For starters, this is a great reminder for every family to have a plan for all sorts of threats. It’s so easy for us to be complacent to think a fire or blizzard or tornado are the only things that can threaten our family, but a water outage in a major city – those things just don’t happen in our normal every day thought process. In reality they do happen and far more than people realize. In the last week I know of several towns across the country on boil orders or do not drink orders, although this one was the largest. You can survive longer without food, and you can manage on cold rations or grilled food all summer if you want. However, without clean water to drink your ability to function degrades in less than a day and in 3 days you no longer have to worry about it. So please everyone, think about this incident and take the next step with your family. Think about what to do and how to prepare for all the threats you may have to face where you live, natural and man-made, and incorporate those ideas into your family emergency plans. Rule of thumb is to plan for one gallon per day per person (and more for special needs like infants, children, and elderly).
Now let me ask what was the business impact from a three day water outage? Not to say I told you so (OK, just a tiny bit), but my second blog post a year ago addressed this very problem. Here’s the link to catch up: http://accinctus.com/index.php/news/item/4-where-s-the-water. In my experience most businesses do not plan for water outages in their emergency plans and when it happens they have little option but to close shop and hope their financial loss isn’t more than they can handle. One article from the Toledo Blade that focused on restaurants (http://www.toledoblade.com/business/2014/08/04/Businesses-close-doors-or-improvise.html) mentioned daily losses around $6000-$8000 per day. The indirect costs to employees, related businesses, and the general economy will take many months to calculate. The zoo closed. Hospitals cut back non-essential functions. I’m sure hundreds of businesses not mentioned in the news closed up to wait it out because they had no other planned option. How much worse would it have been if it was mid-week versus a weekend or if it lasted 13 days instead of 3? How many businesses, particularly small and medium businesses that drive our economy, cannot function without safe water? And how many of them will now struggle to figure out how to deal with significant financial losses from these three days. More than people realize.
We have a great opportunity to learn from a major incident that thankfully did not become worse and apply those lessons to be more ready the next time this or something like it happens. The real tragedy is if people slip back into the incorrect mentality that “it won’t happen again” rather than take steps to prepare their families, their communities, and their businesses. As a professional business continuity planner, here are my simple suggestions. 1. Understand the threats. Everyone knows about it now so it’s not an acceptable excuse to say “I don’t know.” It has happened and is likely to happen again. 2. Plan appropriately what you should do (learn from this week and do better). Employers should include all service and utility outages in the continuity plans, have a communication plan for employees, and alternatives and mitigation steps available to reduce the risk. 3. Lastly - practice those plans. Because even the perfect plan on paper is useless if no one actually knows what to do.
3 simple steps: know your risks, plan accordingly, and practice those plans. I tell people all the time that even small steps can make a big difference – any improvement makes your company stronger. If you would like to know more how to plan and protect your business please contact me, I can help.
As always – Be Aware, Be Prepared, Be Safe.