Tag: disaster recovery

Survival Vocab Quiz


Survival VocabularyOK, so you’re in good shape when it comes to preparedness.

But can you talk to people about preparedness using THEIR words?

Here are three quick quizzes for three different groups. See how you do!

Group One: Your Prepper Relatives

While you may not be a red-hot survivalist, you probably have a few in the family. Maintain your dignity by knowing these prepper acronyms:

  1. EDC – Every day carry – collection of essential, small items that the survivalist has at all times in a pocket or purse.
  2. ATV – All-terrain-vehicle – A three or four-wheeled “buggy” that can carry preppers to safety through the woods or over the hills, when roads are impassible or too dangerous.
  3. BOB – Bug-Out-Bag – What you need to have ready to grab and go and that will keep you alive for at least 72 hours. At a minimum it contains shelter, water, and food.
  4. OTG – Off the grid – Surviving without access to electricity, municipal water, grocery stores, etc. Usually, it means setting up alternative living arrangements in an isolated area where you won’t be bothered by people who haven’t prepared in advance.
  5. SHTF – Shit Hits The Fan – All your preparations are made so that you will survive when the SHTF.

Group Two: Your Emergency Response Team Volunteers

These folks are committed and concerned. You owe it to them to provide good leadership by knowing what you’re taking about.

  1. CERT – Community Emergency Response Team member – Someone who has taken the (free) 24 hour course designed by FEMA (see DHS, below), offered by a city or other local organization. CERT members are volunteers who have received training in basic disaster response skills and who agree to provide emergency care until professionals arrive, and then support those professionals as needed.
  2. DHS – Department of Homeland Security – DHS was established in 2002, combining 22 different federal departments and agencies into one cabinet-level agency that now has 240,000 employees. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is part of DHS.
  3. EMT – Emergency Medical Technicians — EMTs are trained to provide emergency medical care before a person arrives at a hospital. EMTs may be associated with an ambulance company or a fire department; they may have different levels of training depending on their state or employer.
  4. SOP – Standard Operating Procedure – “The way we do things.” If you don’t have an SOP for your team, then you can’t expect any given outcome.
  5. Triage — Triage is the first step in an emergency. It is the process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for medical treatment. Triage, by definition means that as a volunteer you don’t stop to help the first injured person you see.

Group Three: Co-workers

People at work deserve a plan for emergencies. If you’re involved, here are formal and informal terms you should be using:

  1. OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA is part of the Department of Labor. For our purposes, it is important to realize that OSHA’s purpose is to “provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards.” Generally, this does NOT require any sort of emergency preparedness plan.
  2. BC/DR Plan – Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan — These terms are often used interchangeably but they both contain an approach to (1) preparing for emergencies, (2) taking action to limit damage before anything happens, (3) understanding how to get through the disaster when it does it, and then, (4) how to get back to BAU (see below).
  3. BIA – Business Impact Analysis – This is the first step to a Disaster Recovery plan. It’s a process that will identify and evaluate the potential effects of a disaster, accident or emergency on your critical business operations. The BIA will help set priorities for your planning.
  4. BAU – Business As Usual — After an emergency, BAU is what you want to get to. However, it’s possible that today in your workplace, if changes aren’t made right away, your current BAU will lead to a worse disaster than was necessary!
  5. SOW – Statement of Work — If your organization decides to hire a consultant to help in developing your BC or DR Plan, you’ll likely ask for, or actually provide yourself as part of the consulting contract, a statement of work that outlines exactly what is to be done.

Ok, had enough?! Here are a couple of suggestions to make this exercise valuable for a bigger audience.

  • Action Item #1: Consider printing out these definitions for your emergency response team members. Go over them out loud at a training meeting so everyone knows how they sound and can say them easily. Some of this will be new to some of your members, I can guarantee it!
  • Action Item #2: At work, share this list with co-workers or with your boss. If emergency preparedness and emergency planning are relatively new subjects, people will get a sense of confidence having been exposed to this vocab.

