automatically drop the caller in the conference.

If you are using Android, it will dial the phone number and you can then manually input the participant code.  You may even come up with improvements by the time you read this. Any manual input you can eliminate to make it easier for people – do it. Every second counts.

Tip – Insure there is a high level of awareness of the EOC /Alternate EOC options.

Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in a centrally located site allowing rapid response

Tip –Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in an area that avoids congestion (i.e., transportation choke-points such as inadequate thoroughfares, bridges, etc.).

Tip –Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in a facility that has structural integrity.

Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in an area that can be quickly secured.

Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is not located in a known high-risk area; e.g., floods, earthquakes, nuclear power plant, Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) sites, etc.

Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is located near an adequate road network for ease of access.

Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC space, whether it is dedicated (set aside and configured for EOC use only) or for multi-use not dedicated (such as an office, administrative, or conference area that is used for day-to-day functions), will be made available to support emergency response and management operations.

Typically, the day-to-day staff are displaced to another location. Get the agreement in writing so there is no confusion at time of disaster. Trust me, the can move the sales meeting or retirement party. As you know – when you need the command space – you need the space command space!

Tip – Consider using one large room rather than several rooms that collectively comprise the EOC /Alternate EOC. You will have better communication.

Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC has adequate space to support the emergency response staff.

Tip – Consider if the EOC /Alternate EOC can survive the effects of relevant risks; e.g., natural and man-made hazards.

Tip – Consider implementing special structural capabilities to improve the EOC /Alternate EOC survivability.

Tip – Consider the EOC /Alternate EOC having a collective protection system for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) agents.

Tip -Consider the EOC /Alternate EOC having protection from blast effects.

Tip – Consider the impact of where the EOC /Alternate EOC is located, whether it be above the ground floor, on the ground floor, or below grade. This will depend on your risk factors.

Tip – Is the EOC /Alternate EOC and any multi-use space connected to a local dial central office? These telephones are just like those found in a home or office. The advantage is that if the EOC /Alternate EOC loses power to the PBX, telephones connected directly to the dial central office will continue to function.

Tip – If you require it, insure EOC /Alternate EOC telephones have – 1) Recording capability 2) Caller ID capability 3) Voice conferencing capability.

Tip – Consider the need for the EOC /Alternate EOC telecommunications capability be be configured to support the scale of emergency response and management activities.

Tip – Consider the need for the EOC /Alternate EOC and any multi-use space to have the capability to display video feeds for situational awareness information.

Tip – Consider the need for the EOC /Alternate EOC and any multi-use space to have video teleconferencing capability.

Tip – Insure you have the proper number of printers available in the EOC/Alternate EOC and any multi-use space adequate to support emergency response operations.

Tip – Perform ample scenario based testing from the EOC / Alternate EOC. Play through crisis events from start to finish. You will learn a lot of valuable information you can apply to your real-world readiness program.

Book Chapter – Salvaging Vital Records – Act Fast and All May Not Be Lost!
You should strive to have copies of all vital records backed-up in digital format and physically stored safely off-site.

If vital records are damaged it is important to have a process in place and a trusted vendor that can jump in and help save them. A good professional mitigation partner is your best bet.

Here are some tips and resources on salvaging moldy and contaminated vital documents:

Tip – DO NOT store vital records in the basement. You might be surprised how often they wind up in the basement.

Tip – Always ask process owners where the originals are stored. You might be surprised and perhaps dismayed.

Moldy Documents:

Tip – If documents are soaking wet for a long period – days, weeks, they will likely mold. If it is humid that will compress the time-frame for mold to begin forming.

Tip – Air drying wet documents is effective for small amounts of documents prior to mold forming.

Tip – Freezing wet documents can stop mold growth.

Tip – After freezing wet document they should then be vacuum freeze dried. Doing this will remove the frozen water so it cannot go through the liquid phase. It is the a very effective way to dry frozen documents.

Tip – It is important to understand that freezing does not kill mold. It suspends mold growth if the documents are frozen. So, moldy documents still must be treated after freezing and vacuum freeze drying is finished. Any leftover mold should be cleaned off in a separate step by a vendor wearing protective gear.

Tip – Drying methods not recommended for documents include: thermal, desiccant, vacuum thermal drying or de-humidification. Using these will harm the documents.

