Is Your Business Ready for the Next Wave or Next Pandemic?

The importance of business continuity planning has never been more evident than with the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. The world can go from normal to “new normal”, literally within a couple months.

Businesses and organizations are quickly finding that everyday supplies and procedures are becoming untenable in the face of such a pandemic. And many companies will not survive the financial fallout.

The Next Big One

Whether another wave of coronavirus, or a completely new biological hazard becomes the next “big one”, the businesses and organizations that survive this wave, will need to prepare.

A business can only survive so many shutdowns before it runs out of resources.

And whether your business continuity planning requires a plan to “hunker down”, or adjust your operations and personnel to continue through it safely, planning ahead now is the best way to ensure success for the next pandemic.

Business Continuity Planning for a Pandemic

Your planning requires a structure such as the Mission Critical Planner. Step by step you can build your continuity plan to better understand your resources and how to utilize them. These include things such as …

  • Supplies and supplier durability
  • PPE procurement and distribution
  • How to continue business operations safely
  • Separation of business operations to minimize infection spread
  • Communications to employees and the public
  • How to securely suspend operations if needed

There are many lessons to learn form the Covid-19 pandemic. And all these lessons provide critical data for businesses to plan for the next wave or the next pandemic.

Disaster Continuity

As important as maintaining disaster continuity is to a business or organization, being prepared offers a wealth of opportunity. Even if disaster never strikes.

What Does Disaster Continuity Really Mean?

Essentially, it means that during a disaster situation, your organization continues to function normally. Or almost normally. While everyone else is in panic mode and failing to deliver, you are continuing to supply your clients with what they need, when they need it most.

And simply having disaster contingencies in place that ensure continuity of operations means getting more clients. Because when companies look at their own preparedness, they realize they must work with other companies and organizations that are just as prepared as they are. Or else their own plans fail.

In short, YOU are part of your client’s disaster continuity plan.

Disaster Continuity Planning

Understanding what it takes to achieve uninterrupted continuity during a disaster requires that you understand your business from start to finish. There is a chain of events that starts with you getting everything you need to run your organization, through to everything involved in supplying your clients with the essential goods or services they need.

A disaster can break that chain at any point; supply, operations, distribution, management.

Disaster continuity is the planning you do to make that chain as unbreakable as possible. This often means having many “backup” chains.

Some Key Strategies

Every business and organization has different needs, but it’s helpful to understand some key strategies that ensure continuity during a disaster. And these ideas can be applied to any type of business.

1. Diverse Alternatives

As an example, say your business distributes it’s products by rail car. It is not an effective strategy to have five different shipping companies that ship by rail as a backup plan. Most likely, they all use the same railroad tracks at some point. If disaster strikes the line, none of the trains will run.

Real diverse alternatives mean having a plan that allows you to ship by truck, sea, or air as well as by rail.

2. Substitution

Every product has an ingredient list of materials needed to make it. And while most materials can be procurred from a variety of sources, some can’t. Some materials are very specialized. This is especially true if you manufacture a very specialized or premium grade product.

But in an emergency, can the materials you need to build your product or run your operation be substituted with something else? If you look hard enough, the answer is probably yes.

3. Extra Everything

Can you supply a large order quickly during a disaster? Do you have a source of personnel or independent contractors to call on when needed?

During a disaster, many products and services are needed in large quantities. And they are needed quickly. And even after a disaster has passed, if your competitors did not make it through the calamity intact, their customers will be coming to you. Or anyone who can now provide what they need.

A well prepared organization always prospers during or after a major disaster.

Business Continuity Planning Hazard Reference Guide – Human Caused Events

Accidental Hazards

Hazardous Material (Chemical, Radiological, Biological) Spill or Release

radiologicalHazardous materials exist everywhere in daily life and the workplace. Hazmat spills or releases can cause death and a wide array of injuries and illnesses, some of which can take years to develop. Hazmat accidents can occur during production, storage, transportation, use, or disposal of hazardous materials. Hazmat spills and releases can contaminate everything in the local area including ground water, air, plants, animals, and food resources. They can cause fires, disrupt general mobility, and require people to evacuate the local area. Often, hazardous materials cannot be detected by smell, taste, or any other human senses and contamination may be difficult to ascertain without the proper testing equipment and knowledge of the hazards properties.

Mitigation of hazardous material spills and releases:

  • Have backup facilities in place and away from the local area, preferably upstream, uphill, and upwind of the primary facility
  • Facilities should have well sealed access points to contain or repel hazmat spills and releases
  • Procedures for the safe production, storage, transportation, use, and disposal of hazardous materials that the company has on site should be implemented
  • Mitigation procedures for hazardous materials used by nearby persons or companies should exist
  • Be aware of alert procedures if nuclear power facilities are in the area.

Explosion / Fire

explosionExplosions or fire can be caused by a variety of sources including: hazmat spills or releases, lightning strikes, catastrophic events that disrupt gas lines or fuel storages, and intentional human caused events. Explosions and fires can destroy structures, equipment, and cause great injury or death and they can cause hazardous materials releases.

Mitigation of explosive and fire hazards:

  • Store explosive and hazardous materials safely and securely, with access by trained personnel only
  • Training in processes and procedures that involve explosive and flammable materials, and electrical systems should be done
  • Automatic sprinkler, fire suppression, and evacuation equipment, procedures, and training should be conducted

Transportation Accident

transportationTransportation accidents include crashes of planes, trains, ships, trains, trucks, and automobiles. Such accidents can cause hazmat releases into the surrounding area or over a wide area (example: oil tanker spill). Transportation Accidents can cause injuries, fatalities, and disrupt mobility in or through the area. Similar vehicles can be grounded, recalled, or decrease in value if a specific failure (defective part) attributable to all the vehicles is found to have caused catastrophic accidents.