Let us know how you used the list!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. And one last acronym I just can’t resist putting in here: TEOTWAWKI:

If you’ve spent time on survival websites, you’ll know that this stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. TEOTWAWKI usually assumes a BIG disaster – total economic collapse, cosmic event, pandemic, etc. I don’t know how the acronym is pronounced, if it even can be pronounced!

P.P.S. More preparedness vocabulary for people who like this sort of thing:






Lies Your Employer Is Telling You


Just a month ago we exposed some “lies” about FEMA coming to the rescue in an emergency.

Today it’s the turn of employers, and the lies they tell you and themselves.

The biggest lie?

“In an emergency, we’ll just work from home.”

Work From Home(Ha, ha! When you hear that, do you laugh along with me?)

It’s not that working from home is impossible. Many of us do it, some on a regular basis.

The ridiculous part is thinking that in a disaster you can save the business by working at home without having designed an emergency plan to do it.

Granted, every company is unique. But when it comes to operating by working at home, your company needs to have thought through and come up with answers to some essential questions.

Here are 7 of the issues you’ll want to consider beforehand.

1 – Who makes the decision? Who will decide that there is a disaster and that employees should stay home?

Not every disaster is as dramatic as a hurricane or earthquake. Something as simple as a construction bridge collapse or partial power outage might not make the emergency airwaves, but still could mean your business is shut down. Who makes the call? (And how does the word get out to every employee?)

2 – Who assigns roles? How will employees be notified about the disaster, who should be working from home that day, and who should be planning to take the day off?

And will it be with or without pay?

Not every employee may need or be able to work from home. But to counter concerns about what’s fair, employees need to know in advance what emergency policies are, how they will be activated – and how that will impact their particular job.

3 – What functions need to continue? A company that’s prepared may be able to limp along for some time before it experiences serious damage. Which functions are vital for that interim period?

You’ll only know the answer to this question if you plan ahead. That planning will identify jobs that can be performed by employees working at home and will determine what resources they need to perform them.

Your planning will also identify which jobs need to be able to be performed by more than just one person – i.e., where cross-training is called for.

4 – What resources do we need? Doing research, drafting a report or even responding to business emails or calls may be easy for an employee on the road or working at home.

Other jobs, however – such as customer service, accounting, project management, etc.— may be difficult if not impossible for an employee who doesn’t have full access to company files, the right software and hardware, appropriate communications lines and phones, and a stable internet connection with plenty of bandwidth.

Which employees would need these resources to be able to keep YOUR company afloat? Who will pay to have these resources in place, or put in place?

5 – What security will be required?

It’s relatively easy to control security within your organization. This can include restricting entrance to certain areas of the plant, restricting access to different areas within the company network, restricting what people can download and/or take home with them.

In an emergency, information may need to be accessed or manipulated at many different locations, all of them away from the office. Electronic files may need to be shared; paper files may end up being transported in private vehicles; laptops and tablets may be put to use in coffee shops or who knows where.

What level of security do you need to consider to safeguard your operations (and, perhaps, to meet legal requirements)?

6 – Will employees be accountable? During the regular workday, it’s pretty clear who is working and who is goofing off.

Employees working at home may need to track their own hours and progress, actively check in, and make the decision when to call for assistance or approvals. Understanding employees’ level of self-reliance will determine, in part, whether or not they belong on the “work-at-home emergency response team.”

7 – What about Plan C? While working from home may seem to be a reasonable Plan B, back-up to an anticipated power outage or short-lived storm, by definition a disaster causes “great damage or loss of life.” The “work from home” Plan B may not be adequate!

What if a number of your key employees have had to evacuate their entire families and are not at home at all? What if employees are at home, but power is out there just as it is at the downtown office? What if employees are safe at home but your entire office, and all the files the employees need to connect to, are still standing in 12 inches of floodwater?

Plan C can take different forms.

  • Your Plan C might start, for example, with your committing some key operations and/or data to “the cloud,” which would make them accessible from anywhere by those displaced key employees. I found this overview of how small businesses might use the cloud for disaster recovery, from Network World.
  • It might include a contractual arrangement with a disaster continuity company to replace or restore your flood-damaged equipment within 24 hours. Agility Recovery Solutions, a company we’ve followed and written about for several years, specializes in recovering four areas for small business: office space, power, communications, and computers. (Check out their videos.)
  • Or Plan C might even require a service that is prepared to set up – or continually maintain – an off-site back-up office that mirrors your daily operation (a so-called “hot site”), where key employees could simply walk in and sit right down to work. You can get a good description of hot, warm and cold sites here.