Contaminated Documents:

Tip – Documents can be contaminated by the contents of the water that impacted them.

Tip – Documents soaked in muddy water still must be dried to remove residue on them, possibly in addition to the mold, after freeze and vacuum drying are complete.

Tip – If the water that impacted the documents has, or might have, biological contaminants then you must sterilize the documents. Do not do this yourself. For safety, your vendor should do this, not your team.

Tip – Two sterilization methods your vendor might consider using are: fumigation with ethylene oxide, and gamma irradiation. Again, let you vendor advise you on sterilization.

Vendors:

I highly recommend you speak with vendors BEFORE a disruptive event. Understand their capabilities. Speak with some of their current clients. Perform your due diligence, and as always (I know I am preaching to the choir, please forgive me) have redundant vendors just in case the primary vendor is not available.

I discuss other aspects of discovering and documenting vital records in more detail in the risk, BIA and plan development parts of the book. I also have a lot more on storm prep and will try to add more to this file later. I am also preparing at this point.

Book Chapter – Emergency Hotline and Mass Notification Tools Overview

This chapter will serve to frame the value of two types of communication tools that can be of great benefit to you and your organization – incoming and outgoing communication tools. These are two of my passions and specialties.

In the technology part of the book we will discuss in detail how to select and implement these tools.

Tip – To provide your employees with the most value, provide them with both a way to call in for crisis information and a way for them to receive information on their personal and work devices. To accomplish this I recommend implementing BOTH an emergency hotline (incoming) and a mass notification system (outgoing).

Tip – To eliminate the possibility of providing employees with mixed/contradictory messages during a crisis, you MUST develop a process so your emergency hotline message is aligned with your outgoing mass notification system message.

How an Emergency Hotline (incoming) complements a Mass Notification System (outgoing):

Emergency Hotline:

An emergency hotline can be a phone or bulletin board system. The hotline can use voice recordings or textual messages on web pages (bulletin board feature). It can optionally allow employees to speak with operators or post responses, pictures, video… during a disruptive event. The emergency hotline must be able to support a large volume of simultaneous callers, so do not use a line that will only support 10-15 employees if you have 3,000 people in your company. Always allow room for growth. If you think you will need to accommodate 50 simultaneous callers – then implement capacity for 100+.

Book Chapter – Mass Notification System and Emergency Hotline Overview:

During a hurricane or ANY crisis event these are absolutely critical tools!

A mass notification system enables you to send large numbers of people a consistent interactive message using multiple modes of communication in seconds or minutes. For example, during hurricane Sandy I sent out 38,000 voice calls, emails, text messages and push notifications all in less than five minutes. Try that with a manual call tree! Mass notification systems empower you to send consistent messages and get important responses from recipients.

Tip – Some mass notification systems I recommend have the capability to also act as your emergency hotline.

Why my recommended solution consists of both an Emergency Hotline + Mass Notification System:

I believe you need both types of systems. During an ice storm, you may use your outgoing mass notification system to blast a message to two groups of employees, alerting one group that there will be a one hour delayed opening for location ‘abc’ and the other group that location ‘def’ will be closed for the day. As part of the messages you would request the recipients to, ‘continue to check the emergency hotline – 800-XXX-XXXX for important updates before leaving for the office ‘. This provides both push and pull benefits for the people that require critical information.

The benefit of employees calling into the emergency hotline becomes important if they are not able to be reached in a remote area with your outgoing mass notification system (Tip – a sat phone would eliminate that vulnerability). The ability to pull information from the emergency hotline allows employees to call in from any phone and receive critical information. For example, if an employee’s mobile device is out of power or they are in a location with poor cellular reception or they simply do not have their phone handy (I know not having your mobile phone in your pocket nowadays sounds ludicrous, but it could theoretically happen). In those instances, they will still have the option to access a message on the emergency hotline from any landline or a friend’s mobile device.

Tip – Many organizations brand outgoing messages with the emergency hotline number as the caller ID. In my experience, including an important number that employees are familiar with will significantly increase the number of people that will answer the call. When people receive a call from a strange number they are not familiar with they often think it is an annoying telemarketing sales call and they will ignore the call.

