Securing Your Business before Disaster Hits: Planning for Extreme Weather By John Torres, Guidepost Solutions

John Torres

By John P. Torres

Businesses face an overwhelming array of external hazards and threats. While the coronavirus pandemic has introduced a bevy of new concerns to address and operational hurdles to tackle this year, extreme weather remains a threat that companies of all kinds cannot ignore.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is already the second most active in history, according to Accuweather. There have been twice the expected normal number of storms to date, and hurricane season will continue through November. It seems as though these storms have more destructive winds and cause more flooding than those we experienced in years prior.

We are also fighting devastating fires across the West Coast this year. With the prospect of more dangerous and destructive natural disasters like these in our future, it’s crucial to proactively prepare to protect your people and physical assets.

If you are in charge of security at your company and you’re facing severe natural emergencies, you must be ready to answer serious questions about how to protect your business from total disaster. Aside from staff safety, protecting your business intelligence should be an integral part of your emergency planning.

There are three core pillars of security strategy: physical, operations and technology. You may think you’ve addressed each of them in the comprehensive plans you’ve put in place for any and all emergencies. But are you adequately prepared for an unforeseen weather event?

Protecting Electronics and Data During an Emergency

Organizations in every sector must understand what their important business data is and where it is stored. In doing so, they can determine whether they would have access to business-critical information during an emergency event, be it weather-based or otherwise.

The key to a strong business continuity plan is making sure that your operation can continue after the incident occurs. That cannot be done unless data is both protected and accessible.

Of course, all businesses cannot afford to operate in a  completely virtualized environment. The cloud is not financially accessible to everyone. A small business, for instance, may opt to use external drives they can remove or store at a safe off-site location instead.

Engage Your Employees

Having an Emergency Management Team (EMT) is a good way to get employees involved in this important safety planning. But when dealing with a severe weather emergency, it’s important for all employees to know what to do and where to go. Many companies pass along emergency procedure documents to employees, but that’s not enough.

You should also train your staff to follow the associated protocols and test the system. If after the disaster is the first time you’re dusting off the recovery plan and testing your procedures, you are likely to run into problems. This is probably the greatest lesson that is gleaned during after-action reviews; the organization did not train, drill, and review the plan.

Companies may also consider creating an application to store key emergency preparedness information, as that’s easier to update than a manual. This doesn’t have to contain an entire plan; however, it should be an evolving application, one that constantly changes and updates employees, depending on the situation.

Employees are more likely to have their phones with them in any part of a building than they are to have a company-directed manual. The application can tell employees where to go and what to do if a storm hits the office, ultimately protecting them and the business.

Managing Risk Through the Unknown

Planning for a natural disaster should be an iterative process, based on continuous improvement principles. For example, we have never managed through a hurricane season in the midst of a pandemic. The risk landscape has undoubtedly changed, begging new questions of those in charge of a company’s security.

Are all the functions and support personnel needed in a recovery plan still available? Have we made any changes to our systems or protocols in response to COVID-19? If these are not sorted out in preparation, more obstacles will arise in the thick of an already chaotic event. 

Now more than ever, it is crucial for businesses to be prepared for natural disasters. Using specific strategies to identify, assess and understand the situation will allow businesses to prevent known weather emergencies from becoming major incidents.

About The Author

John P. Torres heads the firm’s Security and Technology Consulting Practice. He works closely with individuals and businesses on matters related to risk mitigation, anti-money laundering, security assessments, due diligence, investigations, crisis management planning, cross border security, event security management, federal consulting and government compliance. His extensive investigative and security experience provides him with a unique perspective when offering expertise with internal security investigations, cross border cases and Homeland Security compliance issues.