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Winter Weather Preparedness Tips (Webinar Recap)

By Jordan DeSantis | Thursday, January 28th, 2016

The winter season has officially greeted the East Coast with the first major storm of 2016, Storm Jonas. Jonas produced historic amounts of snow in many East Coast states setting records for all-time heaviest snowstorm at two prominent New York airports, JFK (30.5 inches) and LaGuardia (27.9inches). With these unprecedented levels of snow, New York City was forced to halt public transportation and implemented a mandatory restriction on private transportation as well. Jonas proved to be kind in the fact that the majority of the impact fell on the weekend but many firms can recall more disruptive storms occurring during regular business hours leaving many employees feeling stranded. To alleviate the stress incurred during winter storms, we sat down with our own Business Continuity Analyst, Matt Donahue, who creates, writes, and audits hedge fund’s business continuity plans. Matt spoke with us about different BCP scenarios and provided tips to keep your firm operational during the worst of storms.

Rather watch a video? Scroll down or click here to see Matt’s 15-min Q&A on winter weather prep.

Considerations for Winter Weather Scenarios

  • Communicate – It is important to let your employees know as soon as possible that they will no longer be able to get to work. Providing a brief statement outlining the situation coupled with a statement such as, “wait for further instructions”, will provide your employees with a sense of direction.

  • Technology – Technology has facilitated the ability for an employee to work remotely during a storm, but there are still some considerations to think through. For example, what exactly will your employees need to fulfill their functions remotely and are they trained to do so? One must also consider licensing, infrastructure, security, and employee comfort as working from home will be a change for them. Always keep in mind your business needs and essential functions. As far as specific remote access technologies, Matt recommends Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Citrix or Outlook Web Access (OWA), depending on a user’s specific needs.

  • Hunker Down –During severe storms employee safety should be at the top of the priority list. Therefore, if the storm seems to be impassable it is best to allow employees to work remotely. If essential functions are unable to meet their workload demands from home, then temporary office space with redundant power is always an option.

Key Elements of a Sound Communication Plan

Communication is critical during a winter disaster. Here are a few keys to communication your firm should keep in mind:

  • The BCP plan should be known ahead of time - this will reduce confusion if a storm were to impact your firm

  • Communicate early and throughout

  • Schedule regular communication to employees, clients, etc.

  • If email is down, an old-fashioned call tree will help to circulate information

Hallmarks of BCP Communication

Account for All Employees – Make sure all employees are safe. Keep track of emergency contact information and if any employee needs special assistance.

  • Set Workload Expectations – As an employee, a storm can be disruptive to their normal work day. Providing them with guidance will aide in continued productivity from home.

  • Updates – As a consistent theme throughout BCP, communication is key, and continued updates will keep the employee centered on their work and allow them to respond to changes quickly such as the reopening of the office building.

  • Redundancy and Modes of Communication – It always good to have a redundancy plan to reduce the likelihood of information from falling through the cracks

Single Greatest Advice

What is Matt’s greatest piece of advice for investment firms during a BCP situation? Take it seriously. It is always important to review your business continuity plan and make sure employees are aware of their roles if an issue were to occur. Matt recommends testing your BCP plans at least twice a year, maybe even once a quarter. These tests do not need to be elaborate, for example, a work from home day or a call tree run through might suffice. This will help to keep the BCP fresh in an employee’s mind.



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