Mitigation of transportation accidents:

  • Alternate transportation methods and routes should be established
  • Vehicle maintenance should be conducted and monitored regularly, using approved parts, methods, and qualified personnel
  • Driver or pilot training programs should meet regulatory requirements and include proficiency evaluations

Building / Structure Collapse

building collapseBuilding and structure collapses usually happen suddenly and with devastating consequences. They can be caused by seismic activity, windstorms, precipitation, and design or construction defects. Collapses can result in injury and death, and destroy not only the building or structure, but the contents and surrounding assets.

Mitigation of building and other structure collapses:

  • Facilities should be structurally designed, built, and utilize construction materials meeting regulatory requirements
  • Construction materials and methods specifically designed to prevent collapse should be used in areas subject to seismic or storm hazards

Energy / Power / Utility Failure

energyPeople and businesses rely increasingly on energy, power, and utilities as the use of computers, automation, and telecommunications increases. These services are essential and interruptions leave little way to process transactions, light facilities, or control traffic. Power disruptions can be caused by other hazards, and are unique in that they can also be caused by excessive demand put on the services. When power grids fail, blackouts or rolling (sporadic or induced) brownouts can occur. The lack of power or utility services can severely hamper the ability to deal with other hazards which is why backup power and communications systems are so prevalent in mitigating most hazards.

Mitigation of power failures:

  • Financial and critical computers and process systems should utilize UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies), and emergency power generators
  • Battery operated communications (cellular, radio) should be available
  • Emergency shutoff and startup procedures for gas, water and electrical power should be established

Fuel / Resource Shortage

fuelCivilization is built and run on the back of the carbon economy. The primary sources of carbon fuel are crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Oil is used to produce gasoline, diesel fuels, heating oil and industrial lubricants. The production of electricity is dependent in many areas on natural gas, and coal. Crude oil is also a feedstock for the production of plastics, and many other materials used in the production of goods, while natural gas is used to make fertilizers that are essential to high crop yields in agriculture. Resources also include minerals, wood and other materials used in the production of goods. Fuel and resource shortages cause economic slowdowns and inflation. Businesses, governments, and persons competing to get available resources causes price increases which in turn increases the price of the goods being manufactured, or transported. Those that can not compete effectively cannot earn a viable income and contribute to a slowdown in demand.

Mitigation of fuel and rescource shortages:

  • Establish multiple and diverse sources for fuel and resources
  • Establish strategic reserves and inventories for fuel and reserves
  • Conservation measures for the use of fuel and resources should be implemented to limit exposure
  • Contracts ensuring supply and price, with penalties for failing to meet these obligations should be designed

Air / Water Pollution, Contamination

pollutionPollution or contamination of air and water can have long lasting health consequences. Pollution is typically a widespread reduction in air or water quality caused over a length of time such as the effect of automobile exhaust on air quality or chemical byproducts released by industry processes. Contamination usually happens quickly by a large concentrated spill or release of toxic chemicals or materials in a local area. Pollution and contamination are generally the same as hazardous material spills or releases, and differ only in that they are not usually caused as the result of an accident, but are generally deemed to be the ecological cost of conducting business. Over time, pollution or concentrated contamination, can exact a cost that is too high too be justified by the benefits of conducting business in the manner that allows these hazards to occur.

Mitigation of contamination hazards:

  • Procedures for the safe production, storage, transportation, use, and disposal of hazardous materials that the company has on site should be implemented
  • Mitigation procedures for hazardous materials used by nearby persons or companies should exist
  • An environmental assessment of the facilities should be conducted

Water Control Structure / Dam / Levee Fail

leveeWater control structures hold back large reservoirs of water from following their natural course of flow. The failure of dams, levees, and other water control structures can cause sudden and costly damages due to severe flooding and be chronic in nature as floodwaters continue to flow until repairs can be made. Water control failures can be caused by inadequate engineering, increased water levels beyond the structures capabilities, and seismic events.

Mitigation of water control failures:

  • Primary or alternate facilities away from floodplains, natural drainage systems such as rivers and valleys
  • Elevated and reinforced construction of structures
  • Elevate utility access points and electrical panels
  • Install check-valves in sewer and water drains
  • Construct levees or barriers to prevent floodwaters from entering property or structures
  • Water control structures should be structurally designed, built, and utilize construction materials meeting regulatory requirements
  • Excessive precipitation or accumulation of water held by the structure should be monitored and controlled release procedures established

Financial Issues, Economic Depression, Inflation, Financial System Collapse

financeFinancial and economic issues are more prevalent during times when financial markets, commodity prices, and interest rates are experiencing above average price fluctuation. Such fluctuations can cause increased debt servicing costs, lower margins from long term contracts at fixed prices, lessening consumer demand for products and services, or loss of savings due to collapsed or bankrupt institutions. Financial issues can also arise from mismanagement of finances or poor investment strategies.

Mitigation of financial system hazards:

  • Prepare a 5 year business plan with financial goals, objectives, and metrics
  • Set rules and guidelines for investing excess cash that meets an acceptable risk tolerance
  • Review local and global trends with forecasts for pricing of commonly purchased items and sales into the market

Communications Systems Interruption

communicationsCommunications systems allow command, coordination, transactions, and information sharing quickly, and over great distances. They enable decisions and actions to be executed expediently and are always a priority function. Telephone, mobile phone, radio, courier service, fax, email, and the internet are all part of daily communications systems. When interrupted, the ability to command, coordinate and perform transactions or share information is interrupted. This in turn can cause harm to persons relying on essential information, or trying to contact emergency responders. It can shut down a businesses ability to perform its most basic daily functions. Interruptions are caused by other hazards or by communications equipment failures.

Mitigation of communications interruptions:

  • Battery operated communications (cellular, radio) should be available
  • Alternate communications systems should be compatible with responders communications systems
  • Out of area check-in contact and procedures should be established to take and relay messages

Intentionally Caused Hazards

Terrorism (Conventional, Chemical, Radiological, Biological, Cyber)

terrorTerrorism is the systematic use of violence and guerilla warfare techniques against persons and property for the purpose of intimidation, coercion, ransom, extortion, and publicity for a cause. Terrorism uses a wide variety of weaponry such as conventional guns and bombs, chemical, biological, radiological, and cyber or computer systems attacks. Targets for terrorism include all the strategic targets of war as well as public gatherings and corporate centers. Targeting is frequently focused on causing death and injury rather than destruction of assets or resources.