I have used emergency hotlines and mass notification tools to keep employees well informed during disruptive events including:

Weather events:

  • Hurricanes
  • Ice and Snow Storms
  • Blizzards
  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Tornadoes

Man-made events:

  • Power outages
  • Terrorism

The following are some tips I have learned through the years. Also, later in this part of the book I have a extensive list of ‘according to Marty’ mass notification best practices. In addition, in the technology part of the book there is a chapter dedicated to mass notification selection criteria and suggested vendor questions.

Tip – A top-down formalized emergency response protocol should be used to create consistent messages. This will eliminate the possibility of unauthorized, inappropriate and possibly conflicting messages being placed on the incoming emergency hotline or being blasted out to employees with the outgoing mass notification system. I have heard of this happening. It gets messy, so be careful. Customize templates where possible to reduce errors.

The Incident Command Team, including the Incident Commander and management representing HR, Legal, Safety, Security, Communications, Operations, Business Resilience / Continuity, Sales and additional processes in your organization, could be the authoritative team that develops the appropriate messages to be delivered to employees. I have enjoyed success when HR and Corporate Communications take the lead on the proper wording.

After the message is developed, it is recorded and posted to the emergency hotline and launched with the outgoing mass notification system by an employee trained in the administration of the systems. Often, this person is an HR or Corporate Communications manager to insure a consistent message is communicated through all channels.

Tip –  If you contract with an emergency hotline vendor consider front-ending their number with one. Callers will call your number and it will redirect (pass through) to the vendor end-point number.  That way if you ever need to change vendors you simply point your toll-free hotline phone number to a different end-point.

Tip – Multiple emergency hotlines can create confusion:

If you have many locations multiple emergency hotlines can create confusion. For example, imagine if you work in New York and travel to your location in Nebraska or Hawaii (hopefully). What if there was a crisis event and you needed crisis updates in the state you are visiting. Would you know their emergency hotline phone number? What if there was an ice storm and the local management team decided to delay the opening due to extremely dangerous road conditions? Wouldn’t you want to know that rather than driving to the office in dangerous conditions, assuming unnecessary risk and discovering the location is not even open? Yikes! I know I would be pissed off.

To exasperate the situation, as organizations grow and expand to new locales emergency hotlines have a way of multiplying like bunny rabbits which leads to significant confusion, complexity and cost. What an unnecessary mess.

Tip – The above issue is for emergency hotline contact. Good mass notification systems (outgoing) have interesting options for automatically detecting through geo-fencing where you are currently located and can dynamically include you on outgoing notifications for the site you are visiting. More on that when we deep-dive mass notification system selection criteria in the technology part of the book.

Tip – Consider this solution – One National Emergency Hotline

In my experience, a single national emergency hotline may be a better solution than multiple local emergency hotlines.

I have experienced both scenarios; organizations that used multiple emergency hotlines with inconsistent results and Fortune 100 companies with 75,000+ employees that very successfully used one national emergency hotline during local and regional events.

Advantages of one national emergency hotline include:

  • Simplicity – only one number for employees to remember wherever they are will greatly increase their ability to access the system – especially if the number is an easy to remember acronym such as 800-CRI-SIS1.
  • Using one vendor simplifies billing and reduces costs. Most of the time the emergency hotline will not be in use and paying multiple vendors is a waste of money which is compounded as you add new local numbers.
  • Updating one national emergency hotline by a central 24x7x365 team is much simpler, less stressful and error prone than having to maintain and remember how to update multiple local emergency hotlines by administrators who rarely use the system.

Sample Emergency Hotline and Mass Notification Message Tips:

When posting a message to the emergency hotline or launching a notification it is very important to indicate the precise location that is impacted. The message should inform employees of the current status and any call to action. For example:

‘Due to the ice storm the 123 Main Street, New York, New York location is scheduled to open at 10 am EST on Monday January 8, 2018. Please continue to check the emergency hotline for updates before travelling.’

Tip – If there are many locations simultaneously impacted and opening at the same time you could use:

‘Due to the north-east ice storm the following locations will open at 10 am Monday January 8, 2018: 12 Main Street, New York, New York, 456 South Avenue, Clifton, New Jersey and 789 Beacon Road, Hartford, Connecticut. Please continue to check the emergency hotline for updates before travelling.’

Tip – If there are many offices simultaneously impacted and opening at various times you could use:

‘Due to the northeast ice storm the following locations will have a delayed opening on Monday January 8, 2018. The 12 Main Street, New York, New York location will open at 10 am. The 456 South Avenue, Clifton, New Jersey location will open at 11 am. Please continue to check the emergency hotline for updates before travelling.’

