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Risk in Context

7 Business Continuity Action Areas Following Harvey

Posted by Chandra Seymour August 30, 2017

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey’s unprecedented strength and duration has left Houston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana in a state of crisis. With evacuations not ordered in all jurisdictions, millions of people have been left stranded and businesses at a standstill. The scale of the ongoing crisis and future recovery efforts is so vast that officials cannot fully measure it. 

The damage associated with Harvey is a reminder of the importance of developing, maintaining, and exercising corporate-level crisis management, emergency response, and business continuity plans. With such plans in place, you can better help your employees and business through a crisis. As you do so, you should focus on seven critical action areas: 

  • Crisis management: Move quickly and efficiently to implement your crisis management plan and teams to proactively understand the potential impacts to people, property, and operations, and make policy/strategy decisions to address and manage those impacts.
  • Crisis communications: During the storm event, your company’s core messages and communications to employees, customers, investors, and the media should  reinforce your crisis management team’s strategies and decisions.
  • Emergency response: If your company or employees are in or near storm impact areas, life safety, event mitigation, and the protection of physical assets are imperative. Prioritize response actions such as the need to evacuate, accounting for all employees, and protecting property and assets, and be prepared to frequently brief senior executives and response teams.
  • Humanitarian assistance: Support during and after a storm should include physical, social, emotional, and financial help, as needed. Professional counseling and support services is one example of how you can help employees; more creative approaches include allowing time off for home repairs, providing employees with needed supplies, or inviting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or insurance representatives to discuss filing claims.
  • Business continuity: Keeping the business running is a key concern once safety issues have been addressed. Plans should account for the management and logistical process for continuing or resuming, and recovering interrupted critical business functions. This should involve coordinated support between corporate headquarters and local work sites.
  • Information technology/disaster recovery: Recovery should include ensuring the availability of networks, applications, and data. This will help support business continuity, including work-from-home and other strategies.
  • Return to work: Consistent communication of response efforts to employees and other key stakeholders is critical. Regularly update employees on when you plan to re-open, consider returning in prioritized shifts, and facilitate two-way communication to determine when your people can return to work.

The effects of Harvey on people and businesses have been severe and will likely last for some time. But with hurricane season not yet over, you should seek to apply the early lessons learned from Harvey and similar storms to minimize the impacts on your employees and operations.

Chandra Seymour

Senior Vice President, MRC Reputational Risk and Crisis Management