Learnings from Super Storm Sandy

Crisis management before the storm is key!

When Sandy was still a tropical storm, and not yet a hurricane, one crisis management team working in NYC began implementing their plan. This included:

  • Documenting and testing BC Plans and strategies
  • Closing offices ahead of time
  • Pre-positioning key staff

As the storm traveled up the east coast and through the Jersey shore, lower Manhattan stocked up on food and supplies, battened down the hatches and prepared for the worst. At the height of Superstorm Sandy, the home office was damaged and 1500 employees were displaced.

  • A loss of all utilities & security systems
  • Underground parking garages were completely underwater
  • Up to 4’ of water in the main lobby of the building with complete flooding of lower levels
  • Core infrastructure in lower levels damaged
  • Unclear duration of outage due to lack of clear communications with building management

Disaster Recovery begins

When the storm cleared and the water finally subsided, all staff members were accounted for through an Emergency Notification System. The disaster recovery process began. With the massive collateral damage to their building, local community, and regionally, the CM team was overwhelmed managing equipment requests, issuing all crisis communications, coordinating alternate work spaces along with lodging and transportation of staff members. Their current plans assumed 6 – 8 weeks for recovery, however, the harsh reality from the hurricane’s damage meant that they would instead be displaced for an entire year.

The Business Continuity consulting cavalry arrives

The team needed guidance to recovery and maintain operations. Virtual Corporation business continuity and disaster recovery consulting services stepped in. With an extended recovery process on the horizon, a crisis command center needed to be put in place.
This newly created command center would serve as the centralized hub for receiving & processing the request and ensure that key tasks & objectives would be managed in a unified and effective manner. Once the center was staffed and organized along with ICS best practices, the executive liaison and crisis commander could focus on the bigger picture and get back to their daily objectives.

By using a formal crisis command center, the crisis team was able to eliminate the single-points of failure, reduced team members from “burning out,” effectively accounted for staff members, improved timelines of status reports, easily communicated priorities to/from executives, and easily managed lodging & staff transportation.

Lessons learned:

  • A properly structured Command Center is essential
  • Proper tools MUST be available to enable comprehensive situational awareness
  • Facilitates proper threat assessment and intelligence gathering
  • Serves as a centralized point of communication and situational awareness
  • Provides back-up to our Security Operations Center
  • Affords immediate linkage to the ICS model for BC/DR testing

Not having a pre-established Command Center can significantly delay or impair crisis communications, coordination, leadership, recovery, and physical security. If you have questions or want to learn more about crisis management & disaster recovery tools or Virtual Corporation, feel free to contact us today.

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