Mitigation of terrorism:

  • Facility design should include perimeter and access controls to ensure only authorized persons can gain access to the facility, and only authorized vehicles can enter the surrounding perimeter
  • Facility access points (doors, windows) should be well sealed and ventilation systems should have shutoff procedures to obstruct the intake of contaminated air
  • Mail and unscheduled deliveries should be confined and controlled to limited areas
  • Alternate facilities and management succession procedures should be established
  • Computer data should have equipment and procedures for backup to alternate media (paper files, disk, tape) and safeguarding (firewalls, encryption, password access)
  • Suspicious activity should be documented and reported


sabotageSabotage is a willful act of disruption or destruction that damages equipment or undermines the effectiveness of equipment or processes. Sabotage usually interrupts operations or degrades the quality of goods or products. Sabotage can be caused by disgruntled workers or persons from competing companies. Sabotage can result in interrupted operations, damaged equipment, negative perception of the company by customers, and even death or injury where critical processes or equipment is damaged.

Mitigation of sabotage:

  • Background checks on prospective employees should include criminal and work histories
  • Security systems should be used to monitor and safeguard sensitive areas
  • Persons accessing sensitive areas should follow security protocols
  • Quality control and inspection programs should be in place for products produced
  • Suspicious activity by employees should be documented and reported

Civil Disturbance, Public Unrest, Mass Hysteria, Riot

riotCivil disturbances are caused when large groups of people protest an issue or an incident in such a way as to interrupt normal activities. Interruption can occur as a result of impromptu public gatherings and speeches projecting negative sentiment, physical blockades of an area, vandalism, or violent clashes with persons or authorities. Disturbances are caused by failures in human rights, civil rights, justice, politics, and can happen due to passionate views of sporting or other major events. Most large disturbances have a small number of aggressive leaders or instigators, with the rest of the people involved taking advantage of escalating hysteria to vent frustration.

Mitigation of civil disturbances:

  • Physical barriers and security systems including personnel should be adequate to protect facilities
  • A general public relations program and community service program should be operating to provide information and involvement in the community
  • An employee manual should document best practices for ethical and moral conduct, with procedures for personnel management including hiring and firing practices and dispute resolution

Enemy Attack, War

warWar is the act of armed conflict with an opposing military or civilian militia, or other competing entity. The intent of conflict is preemptive defense, leadership change, or as the result of international disputes or strategic objectives. While enemy attacks can occur sporadically or frequently for a limited time, full scale war will most often last for months or years. Wars and attacks cause a great deal of injury, death, incarceration of prisoners, and damage to assets, resources and the general infrastructure. Specific targets during war are military bases, political centers, utilities and communications services, industrial manufacturers, and fuel and supply stations. War can cause structural collapses, fires, and disease, as well as famines and resource shortages. The economic costs are substantial.

Mitigation of war hazards:

  • Assess security, shelter-in-place and evacuation options for assets, resources, and personnel including the ramifications of a breakdown of utilities, communications, services and infrastructure during the exercise of various options
  • Determine whether the facility or nearby locations might be strategic targets for an attack


insurrectionInsurrection is a rebellion, revolt, or uprising meant to seize control from those currently in charge. On a national scale this could be a political or military coup. Within a company, this could occur within the management staff or with the board of directors. Insurrections occur when leadership policies are failing, or when an opportunity of instability is seized by others wishing to take power. Insurrections can cause unrest and disturbances, as well as interrupting normal operations.

Mitigation of insurrection hazards:

  • Explore the ramifications of significant changes to taxation, regulation, ownership, security and infrastructure that could occur with national leadership changes
  • Policies for management succession should be documented and included in the articles, memorandum, or bylaws of the company


strikeLabor strikes are organized groups of persons refusing to perform work duties in order to pressure management to better wages, benefits, or working conditions. Strikes can be legal or illegal, depending on applicable legislation, contracts, and the methods used to execute a strike. Strikes can often disrupt company operations and lead to some combination of negotiation, mediated bargaining, legal actions, increased labor costs, workforce changes, negative publicity and even insolvency depending on the situation.

Mitigation of strikes and labor disputes:

  • Employee training, support, and incentive programs should exist that promote team-building and address workers needs, while promoting motivation and excellence in the workplace
  • Options and sources for alternate workers for critical functions should be explored
  • Industry compensation trends should be explored


misinformationMisinformation can be false and misleading statements by employees, prospective employees, suppliers, or customers. It can be used in corporate espionage to lead negotiations or decision making in a direction that will negatively impact the company. The implications can be costly and have legal ramifications or generate negative publicity.

Mitigation of misinformation:

  • A system for clearing and validating information or reporting discrepancies should be established
  • Processes, procedures, and associated analytical data should be documented, monitored, and approved according to best practices for the industry, process or procedure


crimeCommon crimes are theft, vandalism, fraud, and assault. Less common crimes include kidnapping for ransom, extortion, embezzlement, and murder. Most crimes are motivated by profit except vandalism which is motivated by mischief or revenge and violent crimes which can be the result of extreme psychological conditions. Crimes can be perpetrated by individuals, small groups of people, or large organized groups. Crime can impact assets, resources, employee safety and morale, and proprietary information or trade secrets.

Mitigation of crime:

  • A general security plan for facilities, assets, resources, and personnel should exist including personal, residential, and travel safety for key persons
  • Suspicious activity or persons should be documented and reported
  • Independent forensic accounting audits should be conducted periodically to detect criminal activity regarding finances


arsonArson is an intentionally started fire intended to destroy a building or its contents. Cases of arson are highly detectable in fire investigations and are motivated by revenge, mischief, insurance fraud, or to conceal evidence of other crimes. Arson poses a danger to all assets and resources and to persons that may be in the facility, or who may be responding to the incident. All the dangers of conventional fires exist.

