Marcus Evans

Leveraging Emergency Preparedness to Align with Business Continuity Planning

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Marcus Evans

Utilities need to ensure that critical systems and processes can be restored in a timely manner during a crisis, with reduced negative operational and financial impacts. The marcus evans Business Continuity & Organizational Resilience for Utilities Conference will address major topics such as preparing for major storms and natural disasters, business continuity planning, critical infrastructure as it relates to the ICS, lessons learned in a business recovery resumptions program and capital investment.

Dr. Goldberg answered a series of questions written by marcus evans before the forthcoming Business Continuity & Organizational Resilience Conference, July 16-18, 2013 in Atlanta, GA. Ed shares how to effectively align a culture with business continuity planning. The responses below strictly reflect the views and beliefs of Dr. Ed Goldberg and not necessarily those of Northeast Utilities.

When looking at your company’s culture of preparedness, how have you leveraged the communication between the business continuity and storm restoration teams?

Ed Goldberg: The most challenging aspect of working with folks who do storm restoration is to have them understand what a business continuity (BC) plan is and why it is not the same as a storm response plan. Typically, storm restoration plans are mature and used relatively often; at least these past few years in the northeast. To get to that mutual understanding, rather than create a new and separate BC plan and process, we leveraged the wealth of experience with incident management from the storm restoration group and used it to build robust BC plans.

Because good BC plans engage outside agencies in advance of the need to do so, I worked very hard to cultivate relationships and share knowledge with our local, regional and state and federal emergency management authorities. This included involving them in our BC exercises, participating in their planning and preparedness activities, and even hosting their meetings when they needed a larger venue.

As a result of all that networking, when issues arose with restoration planning, I was loaned to the restoration planning group to help plan and exercise new processes, help with communications improvements, etc. This led to unprecedented levels of cooperation between all forms of responders and processes that helped the organization deal with “super storms” – hurricanes, blizzards and off-season heavy snow, etc.

What initiatives have you taken to align the culture with business continuity planning?

EG:We started the process of aligning culture and BC planning with very small and basic steps. Several years ago, we implemented a formal BIA (Business Impact Analysis) process whereby we survey each workgroup that performs an important business process to see what they do, how they do it and what they need to do it. That last part, what they need to perform a business process, is key to planning for when one or more of those things aren’t available. Included in the survey are systems (IT or other, people, facilities, as well as details such as dependencies, “we can’t do our work until you give us the xyz data.”). The survey results allow cross checking between workgroups for conflicts, (example: the xyz system will be available days after a disaster, but two groups need it in two days.) as well as with other resource providers such as facilities, HR, security, etc.

The survey and analyses process is followed closely by one on one group interviews to further engage the workgroups in critical thinking about what might challenge their ability to perform their work. Once the groups are engaged, they can begin the process of creating a plan that works for them. The function of BC planning then becomes simply facilitating workgroups who are creating their own BC plans. At this point, groups are thinking about their work and BC plans to continue it should something happen. Once engaged in the process, the next level requires ongoing challenges to encourage better preparedness.

One of the more successful of these was a “Stop Sign Drill” in which we stationed personnel at every entrance to a major campus and gave them a packet with a large red stop sign on the cover. It basically asked them what they would do right now if they couldn’t enter the facility; who would they call, where would they go, what would their role be, etc. It included additional planning information and admonition to talk to their supervisor if they had questions. A short survey to determine their level of knowledge was included and with responses kept anonymous (in support of the safety conscious work environment) with an option to include contact info if they wanted to be entered in a drawing for prizes. The event generated ongoing discussion and many planning improvements, especially in terms of communicating roles.

How would you describe the ideal “business continuity mindset” for both short and long term activities?

EG:While I’ll settle for “close to ideal”, ideal would see everyone top to bottom in an organization engaged in resiliency. What that looks like is a mindset where people consider actions, decisions and changes for their immediate cause and effect, as well as unintended consequences and long term effect should a disaster occur. The pervasive nature of information technology, for example, makes life easier and business more effective and efficient on a daily basis. But, our reliance on that technology often neglects the underlying infrastructure, as well as our evolving inability to live or work when it’s not available. We want people to think about that up front, not when the disaster is at hand.

Lastly, since your role is in storm management and disaster recovery, how have you applied the cultural change lessons into your company’s best practices? What is the key component to successfully execute these processes?

EG:I’m not a senior officer of the company, and it is truly difficult to create cultural change bottom-up, or even from the middle. However, each of us has some sphere of influence in which we can hopefully create change. As was the case for me, I was fortunate to be peddling a product whose time had come; business continuity planning after 9/11/2001. Whether by virtue of our position/office, or by the timing and environment of our efforts, all we can do is take best advantage of whatever opportunity we have to get people to understand the need for business continuity planning, to engage them and have them leverage existing strengths like storm management. In the end, we seek to cause a lot of change across a lot of people so they carry the BC torch forward as their own cause without as much effort as it took to get it all started. Strategically, we’ve succeeded in changing the culture because people understand, for the most part, what BC plans are and why we have them. On a more tactical level, the organization is busy and backslides to its old ways if there is no BC presence or activity. Staying prepared is an eternal process, not a one-time project that can be dusted off now and then.

Dr. Ed Goldberg, CBCP manages Northeast Utilities’ Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery programs out of Berlin, CT. He is responsible for all BC and DR at NU, including CL&P, Yankee Gas, NSTAR Gas, NSTAR Electric, Western Massachusetts Electric and Public Service of New Hampshire. Prior to his current role, Ed served 10 years as IT manager at Millstone Nuclear Power Station. Ed is a board certified business continuity professional with over 30 years IT and management experience. He served 4 terms as president of Connecticut ACP - the Association of Contingency Planners - and currently serves as the chapter's programs director. He is a past President and current Programs Director of the Connecticut chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners (ACP) and the Education Director on the ACP corporate (national) board.

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