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Weatherproof Your Business Continuity Plan in 8 Simple Steps

By Anuj Agrawal, Earth Networks:

It seems like every year there are more possible disruptions that companies must add to their business continuity plans. With the addition of new threats, it’s important to remember the one threat that has been around since before your business opened its doors: the weather.

Your peers aren’t overlooking the weather. In fact, Earth Networks’ 2019 State of Business Continuity Report showed that respondents ranked extreme weather events and natural disasters as the 2nd and 3rd top threat to business operations behind cybersecurity.

That’s probably because the list of weather conditions that can impact your organization’s continuity plans is almost too long to count. Depending on your operations, something as trivial as the rain or a lightning strike can negatively impact your continuity, safety, and overall bottom line. And those are just the everyday weather conditions. What happens when a major weather event happens?

During 2018 the U.S. experienced 14 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters like wildfires, hailstorms, and hurricanes. In total, these disasters cost $90 billion in damages. If that seems high, looking back to 2017 is even more alarming considering severe weather and climate disasters cost $300 billion. In fact, the four-year average damages cost from weather and climate disasters (2015-2018) sits at a little over $191 billion.

It’s not just the immediate cost of weather disasters that should make weather risks a priority in your business continuity plan, but the overall impact on long-term operations. According to FEMA, 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. Even more concerning is about 25% of businesses fail within one year of experiencing a disaster.

We all know that you can’t control the weather, but you can control how your business adapts, prepares, and reacts to weather risks.

The Value of Commercial-Grade Weather Information
The best way to manage severe weather risks starts with data. Many organizations start by using data from publicly available sources or businesses that resell and package publicly available sources. While these sources can be a cost-efficient path, high-value operations require high-grade weather intelligence.

Believe it or not, not all weather data is created equal. If you’re going to base a business continuity plan on data, you need to make sure that information is accurate, local to your operations, and time-sensitive. That’s where commercial-grade weather data comes into play.

When you make business continuity plans and decisions based on commercial-grade data, you’re using real-time, professionally managed weather observations to drive your weather reporting and alerting. That means the data refreshes every second instead of every hour like public sources. It also means a network operations team manages the weather sensors capturing the data to ensure the sensors are running and the data is flowing. Everyone knows that when it comes to severe weather, real-time updates and data reliability are critical.

In this day and age, it’s easy to forget that there are professionals who dedicate their lives to understanding, forecasting, and preparing others for the weather. Meteorologists are an invaluable asset to have on your business continuity team in addition to the data and tools you use. When you support your weather-related continuity plans with meteorologists, you’re able to leverage experts to monitor your operations 24/7. Meteorologist support from a commercial-grade weather provider is that extra layer of security your continuity plans need to mitigate costly risks.

Weatherproof Your Business Continuity Plans in 8 Simple Steps
Incorporating plans to mitigate severe weather risks into your overall business continuity strategy is the best way to prepare and optimize operations no matter the forecast. While this can sound like an arduous task, it’s quite manageable when you break it down, step-by-step.

  1. First you want to assess your company’s weather-impacted vulnerabilities. Think of the different weather conditions that impact your area and what operations they compromise.
  2. As you continue to plan it’s important to think about the effects of weather before, during, and after an event. Hurricane dangers, for example, are very different as a storm is approaching, once it makes landfall, and as it leaves. Map out everything.
  3. Next, you’ll want to map your key locations, properties, points of interest, and supply chain processes. Make sure you consider all stakeholders and processes.
  4. Choose and use a reliable, commercial-grade source of weather data to standardize your weather response company-wide.
  5. You’ll also want to leverage forecast and early warning systems to improve your preparedness. Look for warning systems that leverage total lightning detection, since in-cloud lightning is one of the best indicators of most forms of severe weather such as hail and tornadoes.
  6. Then take your current operations and recovery plans into account. Audit them so they reflect items 1-5.
  7. We also recommend building a robust communications plan that identifies a reliable and standardized communication flow for all locations and key stakeholder groups during severe weather events.
  8. Utilize those communication channels by disseminating weather alerts and warnings. Customized, automatic alerts are the best practice for protecting staff and customers, securing property and infrastructure, and making decisions.

About the Author: Anuj Agrawal is the Chief Marketing Officer for Earth Networks (www.earthnetworks.com) where he is responsible for worldwide strategic marketing, including corporate marketing, product marketing, and demand generation. He can be reached at aagrawal@earthnetworks.com.

About Earth Networks: Earth Networks automates decisions to help global operations mitigate financial, operational, and human risk by integrating environmental intelligence into their operations. The company operate the world’s largest, most hyperlocal, proprietary data network used to help hundreds of customers like major airlines, financial institutions, manufacturing facilities, national sports leagues, amusement parks, and others mitigate weather-related risks.

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