04/03/2006

Disaster Recovery: Confidence in Crisis (2 of 7)

 

From Aug. 22-26, 1992, Hurricane Andrew left 26 dead and facility damage in the Bahamas, southern Florida, and Louisiana. Total U.S. damages were estimated at $26.5 billion ($34.9 billion in 2000 figures).

Protecting and Accessing Vital Records

Once the physical or tangible assets - most importantly, the people - involved in any disaster-impacted building are safe and secure, facilities professionals should ensure that the intangible assets (vital records) of their businesses are protected as well. A plan to store archival and electronic information off-site is important. According to Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry, sponsored by a public-private partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Novato, CA-based Fireman’s Fund, analyzing vital records involves:

  • Classifying operations into functional categories (e.g. finance, production, sales, administration).
  • Determining essential functions for keeping the business up and running, such as finance, production, sales, etc.
  • Identifying the minimum information that must be readily accessible to perform essential functions (e.g. maintaining customer collections may require access to account statements).
  • Identifying the records that contain essential information and their locations.
  • Identifying the equipment and materials needed to access and use essential information.
  • Next, establish procedures for protecting and accessing vital records. Among the many approaches to consider are:
  • Labeling vital records.
  • Backing up computer systems.
  • Making copies of records.
  • Storing tapes and disks in insulated containers.
  • Storing data off-site where it would not likely be damaged by an event affecting your facility.
  • Increasing security of computer facilities.
  • Arranging for evacuation of records to back-up facilities.
  • Backing up systems handled by service bureaus.
  • Arranging for back-up power.

“For facilities professionals, ready access to certain customer lists and detailed financial information from both operating and legal/tax standpoints (insurance, leases, etc.) - documents that might be kept on-site for day-to-day needs - means you can begin conducting business again with as few missed steps as possible,” says Van Carlisle, president/CEO at New Albany, IN-based FireKing Security Group® (www.fireking.com). Noting that products are available which ensure that on-site records are thoroughly protected, he says, “Whether you’re looking for a simple fire safe to store overnight receipts or a computer-based intelligent safe to protect against employee theft, or anything in between, UL-labeled, fire-resistant containers or vaults can stand up to tornadoes, fires, falls, and break-ins.”

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Securing the Site

In the past, many communities believed that crises would only occur within companies that performed high-risk activities. Recent weather- and power-related emergencies, however, have proven that anything which disrupts the routine or competitive position of a company can be labeled as a crisis. Among the many elements of recovery efforts - particularly once facilities professionals have ensured that all building occupants have been accounted for - are procedures that prevent unauthorized access and protect vital records and property; in a word: security.

According to the Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry - an in-depth reference sponsored by a public-private partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Novato, CA-based Fireman’s Fund - isolation of the incident scene must begin when the emergency is discovered. If possible, the discoverer should attempt to secure the scene and control access, but no one should be placed in physical danger to perform these functions. Basic security measures include:

  • Closing doors and windows.
  • Establishing temporary barriers with furniture after people have safely evacuated.
  • Dropping containment materials (sorbent pads, etc.) in the path of leaking materials.
  • Closing file cabinets and desk drawers.

One of the first determinations will be conducted by the fire department and municipal engineers in declaring whether a structure is safe to enter. The FEMA/Fireman’s Fund report goes on to explain that only trained personnel should be allowed to perform advanced security measures, allowing access only to persons directly involved in the response.

One of those individuals might be a professional like Dino Iuliano, vice president of operations at Planned Security Services Inc., a subsidiary of The Planned Cos. (www.plannedcompanies.com), Fairfield, NJ. “One of the first things we would do is assess the building and structure to look for any vulnerable areas that could harm people or property,” he explains. “If it was an area that needed to be completely sealed off, we would do so by either boarding or locking it. Depending on the damage to the structure, that might require putting up a fence line. In contrast, if the site required access, we would post an officer there to ensure that no one could access a [dangerous] area.”

Iuliano notes that emergency situations are unpredictable. Areas that were once secured may now be open (i.e. door locks may not be working if electrical power is lost). Once a building becomes vulnerable, there’s a possibility that undesirable people might enter a structure to loot, vandalize, or cause other problems. “Roving patrols for both the building’s exterior and interior ensure that unauthorized people aren’t causing more damage or more harm to the facility,” he says. Of particular concern are the boiler room, electrical closets, and back-up generators; all could cause further problems (fire, for instance), but, more often, can assist efforts if they are operational. “Flashlights, back-up food, and water become very valuable during an emergency and must be secured,” he adds.

John Nolan, a security consultant from Waldorf, MD, concurs with this assessment, noting the importance of “a safe proximal location [for] building occupants.” He recommends a nearby covered parking garage as a rallying point: “You can probably work out an arrangement to store some water and comfort items there as well.”

Most importantly, however, is communicating with building occupants - through an established security-procedures plan and training at least once per year in anticipation of some type of risk, as well as on-site through concise status reports and updates - and working closely with local authorities. “We usually set up a liaison with the local police and fire departments, and touch base with local hospitals on a regular basis, to establish both a communications link pre-disaster and discuss plans and procedures,” says Iuliano. “Once disaster strikes, everyone is on board and you don’t find yourself surprised or in unfamiliar territory.”

One key planning element for facilities professionals, according to Nolan, is to do a full “after-action report after every building incident, whether that be a power failure on one floor or a full-building fire. In [conducting] an after-action study, facilities professionals can take information gained during an incident and use that as part of their ongoing planning. Although a lot of little symptoms will pop up and may not seem very significant [separately], added together they are going to make a big difference.”


Linda K. Monroe (linda.monroe@buildings.com), Editorial Director

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com

 
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