IT Business Edge, along with scores of other sites and publications, has dedicated a lot of electrons to coverage of the swine flu pandemic, which continues to cause problems and, sadly, take a very real toll. A portion of the coverage has focused on what companies could have done to be better prepared, and what they can do to best protect themselves for the next emergency.
It's not that easy. A big part of disaster preparedness is accepting the reality that it is impossible to predict precisely what will come down the pike. A set of best practices must be in place that can be effective in the highest percentage of emergencies. Having a source of fuel to run backup generators, for instance, will help whether the emergency is a blizzard or a power outage. But the reality is that it is difficult to prepare with too much specificity.
That said, folks can hedge their bets. Companies in the south should weight their preparations towards hurricanes, those in the upper midwest toward blizzards and ice storms, and those in California towards wild fires. Unfortunately, organizations in New York City and Washington, DC must be cognizant of what to do if terrorists strike again.
The reality, though, is that the sense of urgency fades and little is done. The good news is that life, for people paying attention, offers abundent chances to do things better. One of those opportunities is at hand: The 2009 hurricane season officially starts on June 1. In a sense, this is an opportunity to finally get ahead of the disaster-preparedness curve. The Houston Chronicle says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is betting that there will be nine to 14 named storms this year, and that four to seven will graduate to hurricane status. This is considered a normal season, the story says.
There are scores of good resources on disaster preparedness and recovery in general and, specially, in hurricane readiness. Two good sites are Rothstein Associates and Continuity Central. There are a number of important steps, including putting a definitive plan in place, running drills and tests, having a well-organized communications chain, establishing procedures to move vital functions and unnecessary people out of harm's way ahead of a predicted storm and myriad others.
The key, of course, is planning. Though hurricane season officially starts in a few days, the heavy action generally doesn't hit until a good deal later in the year. There still is time to prepare.