5 Disaster Recovery Myths

01/25/2013 | By Janelle Penny

Make no mistake – FMs are critical players before and after catastrophes

Is your facility ready to weather a disaster?

Most FMs would answer yes, but most of them would be wrong. Preparation doesn’t stop at testing the alarm systems. In fact, the law requires much more emergency planning than many realize.

No one is safe from disaster – not even you. Make sure your facility is truly prepared for the worst by avoiding these five pitfalls.

1) You’re Not at Risk
It’s tempting to think that your facility is somehow immune to disasters and other emergencies if it’s never been affected by a large-scale adverse event before. The truth is that every building is in harm’s way. Understanding the risks you face will go a long way toward keeping your occupants safe and minimizing damage to your business.

As you review your plans, consider your vulnerability to all three disaster types:

Natural: A naturally occurring disaster is likely the most familiar – certainly you already know if your facility is located near a fault or inside Tornado Alley. This could include anything from weather phenomena to insect infestations or disease outbreaks.

Man-made: This category includes both intentional and accidental hazards that become larger disasters if they aren’t addressed properly. Crimes and terrorism are man-made disasters, as is civil disorder because it can escalate into destructive behavior.

Technological: Many technological disasters are hybrids incorporating elements of natural and man-made hazards – for example, an extended power outage caused by a weather event (natural) may lead to civil disorder (man-made) if the problem cannot be addressed quickly. Other technological disasters include structural collapses and hazardous material exposures.

Not preparing for these contingencies can leave you in a tight spot. On March 17, 2000, lightning struck a high-voltage electricity line in Albuquerque, NM, starting a fire at a Royal Philips Electronics manufacturing plant. Philips techs put out the fire in short order, but the materials to make chips for several thousand cell phones were destroyed. The aftermath is a textbook example of the value of emergency preparation.

The two biggest customers of this Philips branch were Nokia and Ericsson, which were in direct competition with each other. Philips thought the cleanup would take about a week and promised both companies that their orders would be filled first when the plant was ready to produce again.

Nokia executive engineers turned toward their predetermined response plan and split into three teams that developed alternative manufacturing plans, redesigned some chips so they could be produced in other plants, and sought alternative manufacturers. This reduced some of the pressure on Philips, where leaders had realized the projected one-week cleanup would take closer to six weeks instead.

Philips stayed in business, but their success up until that point meant that they had sacrificed surplus capacity in the name of increasing production and performance. When the fire hit, everyone involved had to scramble to develop a solution for Nokia instead of relying on a contingency plan.

As for Nokia’s competitor? It reported divisional annual losses of $1.68 billion that July, outsourced manufacturing to Flextronics, and merged with Sony the next year. “Nobody has an Ericsson phone anymore,” notes Al Berman, executive director of the Disaster Recovery Institute.

The Philips fire was contained in 10 minutes, but caused billions of dollars in damage beyond what the fire touched. What would you do if your facility suffered a similar fate? Are you prepared to relocate or coordinate recovery with guests, tenants, or customers if you lose capacity?

“Successful recoveries are all about preparation – knowing the resources you need, where they can be acquired, and how well you can perform using limited resources,” Berman adds. “The Wall Street Journal was literally blown out of the World Trade Center on 9/11. They lost the facility for editorial and advertising, but on Sept. 12, the Wall Street Journal was sitting on my driveway. It was all about preparation and understanding the alternatives.”

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