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Accinctus - Continuity Observations from the Attack on 9-11

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Thursday, 12 September 2013 16:54

Continuity Observations from the Attack on 9-11 Featured

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Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 and every September 11th is a significant day of remembrance for our Nation.  The pain, the loss, the sadness, and the anger have faded over time for some and are still felt sharply every day by others, especially those who lost family and friends that day. I personally was working 2 blocks from the Pentagon that morning and I will never forget watching the ash from the burning building float by the window like large snowflakes and wondering if my friends who worked down the street were alive or dead. 

As a member of the business continuity profession, as someone who spends a great deal of time talking to both businesses and individuals about preparedness, I have noted a few lessons from those events that I’d like to briefly share for your consideration. 

 

1.  A mentality that something “can’t happen to us” is a deadly thought. After the earlier bomb attempts at the World Trade Center some companies realizing a serious risk decided to improve their plans, train their employees better, and prepare their organizations for significant threats; there are case studies on the positive impact of those actions.  Unfortunately some companies did not place the same priority on additional preparedness.  I do not think those companies purposely chose not to improve their preparedness posture, rather I think they fell into the trap of thinking it wouldn’t happen to them, or wouldn’t happen again.  Falling into this trap makes us complacent and must be avoided.

2.  Disasters and disruptions do not follow a schedule.  Not counting for hurricanes and blizzards that are relatively possible to track and forecast days out, most disasters and business disruptions don’t follow a schedule and always come as a surprise.  There have been many perspectives written about how everyone thought waking up that September morning was just another day.  I have read statements from people after earthquakes, tornadoes, and other disasters as well… you never expect it to happen that day because we have not trained ourselves to think that it could and be more prepared. 

3.  Even small actions can make a big difference.  I would love to see every company regardless of size have a full business continuity program, with plans in place, trained response and recovery teams, and exercises several times a year to ensure everyone knows what to do, because I believe in the value of business continuity programs.  However, I know that most companies have little (or no) continuity efforts in place due to many reasons (unaware of the risk, lack of education, budget, company resources, company culture, etc.) and that is the business reality.  My experience is that even small actions can make a big difference when a disruption or disaster hits.  Small steps – starting with basic employee training, a communication plan, or a basic response checklist for supervisors – all can make a significant positive impact during a disaster – these things certainly saved lives on that day.  Doing something positive to prepare your organization and staff, no matter how small it seems in scope, can be of great value when it comes to employee safety during a real disaster. 

As our day of remembrance fades into another day, let’s ensure the lessons from that terrible attack are not forgotten so we can be more aware and more prepared in the future. 

 


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