PlanB Consulting

A force of nature – some thoughts on Typhoon Haiyan

There is no bigger incident to comment on this week than the typhoon in the Philippines. Our thoughts go out to all those who have been affected by it and those who have lost loved ones. The devastation seems immense having seen the pictures on TV. As I watch the news it seems at last that aid is getting through to all the affected areas.

A few comments…

1.    I have covered this in many bulletins before but the devastation reminds us of the power of nature. The massive destruction, some of it just down to wind speed, is immense.

2.    All governments seem to take a while to respond to major emergencies and to reach all parts of the country. Journalists can often reach the areas before the aid. It is very frustrating for those watching TV to see lots of starving or injured people waiting for aid with no help. I remember being very frustrated with the pictures coming out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina of the poor people left with no aid at the main stadium. The lesson for us is that we may, in a massive incident, have to look after ourselves and our staff for some days before government help gets to us.

3.    In the Philippines there was talk of looting, as there was during Hurricane Katrina. I think in the main, the looting was of shops for food and water rather than for consumer goods and valuables. An important task in our business continuity plan is securing our site after an incident to prevent looting. If it is a major incident, like the Philippines, the crowds are likely to be more interested in food and water than the contents of our office.

4.    I was listening to a radio report about an organisation called “Telecoms Without Frontiers”. They provide phone and internet links to help the relief effort. One of the interesting points I picked up is that they deployed to the Philippines prior to the storm hitting the country. They were able to deploy, set up and test their equipment – all prior to the storm. There was no delay in responding. I think this is a simple lesson us business continuity people should learn. If we know about an incident which is likely to happen, be it severe weather or protests near our offices, then we should think through what we can do to make ourselves more resilient. We should also think about what actions we should take to get ready for the possible incident. Do we need to have our plan already invoked and our incident team formed so they are ready to manage the potential incident?

About Charlie Maclean-Bristol

Charlie Maclean-Bristol is one of the Founders and Directors of PlanB Consulting. He is also the Training Director of Business Continuity Training Ltd., a UK-based training provider accredited by the Business Continuity Institute. Charlie is a former Business Continuity Institute board member and one of the very few Fellows of both the Emergency Planning Society and the Business Continuity Institute.

A former Infantry Captain in the British Army, Charlie held several emergency planning, business continuity and crisis management positions within the energy and utility industry before founding PlanB Consulting in 2007. Over the past twelve years, Charlie has delivered business continuity consultancy in 6 of the worlds 7 continents, frequently providing full business continuity roll-outs to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

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