Tip – On days when there are no crisis messages the emergency hotline should have a message to the effect:

‘There are no emergency messages for Thursday February 1, 2018.’

Tip – Emergency Hotline Awareness:

Here are a few tips to help improve emergency hotline awareness. Customize for your organization:

  • Each employee should have the emergency hotline phone number on the back of their employee ID badge. Labels can be affixed to the back of employee ID badges rather than printing new badges.
  • Emergency hotline labels should be placed on desk phones.
  • Wall posters should remind employees of the importance of the emergency hotline.
  • Emergency contact wallet cards should be made available to employees. Critical contact numbers including the emergency hotline will then be readily accessible to them wherever they are. This is especially important if you do not have an emergency hotline with an easy to remember acronym.
  • Employees should be encouraged to add the emergency hotline as a contact on their mobile phones.
  • The emergency hotline should be publicized in national and local corporate newsletters.
  • The employee section of the corporate website should include the emergency hotline phone number(s) and reminders that it is our ‘life-line’ during a crisis event.

NEXT: The next few chapters discuss some of my favorite Mass Notification System tips and techniques.

 

Flakes – My Wonder-Dog!

Book Chapter – Plan for Pet(s) – They Are Family!

Our pets depend on their human ‘mommy and daddy’. How we plan for our pets prior to encountering a disaster can mean the difference between life and death! If you have to evacuate without a pet it will most likely perish

Pets are part of our family. I know my rescue dog Flakes (aptly named as he is a bit flaky and very ‘yappie’) could not survive a disaster without pre-planning.

I suggest you make pet awareness a part of your business continuity blog and newsletter. Also, invite the ASPCA to participate in your next lunch and learn. Devoting even 10 minutes during an upcoming tabletop would be valuable. Believe me, the attendees will appreciate the ‘beyond business’ concern for their pets’ welfare.

The tips and resources below can help keep pets safe when disaster strikes:

*I also recommend you review this informative PetSmart article for some great tips on caring for your pet in extreme weather.

Tip – Find shelter for your pet – family pets left behind during an evacuation rarely survive on their own. Make sure there is a predetermined place they can go because not all shelters allow pets. There are some very sad stories of pets that were left behind. Do not let it happen to your beloved pet. Perhaps you, your family and friends can create a reciprocal plan to care for each other’s pets during a crisis. If you plan early enough, some pet shelters will make reservations. Other options include hotels, boarding facilities or veterinarians.

Tip – Develop a plan for ‘regular emergencies’ – your pet may suffer if you encounter a ‘regular emergency’ such as getting stuck on the highway or forgetting to turn on the A/C. Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to help. I set up a plan with my neighbors and I now travel with less worry in case I am delayed.

Tip – Create a pet emergency kit. Some items to include are:

  • A pet first-aid kit with all pet medications
  • Enough food to last up to a week, stored in an airtight, waterproof container
  • At least three days of water specifically for pets
  • Toys to occupy pets. To our chagrin, Flakes considers our TV remote control a toy and enjoys when I chase him around the house to get it back. I bought a safe remote control toy that I now keep in the kit to make him happy.
  • A collar with ID tag, harness or leash
  • Important documents such as copies of registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean see-through plastic bag or waterproof container
  • A crate or other pet carrier
  • Sanitation supplies, which may include litter and litter box, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household cleaner
  • A physical and digital online picture of you and your pet together in case of a possible separation during an emergency – you may need help in identifying your pet

Tech to help pets:

  • The ASPCA recommends micro-chipping pets so they can be identified and returned to you even without tags. Another option is to invest in a GPS tracker so you can find your pet without a third party
  • This ASPCA app(http://www.aspca.org/mobileapp) will also help you keep track of animal records required to board pets at an emergency shelter and has other helpful tips for a variety of situations
  • New home automation devices allow you to watch your pet from your smartphone. You can also control the temperature and lights in your home from anywhere. I hooked up a simple camera at home that allows me to rotate the view 360% from a mobile app. It even has the ability to notify me if there is motion detected. You can implement it for under $100.

Stay Safe!

Marty Fox, CBCP

UltimateBusinessContinuity.com