You’ve been given the responsibility for business continuity in your organization in the event of an emergency. You don’t yet have a mature plan in place and this is an add-on to your actual job. Sound familiar? We asked three emergency management specialists from top healthcare systems in the U.S., all StormGeo clients, to share their insights on emergency management and business continuity.
Right off the bat, all three specialists agreed that getting senior leaders on board with emergency planning should be the top priority, followed by developing relationships both within and outside your organization.
James Mitchell, MD, Director of Organizational Resilience for Texas Children’s Hospital, which at 492,000-square-foot is one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the country, says it’s vital to talk to senior leaders about the risks your organization may face and how emergency management and business continuity can help mitigate those risks.
“It’s a challenge to make a case for a business continuity program, especially when your senior leaders say, ‘We have emergency management. We don’t need business continuity.’ It’s your job to articulate the difference between emergency management and business continuity.”
But what is the difference between emergency management and business continuity?
According to FEMA, emergency management is the managerial function charged with creating the framework within which organizations reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters. Business continuity, meanwhile, is an organization’s ability to ensure operations and core business functions are not severely impacted by a disaster or unplanned incident that take critical systems offline.
As part of these two processes, Mitchell says, “It’s important to show the return on investment gained by getting operations back up more quickly because you did the pre-planning.
“You also need to understand in what order things need to be brought back up—first, by understanding the business drivers behind which parts of your business need to come back online first with the limited resources you have available.”
Mitchell says this all can be “a hard battle to fight because you’re not generating immediate revenue for the organization.”
Scott Cormier, Medxcel VP, Emergency Management, Environment of Care and Safety, argues that emergency management is generating revenue, however.
“When you can keep your facility open and functioning during a disaster, you not only serve your community in their greatest time of need, but also continue, in our [hospitals’] case, to see patients. Then you are generating revenue.”
As a StormGeo client, Medxcel relies on our 24/7 meteorologists to assist their emergency management team before, during and after extreme weather events. “We have countless examples of a water main breaking in a town and the two local hospitals closing,” says Cormier. “But we stay open with full service. Sometimes we lose our power substations and have to bring in 12 generators for two-and-a-half months, but we stay open, supporting our community and generating revenue.
“That’s the conversation we try to have with our executives: ‘I’m going to keep you open and fully functional.’ Also, when those other hospitals or businesses in the region are closing, we can tell the community, ‘You can come to us and trust us.’ That’s going to build a better relationship.”
David Hughes, HCA Healthcare AVP, Enterprise Risk Management and Business Continuity Planning, says he is fortunate in that all the CEOs he’s worked under in 19 years at HCA see the value in a business continuity plan.
“Good support from the leadership of our organization is one of the key factors that enable us to keep our business running in times of emergency. They know the plan is there to protect our staff and patients and to support the community, not just to keep the cash flowing.”
Hughes continues, “During Hurricane Michael, part of the roof of one our hospitals blew off, but we kept our emergency room open because it was the only emergency service available in the area, as all the other hospitals had closed. We had an emergency room and a helipad so that anyone who needed additional care was flown to another hospital.
“That generated a lot of goodwill among the community, something that is valuable in building trust and good relationships in the long-term.”
Hughes, Mitchell and Cormier all agree that seeking support from people outside your organization is vital. As Cormier says, “I think it’s important to develop as many relationships as you can in this business. I spend all my free time traveling all over the country meeting people, talking to other emergency managers and business continuity professionals.”
This, he says, creates valuable resources for when you have questions, want to share best practices or need to collaborate during a disaster. “That’s the key to getting through a disaster. Even if this is a part-time job for you, those relationships get you to a better place in your role.”
Read more about the importance of developing the right relationships and building networks before an emergency strikes in the second part of our business continuity series, Choosing the Right Partners for Emergency Management.
Business Continuity Part 2: When it comes to a severe weather event, no organization can go it alone. External parties are crucial in helping you through a crisis—whether they provide food, shelter, transport or, in the case of StormGeo, actionable weather insight.