Mitigation of arson hazards:

  • Facility design should include perimeter and access controls to ensure only authorized persons can gain access to the facility
  • Automatic sprinkler, fire suppression, and evacuation equipment, procedures, and training should be conducted

Electromagnetic Pulse

electromagneticAn EMP or electromagnetic pulse is a high density electrical field. An EMP can damage electronics such as communications equipment, computers, electrical appliances and vehicle ignition systems. An EMP can cause brief functional interruption or the physical burnout of components in the equipment. An EMP is caused by a nuclear blast.

Mitigation of EMP hazards:

  • Battery operated communications (cellular, radio) should be available
  • Keep a maintenance inventory of backup electrical system and ignition components for critical transport vehicles
  • Computer data should have equipment and procedures for backup to alternate media (paper files, disk, tape)
  • Critical electrical systems and appliances should be shielded from electromagnetic radiation produced by an EMP

See also, Reference Guide: Natural Hazards

Business Continuity Planning Hazard Reference Guide – Natural Hazards

Geological Hazards


earthquakeEarthquakes are caused by a sudden movement of the earth’s crust due to shifting plate tectonics or underground volcanic activity. The earth’s surface is made up of many plates or separate pieces. Some of these plates also have fractures in them. When hot volcanic magma builds up, or the plates push slowly against each other, potential energy builds up just like compressing a spring. When the energy is released suddenly, the earth shakes violently. The closer you are to the epicenter (where the built up energy is released), the more violent the earthquake is.

Mitigation of earthquake hazards:

  • Flexible pipe fittings to water and gas lines so they can move rather than break during an earthquake
  • Vibration-sensitive automatic shut-off valves
  • Bolt down or secure large objects and pieces of equipment
  • Building construction that complies with regulatory requirements to withstand an earthquake
  • Minimize the weight of ceiling mounted fixtures and ensure they are anchored securely
  • In coastal areas be prepared for possible tsunamis which can be caused by earthquakes


tsunamiTsunamis are large waves or series of waves caused by underwater disturbances such as earthquakes, landslides, or falling meteorites. Tsunami’s can travel hundreds of miles an hour and reach 100 feet or more in height. They affect coastal areas and can cause a wide array of destruction including force of impact, severe flooding and moving debris, damage to structures, roads and utility systems, and contamination of drinking water.

Mitigation of tsunamis:

  • Primary or alternate facilities well above sea level
  • Primary or alternate facilities that are away from coastal beaches
  • Strong concrete and steel construction methods for structures
  • Breakwaters and other obstacles that minimize the impact force
  • Know the tsunami warning procedures for your area


volcanoVolcanoes are vents in the earth’s surface that lead down to the Earth’s molten interior. When gas or magma builds up enough pressure, they cause an eruption as they push through to the surface. This sudden release of force can cause earthquakes, and releases under the ocean can cause tsunamis. A violent volcanic eruption can flatten everything in the surrounding area, and throw debris, molten rock and thick ash into the atmosphere and for miles around the eruption. Hot magma flows can cause fires, and falling ash can turn rivers into destructive mud flows.

Mitigation of volcanos:

  • Primary or alternate facilities away from active volcanoes and away from low-lying areas or river valleys surrounding volcanoes.
  • Building structures and equipment storage should be well sealed against volcanic ash which can make breathing difficult and disrupt machinery.
  • High pitched roofs on structures will guard against collapse caused by heavy ash accumulations
  • Know the volcano warning procedures for your area

Landslide, Mudslide, Subsidence

landslideLandslides are massive flows of rock, earth and other debris down a mountain, hillside or other slope. When mixed with heavy rains or rivers they can become mudslides. A subsidence occurs when there is a hollow beneath a mass of earth that suddenly caves in. These can be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, heavy rains, erosion, and fractures in rock structures. Deforested areas are ideal locations because erosion occurs more quickly without the protection of ground cover and living root systems from trees and plants. Landslides, mudslides and subsidence can occur suddenly, and move quickly, destroying everything in their path. They often pick up debris and increase in size and power like an avalanche.

Mitigation of landslide, mudslide, and subsidence hazards:

  • Primary or alternate facilities away from slopes, mountain edges and natural water drainage valleys or rivers
  • Flexible pipe fittings to water and gas lines so they can move rather than break during an earthquake
  • Get a ground assessment of the property to ensure the earth is solid, and that there is adequate drainage away from the property

Glacier, Iceberg

icebergGlaciers are masses of snow and ice in mountainous areas that usually stay all year long. Earthquakes, heavy precipitation, and warmer seasons can cause fracturing of these large masses of ice and result in slides. Melting ice and snow in the spring can cause river levels to rise significantly in the springtime. This can also produce new streams in unexpected areas or mudslides. Icebergs are masses of ice and snow floating freely in the cold northern and southern oceans. They can be hundreds of feet tall, and fracture or break apart frequently, especially in the warmer seasons. Icebergs can also contain hidden dangers to sea-going vessels below the surface of the water in the form of large masses of ice.

Mitigation of glacier hazards:

  • Primary or alternate facilities away from slopes, mountain edges and natural water drainage valleys or rivers
  • Flexible pipe fittings to water and gas lines so they can move rather than break during an earthquake
  • Get a ground assessment of the property to ensure the earth is solid, and that there is adequate drainage away from the property

Mitigation of Icebergs:

  • Do not stray out of normal shipping lanes in Arctic or Antarctic seas
  • Have adequate survival rafts, suits, and emergency beacons / communications available
  • Get up to date iceberg warnings, and steer clear of ice flows

Meteorological Hazards

Flood, Flash Flood, Seiche, Tidal Surge

floodFloods can develop slowly over a number of days or occur suddenly (flash flood). Heavy rains (including unseen precipitation upstream) and rapidly melting snow-packs can cause river levels to rise. Levee breaches, high tides, tsunamis, and seismic activity causing large waves in lakes (a seiche) can also cause floods. A flash flood is a massive amount of water which can quickly destroy bridges, wash away roads and carry destructive debris through low-lying floodplains. Floods cause water damage to everything impacted, structure erosion or destruction, loss of utilities, and water supply contamination. Other than rescue operations by authorities, little can be done to conduct recovery operations until the floodwaters subside. Large areas and access to those areas is often affected.

