Preparing natural-disaster scenarios for BC/DR exercise planning

Look at the many disaster movies that have appeared in the past 10 years for inspiration in the area of scenario design. Recent events in the news, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, sinkholes and lightning strikes can also provide inspiration for the

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business continuity and disaster recovery scenarios you choose for your BC/DR exercise planning.

Be sure to carefully think through the sequence of events that the natural disasters may create in crafting your BC/DR program. For example, a hurricane can cause damage to physical property (e.g., buildings, bridges and shorelines), people (adults, children and the elderly) and infrastructure (e.g., power systems, communications, bridges and highways). You can create a scenario that results in multiple outcomes, some serious and others possibly fatal.

Plenty of research is available for developing natural disaster scenarios as part of your BC/DR exercise planning. FEMA, for example, has experience in a vast number of scenarios that can easily be adapted to your own exercises.

These BC/DR exercise planning scenarios focus on natural-disaster scenarios, such as tornadoes, volcanoes and hurricanes, that may be largely outside our control:

Scenario Description Importance
A sudden series of tornadoes destroys a key manufacturing plant and access roads to the facility. Recent waves of tornadoes in Oklahoma and the Midwest serve as a reminder that if your organization is in an area that periodically deals with tornadoes and other severe storms, you must plan your DR exercise with this scenario in mind. Many areas of this country face tornadoes regularly, and despite careful planning, destruction from tornadoes can be massive.
A major hurricane causes widespread damage to dozens of communities along the coast; outages extend from weeks into months. Because many organizations operate at or near U.S. coastlines, they are at risk of hurricane damage, especially during hurricane season -- June through November. Hurricane frequency and severity seem to be increasing; organizations near any U.S. coastline must factor hurricanes into BC/DR exercises.
Unexpected Richter scale 6.0 earthquake causes massive structural damage in a major metropolitan area. Many parts of the U.S. sit atop earthquake zones, and should add this situation to their list of scenarios for BC/DR exercises. While most well-known quakes occur on the West Coast, fault lines and other subterranean anomalies could cause quakes in many other parts of the country.
Severe ice storms cause disruptions in commercial power and communications infrastructures by heavy ice on overhead cables collapsing the cables. In these scenarios, ice sticks to overhead cables, and if weather conditions are right, over time the ice can accumulate, resulting in crushing weight. Since overhead cabling for electric power and communications is still in wide-scale use, loss of or damage to this critical infrastructure must be considered.
Heavy rains cause severe mudslides that destroy buildings and infrastructure. Businesses located near hillsides or other hilly areas may be victims of mudslides if sufficient rain falls and the ground gives way. Severe mudslides, like the kind that often occur on the U.S. West Coast, can quickly damage or destroy a business.
Severe flooding washes out a bridge, making it difficult for shipments of critical medical supplies to be delivered to a hospital. A key consideration in BC/DR exercise planning is the supply chain, and this often identifies transportation issues, such as potentially flooded roadways and damaged bridges. Government agencies estimate there are tens of thousands of bridges in the U.S. that need major repairs and structural reinforcements.


This was first published in June 2013

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