Over the weekend some nasty storms rolled through the midAtlantic. First a derecho (don’t worry, my first time hearing what it is too) and then some plain nasty thunderstorms.
While following my (personal) Twitter stream I saw how bad Virginia was hit, thanks to my good friend Dan Goff. Around 9pm I got especially worried when I heard about this:
See, that picture was taken in Iowa in 2008 (thanks, Dan for the correction!) but one possibly like it was about seven miles due north of where my mother lives. Alone. And about 10 hours drive from where I live. Next followed a harrowing fourteen hours of trying to reach my mom to ensure she – and her house and dogs – were ok.
This gave me two morals for you. First, I was able to get through to a friend of hers who would drive by and check on her – because their address and phone number was WAY to easily found by Google. Just from one name and knowing they live in a specific subdivision. Now, I’m out there on the interwebz – but I’d like to think that other than email and Twitter it is hard to find an actual way to contact me. I still like to keep some things private. The ease I found these folks was scary – even though I was very thankful in finding it and in their willingness to go check on my mom.
The second is where the HR twist comes in. It doesn’t matter that you have jugs of water in your freezer, fill up buckets to flush toilets with, and have crank flashlights and battery powered radios. When the storm hits and hits bad, you don’t know how hard until afterwards. This is true of every natural disaster – no level of planning is really enough. Business continuity needs to be looked at from many angles. The most important angle is the human factor.
The morning news showed a cul de sac in Maryland where trees prevented anyone in or out of a neighborhood. What would you do if they missed work waiting for the city to come remove these massive trees? Would you fire them for attendance or cut them some slack? What if one of the “trapped” residents is your payroll person – no internet, no way out – how would your business adapt?
It is impossible to think of every thing, but, it is worth it to try to think through as much as you can. Not only do you want business to keep functioning, but you don’t want to be a PR disaster either.
Btw, mom’s ok. Minor property damage and she hopes the power comes back on today. Also, here is a link to a publication put out by FEMA to help get you started – on personal level, but there is information in there that is scalable for organizations. Thanks to my uncle (retired fire captain) for the link.