Mitigation of floods, etc:

  • Primary or alternate facilities away from floodplains, natural drainage systems such as rivers and valleys
  • Elevated and reinforced construction of structures
  • Elevate utility access points and electrical panels
  • Install check-valves in sewer and water drains
  • Construct levees or barriers to prevent floodwaters from entering property or structures


droughtA drought is a period of water shortage when there is not enough fresh water available for drinking consumption, livestock and crops. When mountain snow-packs are mild or precipitation is sparse, water sources (reservoirs, aquifers, rivers) may not be recharged as quickly as water is being taken from them for consumption purposes. Extreme heat waves can also contribute to drought as more water is needed because so much is lost through evaporation and transpiration. Available water sources can become contaminated during a drought when there is not enough flow through the water table to keep them fresh and this adds to the problem. Droughts can create dry conditions in wilderness and urban areas that make fires more likely and more damaging.

Mitigation of drought:

  • Have rationing and conservation procedures for periods of drought
  • Use water-saving appliances and equipment to aid in general conservation
  • Secure backup sources of water for consumption and irrigation
  • Water filtration or purification equipment to clean potable sources affected by drought induced contamination

Fire (Forest, Range, Urban)

fireFires can spread very quickly, and produce a wide variety of dangers. They can superheat the air around you which can sear your lungs, and as they burn, they use up the surrounding oxygen, replacing it with poisonous gases which can cause disorientation and asphyxiation.

Forest and range fires:

Wildfires are caused by lightning strikes, accidents, and lack of caution by people in wilderness areas. These fires are especially dangerous during dry seasons and can be aggravated by winds, and dense brush. These fires travel faster than a person can run up valley slopes and burning embers can be carried for great distances by the thermal winds produced by a fire allowing the fires to cross areas where there is no little fuel for them to advance.

Urban fires:

Fires in urban areas have many possible causes, including: faulty or substandard electrical wiring, overloaded circuits and electrical outlets, flammable liquids and substances coming into contact with sparks, flames, or static electricity, chemical reactions, inadequate shielding of heat sources, un-serviced chimneys, lack of caution with sources of fire and combustible materials, or willful acts of arson. They can spread to neighboring structures and erupt with explosive force when fed with fresh air when doors or windows leading to the fire are opened.

Mitigation of forest and range fires:

  • Strong concrete and steel construction methods for structures
  • Access of wilderness areas should be minimized during dry seasons
  • Facilities should have adequate space between them and combustible brush or forested areas
  • Combustible materials and objects should not be stored in an exposed manner
  • Processes or procedures involving heat sources should be carried out away from brush and trees

Mitigation of urban fires:

  • Ensure that all electrical wiring, equipment, and installations comply with regulations
  • Ensure that automatic sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, alarm systems, fire lanes and other access points for emergency responders comply with regulations
  • Secured access points (doors and windows) should be easily opened from inside to ensure emergency exit is possible
  • Store flammable liquids and materials in approved containers and in well ventilated storage areas
  • Keep open flames, sparks, and heat sources away from combustible materials

Snow, Ice, Hail, Sleet, Avalanche

snowDescription – Snow, Ice, Hail, and Sleet:

These are common winter conditions. At extreme levels they can greatly hamper mobility and transportation. Hail can cause physical impact damage. Trees and roofs can be weighted down with heavy snow falls causing collapse. Downed trees can damage power lines and other structures. Sudden snow falls in mild weather can melt quickly causing floods.

Description – Avalanches:

Avalanches are large masses of snow and ice flowing down a mountain, hillside, or other slope. Much like landslides, they travel with great speed and force, destroying much in their path. Avalanches can be caused by earthquakes and other seismic activity, and by mild temperature conditions that allows the upper snow-pack to separate from its base. Avalanches can pick up trees and other debris as they fall.

Mitigation of snow, ice, hail, and sleet hazards:

  • High pitched roofs on structures will guard against collapse caused by heavy snow accumulations
  • Follow mitigation for Extreme Temperatures (cold)

Mitigation of avalanches:

  • Primary or alternate facilities away from mountains and hillsides
  • Support a controlled avalanche program to minimize threatening snow-packs on nearby slopes

Windstorm, Tropical Cyclone, Hurricane, Tornado, Water Spout, Dust / Sand Storm

tornadoStorm force winds are caused when warm and cool weather systems converge and can cause a great deal of destruction. They carry flying debris, water, or sand. The water carried by these storms and accompanying severe rainfall can cause flooding in low lying areas. Wind speeds can reach 150 mph for large hurricanes, and up to 300 mph for tornados. These wind speeds can destroy most building structures and cause injury or death from flying debris or collapsing structures. Lightning strikes may also accompany such storms. These storms usually knock down power lines, interrupt communications, block roadways with downed trees, and interrupt general mobility, services, and rescue efforts until the storm has passed.

Mitigation of storm hazards:

  • Building construction that complies with regulatory requirements to withstand storm force winds
  • Install window shutters and sturdy doors to protect access points to the facility
  • Create an emergency “safe room” in a basement or ground level room away from exterior walls with a strong, heavy frame that can not be easily uplifted or breached by high pressure winds and flying debris in areas not prone to flooding
  • Keep equipment and vehicles stored in protected areas
  • Secure backup power and water supplies
  • Know the storm warning procedures in your area

Extreme Temperatures (Heat, Cold)

temperatureDescription – Extreme Heat:

Extreme heat can be caused by changing weather patterns, the lack of precipitation and cloud cover during warmer seasons, as well as general geography. Periods of extreme heat make the body work harder to maintain its normal temperature. This is aggravated by high humidity and air pollution. Heat related illnesses (cramps, exhaustion, heat stroke) first affect older adults, children, ill or unhealthy persons, and persons over-exerting themselves physically. Extreme heat contributes to drought and fire hazards.

