Hurricanes and extreme weather events have caused massive destruction over the past few years.
From 2019 to 2021, there have been 56 weather and climate disasters in the U.S. with at least $1 billion in losses. In 2020, a record 30 named storms caused $60 billion to $65 billion in total damage. In 2021, 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters led to $145 billion in damages, making it the third-costliest year on record.
Forecasters don’t envision the 2022 season will be as devastating, but they expect it to be active. According to AccuWeather predictions, there will be between 16 and 20 named storms this year. Of those storms, six to eight are projected to be hurricanes, with three to five expected to be major hurricanes. AccuWeather also predicts that four to six storms will directly impact the U.S.
The UK has its own climate disasters to contend with as well. In February 2022, Storm Eunice struck with a record 122 mph winds, cancelling flights, closing schools and leaving roughly 200,000 homes without power. Just days later, Storm Franklin pummeled the UK with high winds, heavy rain and widespread flooding.
Given the significant activity over the past few years, you shouldn’t wait to get your hurricane plan in place – especially if you’re under the impression that “saving two of everything” will get you safety through the storm (just a little Noah’s ark humor).
If your business sits in any hurricane-prone area, here’s how to prepare for a hurricane, including what you should have or do before it arrives, during the storm and after it passes.
Before the hurricane or storm
Businesses that take the right precautions are better positioned to effectively recover following a hurricane. Whether hurricane season is six months out or two months out, these steps are imperative.
1. Update your DR plan to be activation ready
First, ensure your disaster recovery (DR) plan is updated, regularly tested and ready to execute.
This plan should identify your most mission-critical and business-critical applications – i.e., what your organization can’t function without – as well as how much data and downtime you can afford. Prioritize these apps based on business needs (using tiers) and set appropriate recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs). Map the application interdependencies so you know what assets they rely on and what assets rely on them.
Remember, your DR plan is not set in stone; it’s an ever-evolving strategy. As your production environment changes and new priorities or dependencies are added, adjust your recovery plan to align with the changes.
2. Protect your critical data
A data replication solution can keep your most critical data safe. But make sure you your data backups are geographically dispersed.
If they’re in the same building – or even the same city or state – as your primary data, there is a high likelihood that your backup data will also be affected during a storm.
It’s best to keep your recovery location at least 200 miles from your primary data. That way, if a hurricane hits, your backups aren’t vulnerable.
3. Mobilized workforce
These precautions won’t matter unless your employees are prepared to act.
Know who is responsible for getting your systems back up and running if there’s an outage. Make sure your employees understand their roles and responsibilities and that you can maintain constant communication throughout.
Test various disaster scenarios ahead of time so your users can build muscle memory for when a real storm hits. Additionally, consider concentration risk. Your risk is higher if all your employees that perform the same task are in the same place. Think about spreading them out geographically to ensure someone is always available.
You should also be ready if some of your employees aren’t available in the aftermath of the storm. A managed recovery service can alleviate this pressure by taking control of your recovery efforts.
During the hurricane or storm
Most of the time, you have a few days of warning before the hurricane or storm hits. That should give you the chance to make sure all your pre-storm action items are in place. There are, of course, a few things you can do during the event itself.
1. Don’t be a hero
Your employees’ safety is your most important responsibility. So, don’t be a hero.
Follow and obey all the guidelines from authorities. Evacuate your employees if necessary. Take every precaution to ensure your workers are safe.
2. Activate your DR plan if needed
Your employees are secure. Your critical data is properly protected. Now you should prepare to execute your DR plan.
If you must declare a disaster and activate business continuity (BC) and DR processes, do so quickly. Any hesitation could lead to greater downtime and data loss.
After the hurricane or storm
Don’t assume that it’s safe to go back to your facilities after the storm passes. Make sure you continue to listen to the authorities before returning to the premises.
Once you can get back on site:
1. Assess the damage
Determine that your buildings are structurally sound and it’s safe to turn on the power.
2. Make the call on workplace recovery
If you face widespread power outages or your facilities are unavailable, you can always activate a workplace recovery site. That way, your workers have both power and access to your systems and applications.
3. Fail back
After your production systems are back up and running, you can look to fail back and continue operations in your regular environment.
4. Reevaluate your recovery plans to see what worked and what didn’t
Some key questions to ask yourself include:
- Did your application priorities line up with your main needs?
- Was your data protection strategy successful?
- Did you test your DR plan enough?
- What communication issues did you encounter, and how can you fix them?
Preparation is key
Experts can predict the severity of a hurricane or storm all they want, but limiting the damage and disruption is in your hands. So, don’t wait.
The more prepared your organization is, the better chance it has at weathering the storm and successfully recovering after it passes.