As it pounded the U.S. east coast, Hurricane Sandy tested many organizations in ways they have not been tested before, says Phelps, principal of EMS Solutions Inc.
All eyes are now on business continuity professionals, and they have the opportunity to shine as their organizations recover from the storm. "There's a lot that people can do in our field to be able to support leadership," Phelps says. The key, she says, is to demonstrate mastery of seven skills. Among them: situational awareness, communication and especially the ability to improvise. "Everybody has business continuity plans, but most people frankly have not thought about the worst-case scenario ... and they really haven't thought about 'well, what if it all doesn't work?'" Phelps says. That's when it's time to create a new plan. "Improvising is absolutely essential."
Other key skills include creativity, adaptability and especially decisiveness. "Once you've made some plans and decisions, you've got to act," Phelps says. "Sometimes people are waiting to know everything, and we're not going to know everything about Sandy until it's all over."
Decisive pros will make decisions with incomplete information, she says. "And if they decide they've made the wrong decision, then they're just going to have to make another one ... and just keep the organization moving forward. That's absolutely essential."
In an interview about recovery from Hurricane Sandy, Phelps discusses:
- Critical skills business continuity pros need to master to best help their organizations;
- The most important elements of organizations' response plans;
- Where organizations are most vulnerable to disaster.
Phelps is an internationally recognized expert in the field of emergency management and continuity planning. With more than 26 years of experience, she has provided consultation and educational speaking services to clients on four continents. She is founder of Emergency Management & Safety Solutions, a consulting company specializing in emergency management, continuity planning and safety.