Get Ready to Weather the Storm

April 17, 2017

In two months, it will be summer. But in some parts of the country — including here in US Signal’s home state of Michigan — it’s not out of the realm of possibility for there to be yet one more snowfall. That makes it difficult to think about tornados, but some experts believe that 2017 could match both 2008 and 2011 as one of the most active tornado seasons in recent history.

Since January, the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Storm Prediction Center data shows more than 500 possible reports of tornadoes in the U.S.  The prime season — May and June — is still to come, and even after that, tornadoes can still strike. Is your business ready? 

Weather-related events such as tornadoes aren’t the only threats to business continuity, or even the biggest. However, the destruction associated with them reminds us of their potential for causing both downtime and data loss. And, don’t think that just because your organization isn’t located in “Tornado Alley,” that it’s immune to tornadoes. While tornadoes are most prevalent in the US east of the Rocky Mountains and less frequent in the northeastern states, they can occur just about anywhere. 

No matter where your business is located or your data is stored, it’s important to have a storm-preparedness plan in place as part of your overall disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plan.  

The People-centric Components

The most important component of the plan should deal with protecting employees, and include instructions for what they should do if threatening weather is approaching, or a tornado warning has been issued. This includes directives to:

  • Stay inside the building but away from windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Move desks, files, equipment and furniture away from windows. Papers, drawings, etc. should be placed inside files or desks. Wrap office equipment, such as copy machine and computers, in plastic to protect against water damage.
  • Turn off all air conditioners, disconnect electrical equipment, shut off light and turn off all utilities at the main power switch. Close the main gas valve if there is time.
  • Move to the identified shelter location.
  • Abandon work trailers as they offer little protection and seek shelter in designated areas.

Facilities and Data Considerations

Once the “human factor” is covered, outline processes for minimizing disruptions to business operations and protecting mission-critical IT assets, data and applications. Among the required tasks:

  • Assess risks to your mission-critical infrastructure.  
  • Determine what functions you could lose or do without for a certain amount of time so that you can create a priority list for your DR planning.
  • Identify your most critical IT applications and data.
  • Make sure all data is regularly backed up, preferably off-site.
  • Test your data recovery process to be sure that it works and you know how to access critical information. 
  • Consider options such as cloud storage or cloud-based disaster recovery to minimize loss of or access to your critical IT assets. A number of managed services are also available from companies that specialize in information technology (IT) infrastructure.
  • If you use colocation, cloud or other outsourced IT services, check with your vendor to see what kind of DR plan it has in place.
  • Compile a “business on-the-go kit” with everything you might need if you had to conduct business from a remote location.
  • If employees are expected to work from home, make sure they are equipped to be productive there.

The Post-storm Plan

After a tornado or other storm has passed and/or the storm warning is lifted:

  • Make sure all employees are accounted for and not injured.
  • Put your communication plan into effect as soon as possible
  • Immediately enact relevant components of your DR/BC plan.
  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Survey the inside and outside of the building for structural damage, sharp objects.  If you were forced to leave your building prior to the storm, make sure the site is safe for re-entry.  
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
  • Report any hazardous materials (e.g., fuel, chemicals) that have leaked, to emergency response personnel.

The Resilience Factor

It’s important to remember that DR/BC planning isn’t just about “recovery.”  It’s also about “resilience” — the ability to maintain acceptable service levels no matter what challenges arise or disasters strike. You can learn more about the resilience factor in DR/BC planning this Wednesday, April 19th, when US Signal hosts the free webinar,  “Creating IT Resiliency in Your DR Plan.,” The interactive event will provide information on incorporating resilience into a DR plan with specific emphasis on:

The webinar will also feature a case study of a company that used a Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service solution to meet its need for a DR plan that incorporates IT resilience.  

You can’t escape bad weather, but you can be prepared for it. For more information on how US Signal can help, call toll-free: 866.2. SIGNAL, or email: 616.988.0414.