As you may have gathered by now, Plan C could become costly! But . . .

If your Plan C keeps the business going, when otherwise it would collapse . . .

— well, then, you really must consider it.


This article is not meant to be a complete program for business continuity planning.

It’s goal is simple — to dispel the “myth” that working from home is an adequate back-up plan.

For most businesses, working from home will be a partial solution at best. Even then, it will require some serious pre-planning.

So don’t let your employer – and if that’s you, don’t let yourself! – be fooled by thinking, “We’ll just work from home.”

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

As they say on TV, “Watch this space.”  We’ll be back with another “lie” very soon! (It you don’t want to miss it, sign up below to get all our Advisories!)



How secure is your job?


Small business no emergency planGot a flyer in the mail, today. On the front, this statistic:

  • 94% of small business owners believe a disaster could seriously disrupt their business within the next two years!

And then, reading on a bit further:

  • 74% of small businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan.
  • An estimated 40% of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.

So if you own or work for a small business, let me ask you,

Just how secure do you think your job is?!

The chances that you DO work for a small business are pretty good. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011 99.7 percent of all businesses had fewer than 500 workers, and 89.8 percent of them had fewer than 20 workers!

So combine the statistics from the flyer with the statistics from the government, and you can see why I am addressing this message to the small business owners and employees in the big bucket.

Disaster Preparedness Academy

But back to the flyer that started this off. It is a promotion for a 2-day conference being held in October in Anaheim, California (home of Disneyland – one of the sponsors).

The DPA has been in business for some 30 years; this year’s Academy presents 23 workshops in eight tracks.  Two of the tracks are specifically for business: Workplace Preparedness and Workplace Recovery. 

Some of the sessions for business:

  • Communicating the Unexpected “through the chaos”
  • Maximizing Your Disaster Cost Recovery; Lessons from Joplin, MO. (“Cost recovery can last years . . .”)
  • Where Do Your Emergency Management Professional Skills Stack Up? (“Are you beginning, intermediate or advanced?”)

Other tracks include Seismic Safety, Terrorism/Active Shooter and School/University Preparedness.

Now, I would certainly attend this conference if they offered a “trade show floor only” ticket.  (That’s often the most valuable part of any conference, in my opinion!) The list of presenters – 27 of them – is impressive, and the cost is reasonable: under $250 for the two days.

Getting out of the big bucket

But the question I have for you today is . . .

What is YOUR business doing to get out of the big bucket that is NOT prepared, and into the smaller bucket – that is, the bucket of businesses that have emergency plans, have invested in emergency supplies, and practice emergency training on a regular basis?

If you think you’re still in the big bucket, there’s a lot you can do, even if you don’t own the business. For example, you can . . .

  • Find out about conferences being held in your local area and ask if someone from the company is attending. If not, ask if you can attend.
  • Sign up on your own for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training either with a local group or online. If you can get a whole team interested, they may put on a course just for your company!
  • Download our Emergency Plan Guide Seven-Steps poster, talk it up and post it up in the coffee room. https://emergencyplanguide.org/work/seven-steps/

Something’s going to happen one of these days.

At the risk of being too blunt, I can say that you will feel pretty dumb if you have done nothing to prepare your company to survive an emergency.  And you’ll feel even worse when you and your family discover you are out of a job.

Let’s work on creating awareness and action together. Let us know what YOU are doing this week to raise the issue of emergency preparedness at work by leaving a comment in the box!

We are ALL looking forward to what you have to say!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide team



Survival Kit Stories


Real life emergency stories, from real people.

Thumbs down Survival Kit StoriesSetting: In the rental office, talking to the woman behind the desk.

“Do you have some food for if you were trapped here in the office in an emergency?”
“Well, no. I thought that was the job of the Red Cross.”

Setting: Talking to a featured speaker at my recent Las Vegas conference.

