Last week in Moncton, New Brunswick, a 24-year-old gunman went on a rampage shooting five RCMP officers, killing three of them and severely injuring the other two.
The incident began at 7:20pm and the ensuing manhunt carried on for 28 hours until he was captured. As chronicled on Wikipedia: “Up to 300 police personnel were involved in the search. Pedestrians and motorists were asked to stay away from the area of the search; public transit was suspended; and schools, government offices, stores, and businesses were closed. Residents were later instructed to lock their doors, leave their exterior lights on, and refrain from broadcasting police movements on social media sites.” It was a massive disruption to the city of 70,000 people.
We witnessed this same sort of thing just over a year ago when Bostonians were instructed to shelter-in-place during the dramatic manhunt pursuing the Boston Marathon bombers. The city was paralyzed.
These events are tragic, of course, in the death and destruction they inflict. They are also terrible in how they take can take hostage whole populations – both with fear and with inactivity. Offices shut down, stores can’t open, schools don’t teach, hospitals and clinics can’t properly tend patients, and the list goes on. The business continuity costs are high.
As we noticed in the “2013 Calgary Flood and State of Emergency” study Ipsos conducted last fall, many organizations do not include adequate measures in their Emergency Response Plans (if they have one at all; 20% did not). Only 44% of downtown organizations with over 100 people included emergency communications plans in their ERPs. Only 22% factored in severe weather. Only 13% planned for bomb threats. And only 11% considered business continuity.
Just 19% could reach their people. Perhaps they didn’t have staff directories, or their contact lists weren’t updated, or the list’s gatekeeper was unreachable, or the server or file cabinet was inaccessible. It’s often overlooked that even companies and organizations that congregate daily are indeed dispersed workforces – when they go home each day, when they’re off-site or off-duty, or when there’s a shelter-in-place shutdown.
A practical lesson to take from these awful manmade and natural disasters is to plan for the worst by, at the very least, having some reliable way to efficiently communicate with your people at any time.