Description – Extreme Cold:

Weather fronts bringing extreme cold can move into an area very quickly. Extreme cold turns precipitation into snow, ice, hail and sleet, and can make mobility in the area very difficult. Extreme cold prevents vehicle engines and other equipment from running properly or at all. The cold can affect electrical and power systems, and cause blockage or breakage of water lines and sewer systems. For persons exposed the hazards are frostbite, hypothermia, and heart trouble or exhaustion from over-exertion.

Mitigation of extreme heat conditions:

  • Install air-conditioning equipment and insulate facilities well
  • Insulate access points (doors and windows) with weather stripping
  • Use awnings, curtains or blinds to shield sun out of facilities
  • Perform physical work during the coolest part of the day or in cool or air-conditioned areas to limit exposure
  • Secure backup power and water supplies

Mitigation of extreme cold conditions:

  • Install heating equipment and insulate facilities well
  • Insulate access points (doors and windows) with weather stripping
  • Perform physical work sparingly, or in warm, protected areas to limit exposure
  • Secure backup power and water supplies
  • Insulate water lines
  • Keep equipment and vehicles stored in protected areas and in top operating condition

Lightning Strikes

lightningThunderstorms produce lightning strikes that are typically 300,000 volts and are hotter than the surface of the sun. Lightning can cause death or cardio-pulmonary injuries, neurological injuries, intense burns, ocular and auditory damage. Lightning strikes are responsible for wildfires, power outages, and damage caused by falling trees or structures that have been struck. Lightning and thunderstorms can bring heavy rains for a brief period as well as hail, flooding, windstorms and tornados.

Mitigation of lightning strikes:

  • Remove surrounding weak or delicate trees, branches, and structures that could fall onto the facility if struck by lightning
  • Where possible, work areas should be inside under cover
  • Have wireless (cordless, cellular, battery operated radio) communications available
  • Water pipes and bathroom fixtures should be non-conductive (plastic) insulated
  • Use a lightning arrester to guard against power surges to sensitive computer systems and equipment


famineFamines are shortages of food. Food production and availability is limited by economic factors in poor nations. Famines can cause degradation of living standards, economic loss to food exporting nations, and mass starvation. Famines are caused by drought, erosion of fertile soil, insect infestations, plant or animal diseases, war or civil unrest, and catastrophic hazards affecting a large region such as flooding, extreme temperatures, and water contamination. Famine conditions can also be forced by trade disputes or civil actions such as transport or agricultural worker strikes.

Mitigation of famine:

  • Diverse sources of food supplies should be secured including local agricultural and food production capabilities
  • Land and water use in the region should be handled responsibly
  • Economic, social, and political stability in the local region as well as food source regions

Biological Hazards

Diseases that Impact Humans and Animals (Plague, Smallpox, Anthrax, West Nile Virus, Foot and Mouth Disease, Avian Flu, coronavirus)

diseaseDiseases that impact humans and animals can vary greatly in their ability to spread quickly or in their fatality rate. Some animal diseases such as BSE (mad cow disease) or avian flu can potentially be passed from animals to humans, often with devastating consequences because people have no natural immunity to such diseases. Animal diseases can affect the food supply and be responsible for shortages and famines. The race to mitigate animal diseases can have other consequences such as restrictions in trade or human mobility due to regional quarantines. Human diseases such as severe flu outbreaks can affect key personnel and their ability to perform. Severe epidemics or outbreaks of deadly disease strains can restrict general mobility and travel, and overburden medical services.

Mitigation of diseases:

  • Access to facilities or sensitive areas should be limited and controlled
  • Wherever possible, physically separate divisions of people with different functions, especially critical functions (example: separate management offices from general labor areas)
  • Retain telecommunications and telecommuting abilities to conduct business under public or general quarantine conditions or during travel restrictions

Animal or Insect Infestation

insectsAnimal infestation is not common and usually occurs as the result of building facilities into newly developed wilderness areas, or when a foreign species is introduced into the local ecosystem and dominates that system, killing the local animal populations. Rats, mice, and birds tend to be the primary animal infestation pests. Insect infestation is far more common and can be the result of ecological conditions causing rapid population growth, un-cleanliness, or the existence of ample habitat for pests such as dense foliage, wooden structures, or areas containing standing water. Infestations can be a general nuisance, cause physical or structural damage, and spread diseases.

Mitigation of infestations:

  • Facilities should follow sound construction methods. Cracks, crevices, exposed wood surfaces or breaches in walls should be repaired
  • Remove or control surrounding foliage, trees and unnecessary structures or outside storage of equipment or supplies
  • Have a pest monitoring and control plan for all facilities

See also, Reference Guide: Human Caused Hazards

An All Hazards Approach to Response and Recovery from Business Continuity Disasters

An “all hazards” approach to response and recovery ensures a flexible and organized framework for handling a diverse range of incidents.

Step-by-step, this is a basic outline of of how to approach a disaster situation to ensure continuity of your business and effectively manage the response to a disaster and the recovery of normal business operations. This is what a good business continuity program is designed to do.

Response and Recovery Steps

  1. Evacuate (or if appropriate, shelter in place) all persons in the hazard impact area. Emergency response teams should only enter a hazardous area when it is safe to do so
  2. Call in external responders as needed
  3. Activate the Incident Management system (protocols and authority)
  4. Stabilize the situation
  5. Analyze the situation
  6. Account for all persons in the facility or hazard area, and all off-duty employees
  7. Control access to the hazard area or physically secure the property
  8. Assess the damage to resources
  9. Conduct an Action Briefing and assign response tasks, as well as actions to:
    • Mitigate further damage
    • Recover from the incident
    • Ensure business continuity
  10. Conduct media relations and public awareness as necessary
  11. Photograph or videotape the hazard impact for insurance documentation
  12. Restore utilities (power, gas, water, communications)
  13. Restore business functions in order of priority
  14. Remove water, smoke, debris, and contaminated materials
  15. Evaluate the business continuity program and conduct corrective actions for any deficiencies found

See also, Hazard Reference Guides to Natural Hazards and Human Caused Hazards

How to Create an Emergency Evacuation Map for your Business

Having an evacuation map is not just a good idea, it’s required by law to meet most local fire codes. And there are a number of keys and best practices for making a proper evacuation map …

1. Keep it Simple

This is a case where less detail is better. The faster and easier that someone can look at your map and find out what they need to know, the better. Calm thinking goes out the window during a crisis, and the goal here is to save lives, so only the important elements need to be displayed.