“You’re living on the beach in North Carolina, right? Do you have emergency food set aside for when the next hurricane hits?”
“Well, not exactly. But I did unplug the freezer so I don’t have to throw all the spoiled food out, like I did last time. That cost me $300!”
“But what about food supplies for after the storm?”
“We eat only healthy, fresh food, so there’s no way I can store anything . . .”

Setting: Video snippet from a recent training held here in our neighborhood. The TV camera is trained on a hysterical woman in New Jersey, after Sandy:

“Where’s the government!? We’ve been waiting three whole days . . .!”

What’s your survival kit story?

If you and I were to meet on the street, and I posed these questions to you, how would you respond?

  • How many 3-day survival kits do you need for your family?
  • Where does each kit need to be? At your home, in the car, at the office?
  • How many kits have you actually put together?

As I’ve mentioned before, our local fire department has told us flat out:
“When the big one hits, you’re going to be way down on our list.”

All this points to our having to manage by ourselves for the first 72 hours.

You know that we have done a lot of research on pre-made kits, and generally find them lacking when it comes to quality and quantity.

Worse, having a pre-made kit may give you a false sense of security.

So our recommendation has been, and remains:

Build your own customized 3-day survival kit.

Here’s a link to an updated list of our favorite starter items : Top 10 Survival Kit Items

It may take you a few days to a week to assemble all the items for your kits. Turn kit-making into a family “pick and pack” activity!

Three days.

Easy enough to get through when you’ve got the basics: food, water, light, communications.

Really tough when you have nothing . . .

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Emergency Preparedness Vocabulary for Business


More words to know!

The more you read about Disaster Recovery and Emergency Preparedness, the more abbreviations and acronyms you come across. Many of them are already in use in business – like KISS , or Keep It Simple Stupid. But as in every industry, some words creep in that are not explained, and that you are simply expected to know. If you don’t know them, you feel stupid or confused or both.

Here are some of the common words I’ve come across in dealing with preparedness in the workplace. (It’s a companion piece to our earlier list of emergency preparedness vocabulary.)

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good start for talking with or or writing to industry professionals!

Risk Analysis Chart

Simple tool for assessing risks facing the business

Business Acronyms and Definitions

BAU – Business As Usual. If this is the state you want to return to AFTER the emergency, then it’s considered something positive. However, BAU is often used when projecting what the future will be like if we go on with BAU instead of making suggested changes.

BIA – Business Impact Analysis. One step in the process of building an Emergency Preparedness Plan. It describes and measures what would happen to the different business functions in the event of an accident, disaster or emergency. The analysis covers both financial impacts as well as non-financial impacts, such as loss of customer or supplier confidence, etc.

BP — Best Practices. Methods or techniques that have shown the best results over time and around the country (or world) and that have become the standard for the industry.

CBCP – Certified Business Continuity Professional. This is the most well-known certification in the industry. It is offered by DRI International (Originally the Disaster Recovery Institute). The certification requires more than two years of experience, with proven expertise in five different subject areas, and requires continuing education.

DR/BC — Disaster Recovery/Business Continuation. These two expressions are often used together, but DR seems more closely tied to the protection and restoration of data and information technology systems, whereas BC refers to the whole business.

KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. A classic reminder for educators, salespeople and for those who design Emergency Plans!

RA – Risk Analysis. Risk analysis is one of the first steps to building an Emergency Plan. Risks are identified and rated by likelihood and by likely impact, often using a matrix showing frequency/importance.

RM – Risk Management. This is closely tied to Risk Analysis, and typically covers actions the organization can take to prevent or lessen the risks identified in the analysis.

SME – Subject Matter Expert.  You? Your local Fire Chief? Head of a department? Facilities manager? Whoever knows the most about the topic/risk/equipment/impact under discussion!

SOW – Statement of Work. If your organization decides to hire a consultant to help in developing your Emergency Plan, you’ll likely ask for, or actually provide yourself as part of the consulting contract, a statement of work that outlines exactly what is to be done by the contractor.

Action Item: This is a list that can easily be shared with co-workers or with your boss. It will give everyone a sense of confidence in dealing with Emergency Preparedness, particularly if it is a new subject.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team