Sometimes you need to take a break from the horror stories of floods and tornadoes and look at the positive side of business continuity. Organizations that survive disasters often come out more resilient than before—and complacency goes out the window like a lampshade in a hurricane.
Here are five organizations that made it through devastating events like Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 attacks.
Second only to Hurricane Katrina in terms of damage (over $68 billion in the U.S.), Hurricane Sandy caused floods and power outages on the eastern seaboard in October of 2012. During the storm, David Schnurman, founder of Lawline.com, was able to evacuate personnel and keep his online service up and running.
The cloud turned out to be Lawline.com’s saving grace.
Before the storm hit, Schnurman speedily transferred all his company’s data to the cloud as the servers and server hosts were located in Hurricane Sandy targets. He also equipped his staff with voice over IP so everyone could work from home, ensuring business continuity during and after Hurricane Sandy. As a result of this preparation and the capabilities of virtual technology, the Monday of the storm turned out to be one of the busiest and most productive business days ever for the company.
Financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald suffered incredibly in the 9/11 attacks, losing nearly two-thirds of its 960 employees working in the World Trade Center buildings. But instead of crumbling along with the skyscrapers, the firm’s remaining employees voted to reopen trading—just one week later. Cantor Fitzgerald’s global network of offices and the collective efforts of survivors drove the firm back to success against all odds.
Cantor Fitzgerald CEO and Chairman Howard Lutnick.
Cantor Fitzgerald’s CEO and Chairman Howard Lutnick steered the rebuilding of his company and also pledged 25% of the firm’s profits to the families of the victims for five years and health insurance for ten. Every year, the firm donates 100% of its revenue generated on September 11th to charities. By turning a tragic anniversary into a philanthropic opportunity, Cantor Fitzgerald has been able to share its post-9/11 comeback with others.
This medical services billing company nearly lost its entire New York-based office to a three-alarm fire—but CEO Bill Long claims MultiMed could have survived a complete loss and returned to work within a day or two, thanks to its disaster recovery plan.
Disaster recovery is woven into MultiMed’s daily practices. Employees scan all paperwork into a digital document management system, which is archived and backed up in-house and off-site. This focus on business continuity and secure recordkeeping is what allowed the company to recover quickly from the 2007 arson attack.
Once he knew his employees were safe, Long was able to focus on getting operations up and running. With no need for panic or last-minute decisions, the fire at MultiMed was more of a blip on the radar than a disaster.
Before 2007, Greensburg was best known for having the world’s largest hand-dug well. Today, it is considered a model of community resilience in the face of natural disaster.
In 2007, an F-5 tornado leveled 95% of the city in about two minutes (for the record, Greensburg covers 1.48 square miles).
Though the community mourned the loss of its familiar environment, it also made the most of the situation.
In the tornado’s aftermath, the city council determined to rebuild Greensburg as a “green” town, with power supplied by wind-turbines and residents committing to sustainable living practices. Greensburg’s economy continues to grow stronger and the population is slowly recovering, thanks to a collective vision and long-term recovery plan.
The new Arts Center proudly displays wind turbines and solar panels.
River Oaks Hospital
The story of River Oaks Hospital’s evacuation effort during Hurricane Katrina is nothing short of amazing. The psychiatric hospital relocated 73 patients (ranging widely in age and diagnosis) and 35 employees from New Orleans to a partner hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, without a single injury or fatality.
In an environment where every day can be highly unpredictable, how did the River Oaks staff orchestrate such a smooth evacuation? In what turned out to be fortunate circumstances, the hospital staged a similar evacuation when Hurricane Ivan threatened New Orleans the year before. This experience, along with the dedication of a highly organized CEO, proved to be the key to success.
Just 38 days after evacuation, the River Oaks Hospital was able to reopen its New Orleans location. Considering the long-term impact of by Hurricane Katrina, this is a remarkable recovery time.
I highly recommend reading the complete report, which is fascinating in its detail and sure to spark ideas and strategies for disaster preparedness and recovery.
Is your business prepared for disaster? Get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Business Continuity and start planning for your organization’s future today.