Flooding - the case to better protect your facilities

Submitted by Russell Greig-Bartram, MD Disasternet Ltd
A case to better protect your facility
It is a fact that a better risk managed facility leads to significantly reduced volatility of earnings for an enterprise, and yet we continue to see little evidence of organisations implementing plans and Business Continuity measures to recover the temporary loss of their facility following an incident.
Statistics tell us that facility floods are the fourth most common cause for an organisation to abandon their facility and invoke their business continuity and off-site recovery centre contract. In reality what is described in this statistic as a flood, is more often than not an escape of water or liquid, which is considerably different to a flood and impacts of both to a facility differ significantly.
Causes of commercial insurance claims in the UK are varied, however one cause remains at the top of the list which is ‘Escape of Water’.
In my opinion it is imperative that Business Continuity professionals consider the temporary loss of their facility due to a flood or escape of water as a ‘High Risk’, and construct a contingency plan to meet the requirements to deal with this type of incident. This will considerably limit the ‘ripple effect’ throughout the organisation, no pun intended.
Practical perspective
My practical observations of organisations rallying support from staff to attend an alternative recovery site are chequered with business resumption success and staff moral negativity.
In some instances following a significant event, it became apparent that some staff felt a real sense of loss which was not sympathetically dealt with by management and concerns about relocating to an alternative site and managing their personal lives amongst the change to their daily routine.
It’s apparent to me that to keep morale high and retain staff throughout the work around, efforts to restore the lost facility must be concentrated so that staff can return to the facility as quickly as possible.
Many organisations around the UK simply do not have the luxury of being able to move to an alternative recovery site following a physical disruption, and one of my conclusions is that these organisations are better physically risk managed due to this restriction.
In this example of an organisation that cannot leave their facility, plans have been drawn up which combine the external expert support of a specialist company whom will aid the internal recovery and incident team to mitigate against secondary damage, administer triage to the affected areas and expedite the correct equipment, methods and manpower to restore their facility as quickly as possible to a suitable working environment, so that service can be resumed.
This specialist responder is on standby to be at their site within 4 hours of an incident 24/7 and has conducted a survey of their site in advance of an incident, noting critical information so that any recovery and restoration objectives will be expedited without delay.
Crucially in order to reduce the level of disruption, physical secondary damage and limit the time in which function is lost, the incident must be responded to quickly. Our many experiences have taught us that responding to and dealing with an incident within the first few hours will reduce the total time of the disruptive event by weeks, which will further lessen any impacts on revenue streams.
Plan for an incident
An incident management plan addressing a physical site incident needs to deal with the following questions precisely, ’How is the incident reported and to whom?’, and who will be required to respond accordingly?’ These questions answered correctly will in some circumstances negate the requirement to invoke a third party recovery centre and reduce the disruption surrounding the impact of the incident.
In many cases we have learnt at our clients peril that the person, who discovers the incident such as a leak in the ceiling on the second floor in the accounts department, was the out of hours cleaning technician supplied by an external contract cleaning company, and sadly was not privy to the emergency procedure, in fact neither was his boss who he called and informed about YOUR problem.
In this situation the organisation is at high risk, largely due to the good intentions of others who make attempts to help. Cases of security guards switching off power sockets whilst stood in 2” of water or holding electrical equipment still connected to power sources whilst stood in puddles of water are not uncommon.
One cannot imagine the fall out for an organisation and its senior management if a death or injury had occurred to someone switching off power stood in water!!!
Whilst it could be argued that the probability of a facility incident may be low, the risks and associated impacts are acutely high, and making sure that an incident plan is devised should be a priority. The incident plan needs to address emergency responses in dealing with the disruption, care and consideration of staff, communication and associated contingency’s as a bare minimum.
Pre-engage Experts
The plan needs to pre-engage the correct resources, expertise and capability to assist you and your team in dealing with the incident. Further ramifications to consider may be damaged documents or treasury items, damaged IT equipment, damaged critical process equipment to name just a few of the essential items that may need to have to be restored, so that operationally you can resume.
Seldom do we find an organisation that has a property restoration specialist, document restoration specialist or IT restoration specialist within their talent pool, and so these services need to be found in advance and agreements made in responding to you as a priority.
It’s important that you obtain a priority response service from emergency vendors because as is often the case organisations are sometimes one of many in one location that have been effected by the same event at the same time, be it a storm, water mains flood in the street or wide area incident such as a river flood.
The importance of pre-engaging your team is vital to the success of your incident management and recovering your facility.
Experiences make a compelling argument to manage facility risk effectively in order to mitigate potential volatility of earnings, and in addition safeguard stakeholder’s confidence in your organisation and the market reputation you have forged.
Russell Greig-Bartram - Managing Director of DisasterNet Ltd

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