The Cost of Risk: Limiting the disaster of disaster

Transportation requires constant management, often 24 hours a day. Any number of calamities can challenge your ability to continue operating. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and floods are obvious examples, but even routine challenges, such as power outages, can disrupt your business and lead to unfortunate consequences. You need a plan to handle everything from temporary loss of power to the destruction of a facility.

Handling temporary disruptions
Although a tornado or earthquake may be among the more dangerous crises, the most common disruption likely will be power loss due to thunderstorms or temporary blackouts.

Even a brief loss of power can cause minor problems, especially with sensitive computer equipment. One way to minimize this risk is through uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems to keep power flowing to key electronics for a relatively short period of time. UPS systems range from devices that can protect desktop PCs and servers to systems that can supply emergency power to entire data centers. Major UPS suppliers include American Power Conversion (www.apcc.com) and Tripp Lite Power Protection (www.tripplite.com).

Sometimes power outages will outlast UPS systems. For longer-lasting support, a small trucking operation that has relatively small power needs might consider investing in a generator. Prices range from several hundred dollars for a generator that could power just a couple of electric devices to more than $10,000 for a unit that could supply power to an entire residence.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes to buy your generator. That’s when everyone else would be looking for one as well, potentially exhausting supplies. Don’t forget that generators require fuel and that a widespread disaster might disrupt the supply of gasoline. That might mean storing a supply; be careful to secure it from ignition hazards.

Preparing for the worst
What is your plan of action in the case of an extreme event, such as an earthquake, severe hurricane or terrorist attack? If you don’t have such a plan, you need one, says Marc Bradshaw, president of Santa Fe, N.M.-based security consulting firm Marcus Group Company, Ltd.

Bradshaw recommends formulating a business impact analysis. Start by determining potential risks. Any business is susceptible to fire, but catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes or floods might not be realistic for many companies. Different risks call for different mitigation.

Next, assume your current operating facilities are unavailable. Could you run your trucking operation from another location? If not, plan now for alternate arrangements. Consider another site in advance to where you could transfer your operation seamlessly. That’s one advantage of Web-based information systems. With an Internet connection and secure password, you can be back in business quickly.

Safeguard your paper records in a fireproof safe and archive crucial documents offsite. Back up electronic data and arrange for storage in an offsite commercial storage company such as Iron Mountain (www.ironmountain.com), Veritas (www.backupexec.com) and One Safe Place (www.onesafeplace.com).

Consider also your communications challenges, both internal and external. You need a method of notifying employees of a crisis and updating them. At smaller companies, this could be as simple as having someone call or leave messages for employees. Larger companies may consider company websites and automatic voice mail.

External communications may be required if the crisis is localized to your company and might require a media response. Plan ahead and designate the person who should represent the company.

Most of the steps in handling a shutdown of operations are common sense, but the time to think them through is now – not in the middle of a crisis.