For the map to provide instant clarity during a disasterous event, use simple black and white lines to show the architectural layout (walls, doors, etc). Highlight important elements on the map (exit points, fire extinguisher locations, etc) in color. These important elements should be shown using both a simple graphic and a text label.

2. Elements to Show on Your Evacuation Map

  • The basic layout of the property including walls and doors. Show the outside of the property as well because you need to indicate a marshal or congregation area for people to go to in the event of an emergency.
  • The starting point. This is the location of the map (and therefore the person reading it). Make a large red dot and label it “You Are Here”.
  • The compass. Show a basic compass in the corner of the map indicating the direction of North with the letter “N”.
  • Exit points. Highlight the exterior doors and label them as “Exit” on your map. These exit points need to be clear and accessible at all times. They also should not be locked in a way that requires a key to open them when exiting.
  • The marshal area. This is the place where evacuees should meet. It should be a safe distance away from the building to provide adequate protection from fire and any onsite hazards such as chemicals or explosive materials. Draw the marshal area on your map using a red circle and label it “Marshal Area”.
  • Fire extinguishers. Use a small fire extinguisher icon and the label “Fire Extinguisher” to show the location of all the extinguishers on your map. If there’s a firefighting station on the property, show that as well and label it “Fire Station”.
  • First aid kits and stations. Use a blue cross and the appropriate labels to show the location of first aid kits and first aid rooms.
  • Other important elements. You can also show certain things such as eyewash stations, stairways that lead out of the building, and other safety stations that might be specific to your industry or business.

3. Display the Maps in High Traffic Areas

For an evacuation map to be useful, it has to be visible. Display it on a bare wall in easy view of the surrounding area. If you have multiple maps, make a different map for each diplay location with a unique “You Are Here” element.

It’s also a good idea to orient each map (turn it) in a way that makes sense to the display location so users can quickly see where they are and how to exit. The best way to understand this is, if you’re facing the map and you remove it from the wall and lay it flat, the elements to the left of you will be to the left of your location marked on the map.

4. Tools for Creating Your Map

The easiest way to create an evacuation map is to use simple pen and paper. If you do this, use fine-tipped markers for the colored elements. You can also use the drawing tools in a program like Microsoft Word or a drawing program like Photoshop.

An ordinary picture frame will do for displaying your maps, and you can get “frameless” picture frames at any stationary store that look clean and professional.

Here’s a sample evacuation map …

Sample Evacuation Map

Building Energy Continuity into Your Business Continuity Plan

When we think of business continuity planning, we often think of natural disasters and security related disasters. But no business can continue operations without access to energy; primarily electricity and gasoline.

And in this climate where the energy paradigm is changing, and in many instances uncertain, thinking about energy continuity planning is essential to the long term survival of your business.

Let’s look at some of the risks …

1. Blackouts and Rolling Brownouts

Concerns have heightened since the rolling brownouts in California in 2000 and 2001, and the Northeast blackout in 2003. These kinds of events are the worry of every major city now as they battle to find more electricity to deliver to more customers on a continually deteriorating power infrastructure.

Power regulators are trying to do more and more with less and less. And sudden demand events such as heat waves or freezing storms can push electrical grids to their limits very quickly. In many countries, blackouts and rolling brownouts are common.

2. Supply and Demand Dynamics

The cost of fuel and electricity rises due to the simple market dynamics of supply and demand. The rising cost of gasoline and diesel alone have put many businesses out of business, and hurt many more.

Conventional energy sources are fast becoming expensive enough to make many sources of alternative energy viable. But in the interim, significant supply disruptions could send prices skyrocketing as the only way to erode demand and create balance in the energy marketplace.

3. Regulated Conservation and Rationing

Along with supply and demand dynamics and the threat of blackouts or brownouts comes the threat of regulation. Many industrial countries such as China have used regulation to curtail their energy woes; for example, by only allowing manufacturing during the night, they allow the general service economy to run during the day.

Many ideas have also been proposed for rationing fuel as well; such as allowing vehicles with odd numbered license plates to run on odd numbered calendar days, and even numbered plates on even days.

Creating rolling brownouts is a quick, emergency solution to overtaxed electrical grids. But longer term solutions for energy shortages could involve regulated or forced conservation and rationing.

Building Your Energy Continuity Plan

As part of your overall business continuity plan, look at energy shortages, inflation, and loss as potential hazards. Then build a plan to mitigate and respond to these hazards. Some of the things to look at are …

  • Reducing your energy consumption and requirements. The less energy you need to run your business, the less risk you face.
  • Look at alternative energy sources; primarily renewables such as solar, wind, and biodiesel. The supply of alternative sources is growing, and being ready and capable of using those sources in a crisis situation can keep you up and running when others are scrambling.
  • Build safety and backup sources of energy. These include UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), backup generators, and regular data backups in diverse locations. This can also include diversifying the regional locations of your business units.

A business continuity plan is a vital part of your business’s long term survival. And energy continuity is a vital part of that plan. And it becomes more so every day.

Breakthrough Business Continuity

Creating a business continuity plan can be profitable for a company

Building awareness, contingencies, safeguards, and alternative options comes at a price. For most business owners and managers, shelling out the dollars to guard against something unseen and even uncertain is just counterproductive. In fact, it is counterintuitive to the basic human ‘flight or fight’ instinct which guards us against hazards – but only imminent hazards, happening in the here-and-now.

