All of us here in the UK, to a greater or lesser extent, have been affected by the high winds and flooding which seem to have continued relentlessly since Christmas.
The last few days seem to have brought some quieter weather but I know there are still a number of flood warnings in place.
Floods are not new to the UK and it seems almost every winter a different part of the country floods.
The floods this year seem more severe than most and what also makes them different is that the bad weather has continued for over six weeks.
My thoughts this week are on what makes these floods different from other flooding events and what we can learn from them.
1. When I am teaching business continuity my mindset is usually that there is a short emergency response stage to the incident and then, within just a few hours, you are into the recovery phase. Most business continuity incidents do not last very long. In this case the incident has gone on for a number of weeks and until the bad weather abates organisations affected cannot get on with their recovery.
2. The length of the incident must put a strain on all the staff responding, not knowing whether their organisation might flood and thinking that every time it rains that this could be the rain storm that overwhelms whatever defences have been put in place. Good leadership and concern by managers about the welfare of their staff has to be shown in these instances in order to maintain staff morale and keep up productivity. If the premises are flooded then leadership is even more important.
3. Widespread disasters like floods, hurricanes or earthquakes affect both people’s workplaces and their homes. Most people’s priority in such incidents is firstly to their family and then to their employer. Managers have to be aware of this and take this into account in their planning. Organisations might have to manage an incident with key members of their incident management team missing and without a full compliment of employees. The incident may also have a big impact on the organisation’s customers if they are in the local area. There is no point having their business up and running if there are no customers.
4. The effect of global warming is much debated. People have been arguing over whether the storms were as a result of it and whether this type of weather will become normal. We will all have our own opinion on global warming and its possible effects, but as business continuity managers we have to look at the possibility that the weather will get worse and high winds and flooding will become a more regular occurrence. This means we have to look at more extreme events and revisit our resilience measures and risks. What we thought a few years ago was very unlikely may have just become more likely.
5. There has been much dispute on the news and among politicians over where money should be spent on flood defences and how much money should be spent. There is an almost infinite demand for defences but a finite amount of money available. We are also allowing building on areas which are likely to flood, further increasing the demand for further defences. In our role as business continuity managers we have a similar dilemma; how much should we spend on resilience measures and what actions we should take to make sure that we do not increase our risk by building in a “risky” area. Although we may not make the final decision on resilience spending, our processes, evaluations and reports are used by top management when making these decisions. I feel in this instance we have to make sure that our methodologies for evaluating risk are robust and give the desired outcome.