When we write business continuity plans (BCPs), we right them in a vacuum. We only know that they work if we: 1) do an exercise or 2) have a disaster.  The East Coast is now experiencing a disaster like never before.  Other events like Irene hit less business populated areas – now in the heart of business, New York and New Jersey, BCP’s are being put to the test.

A rather chilling photo posted by Verizon on the status of their lower Manhattan office said it all…

Screen Shot 2012 10 31 At 7 18 26 Am
First floor of its office at 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan, which had been flooded with three feet of water—-WOW!

There are several key things that BCP managers must keep in mind in managing this emergency:

  • Situational awareness
  • Improvise, Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Communication

Situational awareness is simply knowing what is going on around you and then taking that data and using it to influence your decision-making.  Make sure you have got great information resources in order to have the best “situational awareness” and therefore best decision-making that you can.”

Improvise, Flexibility and Adaptability. Most plans are not really built for the worse case scenario or something beyond what we could image.  Don’t be wed to your plans.  Bring in lots of different points of view.  Look at things differently. What do I need to do to get the job done?  Expand your mind, your vision and your options.  Be highly flexible, adaptable and improvise to be successful.

Communication.  Never have I heard after a disaster, “my company communicated too much with me”.  So employees, clients, customers, whomever your key stakeholders are —- they need to hear from you early and often. If your company still in in the dark ages about social media this is the time to get on that bandwagon.  Know and use all tools available to you.  You will be judged by what you didn’t say not what you said.

Lastly, pace yourself (that is the nurse part of me speaking).  This is going to be a long recovery so don’t burn out in the first few days (or burn your staff out). Take breaks, eat and get some rest.  We need YOU to make all of this work.  Be in this for the long haul.