Business continuity and disaster recovery planning is a must for some companies. It is particularly prevalent in the IT (Information Technology) industry, and primarily for two reasons:

  1. They store many critical computerized records (sometimes the personal information of thousands or millions of clients) that must be safeguarded and are invaluable to the business.
  2. Customers expect instant-on access to networks. They must be up and running 24/7, and there is little tolerance for anything less.

How important is continuity and recovery planning for non-IT businesses? Every business is subject to industry and location specific threats, as well as random or outside events that can seriously harm it. Through risk analysis and cost / benefit analysis, the impact of various hazards can be measured and refined into a targeted plan that tackles specific high risk threats. This is essential for cost control.

But cost-control measures do not offer enough value for most business owners and managers. Business continuity planning needs to actively affect the bottom line – it needs to promote profitability.

The costs of a continuity plan or program need to be weighed and optimized against the financial gains that come with planning. Specifically:

  1. Reducing insurance premiums. Insurers don’t mind high risk – if you’re willing to pay a high premium to insure against it. Reduce the risk and you reduce the premiums.
  2. Good business-to-business relationships depend on dependability. If you can you ensure your customers and strategic partners that your business will stand strong through thick and thin, that makes you more valuable. And that’s worth giving you business, or more business, or higher priced business.
  3. Proper business continuity does not involve ‘stocking up on supplies’ so much as it focuses on finding alternate suppliers. And there is something inherently profitable about this approach; it forces you to look at other purchasing or outsourcing options. Invariably, you can find someone else who is faster, cheaper, better quality … decreasing your general expenses of simply doing business.
  4. Businesses are about people and continuity planning makes people better. It melds team-building with personal development. It gives your people more skills and makes them more capable all around. Better people make a better, more profitable business.
  5. Of course, if disaster strikes, a company is better prepared with a plan than without one and if good planning can actually pay for itself, then having that plan when disaster strikes is like winning the lottery. If a company can survive a catastrophe while all around, the competition is crumbling, then the question is not can we afford to have a business continuity plan, but, can we afford not to.

To make good business sense and break through the cost barrier, business continuity and disaster recovery planning must promote profitability. It has to have a positive impact before a disaster strikes. It has to have a good ROI (Return on Investment) for companies to invest in it. The key is to control the size of the planning investment and maximize the returns during planning.

eBooks and eDocuments

The power of digital documents in a digital world

A computer is like a hammer or any other tool. Its role is not to make our lives more complicated, but to make performing tasks faster, easier, and more cost effective. The key to harnessing this productivity is to bridge the real world with the digital world. This bridge is easily constructed with the increasing use of eBooks and eDocuments.

Let’s look at some of the ways digital documents get the job done:

  1. Richer experience. Not just text and photos. Digital documents can carry audio clips, video clips, interactive applications, and links to related subjects and information.
  2. Instant access and recall. Search capabilities today allow users to search for documents and through them. Look for a document by name or search through all your documents to find specific words or phrases in seconds – try doing that with a shelf full of books or a stack of boxes containing archived files.
  3. Quick communication of complex ideas. Sent by email, posted on a private network, or accessed over the internet, communication of complex ideas is easy. Media rich presentations can be sent to select people in a working group or thousands of content subscribers.
  4. Simple storage. Rows of shelves, filing cabinets and archive boxes are being replaced with MB, GB, and Terabytes of space on hard drives. That ‘I know I’ll need it as soon as I throw it out’ pile that clutters our desks and drawers never needs to go and never needs to take up any more space than a file folder on the computer screen.
  5. Secure storage. Disasters happen. A fire can destroy all the real world books, documents, photos and other files that are irreplaceable to a business or individual. Digital documents can be backed-up offsite every week, every day, or even in real time, automatically, making recovery from a disaster possible and more probable than ever.

The content capability of digital documents is increasing with speech recognition and synthesis, full motion video, and interactive 3D modeling. Whether using Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, or any one of the numerous other software technologies available, digital documents allow us to experience, access, share, and safeguard more information than ever before.

Typewriters are a thing of the past. It may not be too long before paper documents of all kinds are also, only found in museums.

Good Form for Business Forms

Key characteristics for forms that ease office workflow

In the office, forms fill our lives, and we spend our lives filling out forms. Forms organize our information. They convey the specific information needed to complete a specific task. They tell us who, what, where, when, and why. They tell us how and how much.

Well designed forms make all of this easier. And that translates into faster, cheaper, and more accurate workflow. Cumbersome forms are a burden. They slow down the workflow. They need to be ‘tackled’ rather than utilized. And they cost an organization time and money. A better strategy is to find or build better forms – after all, they are supposed to make things easier and more organized.

There are some key characteristics to good form design that help ease the office workflow. These things should be looked at when qualifying new forms for use in any office:

  1. Forms should be well labeled and easily recognizable from one to the next. There is nothing worse than filling out the L-987654-01 when you were supposed to fill out the L-987654-03. Filling out the ‘Invoice’ instead of the ‘Sales Order’ is a lot simpler.
  2. Forms need to be more functional than cute. Fancy color schemes and graphics look great on a computer screen or printed in color, but usually translate badly when faxed or photocopied. A form needs to do its job onscreen, attached to an email, printed in color, printed in black and white, faxed, re-faxed, photocopied, filled out with a pen – I think you get the idea.
  3. Forms need to contain all the data required to perform their task, including data that helps to track down errors that occur in the real world. They should not contain any information that is commonly not required and simply clutters up the form.
  4. Forms need a clear destination. In a large organization, a form should tell the user where it needs to go once it is filled out. Forms that are sent outside the company need to tell the user how and where to return them. Each copy of a form needs to specify where it should go, and if possible, should indicate where the other copies went.
  5. Forms need to clearly identify areas that the user should not fill out using ‘for office use only’ or ‘do not fill in this section’. Those off-limits areas should be clearly separated from the areas that need to be filled out by the user.

Establishing some basic criteria for your forms such as the key points above will help you choose and design forms that get the job done efficiently. It’s also important to occasionally get feedback from users so that improvements can be made.

Above all, remember that forms are meant to make the tasks of collecting, organizing, and distributing information easier. That is its first priority.