Depending on where you live and what movies you’ve seen, your definition of “disaster” can range from hurricane to sharknado. In the end, the worst disaster is the one you don’t anticipate. Here’s a list of disasters (both manmade and natural) that have actually occurred, and what companies and individuals should consider when making a disaster recovery plan.
You might not think of a section of freeway being rebuilt as a “disaster” in the conventional sense, but that’s precisely how commuters have described California interstate 405’s ongoing reconstruction project. Full closures of the busiest freeway in America, dubbed “Carmageddon” by local media, took place in 2011 and 2012—and the project still isn’t done.
Los Angeles folks know to expect traffic and have access to an extensive network of freeways. But in areas with fewer routes, a similar situation could essentially shut down work for a day. Giving employees the option to temporarily work from home can keep stress levels down while maintaining business continuity. Plan ahead and make sure no important meetings or events will coincide with a major construction effort.
In 2003 a heat wave devastated Europe, killing an estimated 70,000 people. Four days of 104 degree weather took countries like France and Spain by surprise, as its inhabitants are used to more temperate summers and typically don’t have air conditioning. It is precisely because heat waves are overlooked that the summer of 2003 turned into a disaster for nearly an entire continent.
Installing air conditioning is essential for most buildings that contain a lot of computer hardware, but keeping your employees cool in hot weather is just as important. Make sure your office has a backup plan in case the A/C goes out—a roomful of fans should do the trick. Or, you could get an ice cream truck to visit your building. Here’s the benefit: instead of complaining about the heat, employees will brag about how “cool” their company is.
Just this year, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, exploded when hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate reacted with a fire, resulting in 15 deaths and almost 200 injured. The blast radius affected more than the facility itself, causing damage to a nearby school and apartment building. Point being, no matter how careful you are in your own environment, nearby buildings that handle or manufacture dangerous materials can impact your organization without warning.
Take a moment to explore the area around your workplace with an online mapping service like Google Maps. Points of potential danger might not always be obvious, so here are a few facilities that you should look for:
- Military plants or munitions factories
- Power plants
- Oil rigs and derricks
- Coal mines
- Natural gas drills
For example, the Laserfiche head office in Long Beach is surrounded by oil drilling rigs, with the closest one less than 50 feet from the building. Oil rigs are all over the Long Beach area, which makes them potentially dangerous and easy to ignore. To prepare, Laserfiche holds building evacuation drills, has food and water reserves and an emergency lighting system should the building lose power.
The bottom line is, don’t overlook the threat that’s right under your nose—avoid complacency and avert disaster.
Struck by a joyriding pilot in 1996, then by four barges in 2001, the Queen Isabella Causeway in Cameron County, Texas, has not had the best of luck. The latter incident caused eight deaths as cars drove into an enormous gap where the bridge had collapsed. As the bridge is the only road connecting South Padre Island to the mainland, the incident had an immediate economic impact on island residents.
In the event of a bridge collapse, getting to work will be difficult or impossible; in the worst scenario, an employee can be a victim. Frequently updating regular and emergency contact information for all employees should be a top priority for any organization. If a coworker goes missing, communication will become your most vital asset.
In 2010 an environmental activist brought guns and explosives into the Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The perpetrator James Lee held three people hostage until he was shot dead by police. He only had to make it inside the lobby to terrify an entire building of workers.
The ground floor and the employees on it are most vulnerable to unwanted visitors, but all staff should be trained on protocol regarding violent threats or takeovers. Make sure whoever sits closest to the entrance has a panic button within reach or a quick way to lock the entrance. Perimeter security cameras are invaluable in this type of situation, but should a perpetrator make it inside, employees must be prepared. It might seem unnecessary, but clearly instructing staff to comply with a criminal’s demands is the best way to prevent panic and fatal missteps.
Is your business prepared for disaster? Get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Business Continuity Planning and start planning for your organization’s future today.