This week part of TEAM Shergroup have been grappling with the reality of a major Storm Surge, hurricane crossing the Atlantic and hitting Central Florida. This is the reality when you grow a business in different territories, which Shergroup has done in the last 8 years. Geographically, Florida sits next to the Atlantic in an area known as “Hurricane Alley”. As such hurricanes are not a distant threat, they are an annual reality which must be dealt with by Operations and factored in to day to day business continuity.
So, what does that mean in practical terms? Our CEO has been living on and off in hurricane weather for the last 20 years and sat through some of the worst. Hurricane IRMA went right over her family’s house, which also cut the power and left two grown up children without wi-fi for two whole days! The process of preparing for a big storm coming in is particularly acute when one of your major clients is a hospital. Unless the facility is evacuated, then the patients must remain in situ and security operations continue. During IRMA, Shergroup transported officers to site and our client hospital provided accommodation so that officers could stay on site. Officers could not return home due to the curfew imposed to keep people off the streets.
Planning to maintain operations whilst keeping a “weather eye” (excuse the pun) on the storm is all part of emergency planning. Businesses want to keep their facilities open for as long as they can, as obviously shutting for a hurricane, hits their pocket. Therefore it is important to create business continuity plan that incorporates all recovery strategies, disaster recovery plan, business continuity strategy is essential. So, the best advice our CEO, Claire Sandbrook, can offer is to watch the weather forecasting with a particular eye on the satellite images which are tracking the path of a hurricane. She has noticed that whilst some hurricanes do hit – and of course Florida has been severely hit by ANDREW (1992), IRMA (2017) and MICHAEL (2018), plans have to remain fluid as hurricanes can lose speed or move north into the Atlantic without making landfall.
Hurricane DORIAN has made headlines for most of this week, but whilst it has ravaged the Bahamas, Florida has escaped its wrath. What this means is that the emergency planning that was done, was necessary, but eventually not needed. So be it. Planning is about preparedness, and if not needed today it will be needed in the future. Such is the nature of the weather system surrounding the south eastern United States.
When dealing with personnel, the logistics of getting to and from site, before a curfew is imposed, and when gas stations are closed, has to be factored in to the emergency plan. Once at site, the logistics of where officers are going to be posted is another factor. Even if an officer can get to site, the fact is he or she may not be able to leave site if the weather turns. What we can say is that the weather forecasting of the path of a hurricane is reliable and as it comes closer to the shore line, its path can be tracked to evaluate its impact.
When dealing with IT, Shergroup has moved all its operating systems to the cloud so there are no issues with disaster recovery of servers or backups. When hurricanes hit, power can fluctuate, or go offline completely so our overall cloud-based IT strategy has served us well as part of our emergency planning. A recent report appearing in Security Magazine, suggests that hardware-based data backup systems, were preferred by 48% of respondents, with cloud-based systems “trailing” at 27%. Our view of this, is that cloud-based systems, are not so much trailing, but in fact are gaining ground as confidence in their stability increases. We believe the cloud-based approach will continue to grow principally because they can remain online regardless of local and state-wide weather conditions. Power to generate devices can of course come from a generator, batteries, or a charging device working off solar power (although this is not a wholly reliable source in hurricane/tropical storm weather!)
All in all, as a TEAM we manage the risk of hurricanes with our British attitude of “Keep Calm and Carry On” and an emergency plan. Our Operations Team have provided a sterling service this week showing their preparedness, but without losing their cool. DORIAN has passed. We are ready for the next big storm!