Superstorm Sandy: A Resilience Round Up

By Dominic Cockram

Last month, Superstorm Sandy wreaked devastation across the Caribbean and America’s north-east. When an event as mighty and tragic as this occurs, it often takes a while for the dust to settle and for stories of courage and continuity to emerge.

By far the best overview of Sandy’s impact that we’ve found is this summary from the New York Times with interactive maps and images of the damage caused: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/newsgraphics/2012/1029-hurricane-updates/ipad.html

Below, we highlight the key messages, most important lessons and the best articles on emergency preparedness, crisis communication and business continuity that emerged in Sandy’s wake.

#Sandy: the Social Media Storm

The role of social media in emergency response following Sandy was huge. As phone lines and power went out, social networks via mobiles became the method of communication – for officials to put out advice, for the gathering of information about where and what impact the storm was having, for relief efforts gathering support and identifying beneficiaries – the list goes on.

The reaction to the storm on Twitter also prompted questions over the role of social media in spreading rumours and misinformation – another key learning for crisis communications.

Our Top Three Recommendations:

  1. How the Red Cross, businesses and grassroots recovery efforts took advantage of social media: http://www.fastcompany.com/3002837/sandy-became-sandy-emergency-services-got-social
  2. What were people actually talking about on social media during the storm? http://www.journalism.org/index_report/hurricane_sandy_and_twitter
  3. Fact vs fiction and the spreading of rumours on Twitter: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/disruptions-twitters-faster-gantlet-of-truth/?smid=tw-share

Lessons in Leadership

The immediate emergency response has been widely praised, and Obama, Christie, Bloomberg and Cuomo’s leadership skills admired. As time wears on, some patience wears thin and the shine has come off some commentators’ analyses.

Our Top Three Recommendations:

  1. High praise of 3 different leadership styles: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/sandy-super-test-bloomberg-christie-cuomo-154158410.html
  2. Demonstrating the different requirements of leading a response vs a recovery through Mayor Bloomberg: http://gothamist.com/2012/11/16/frigid_mayor_bloomberg_called_out_f.php
  3. Lessons in crisis leadership from the government’s response to Sandy: http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/hurricane-sandy-crisis-management-lessons-business.html

A new watermark for Business Continuity?

If there was one single take-away from the storm, it was that business continuity and emergency preparedness is worth investing in. The worst can happen, and it does. There were many other lessons: from don’t put your back up generator in a flood-prone basement, to remember to prepare yourselves for the backlash if your business continuity plans DO work (!)

Our Top Three Recommendations:

  1. How prepared were businesses for Sandy? http://www.economist.com/news/business/21565975-hurricane-sandy-was-another-test-how-well-businesses-can-keep-going-when-disaster
  2. Interesting article implying that telecoms providers weren’t well enough prepared, with equally interesting comments below (mostly) defending the providers: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-15/why-cell-phones-went-dead-after-hurricane-sandy.html
  3. Why your crisis communications strategy should be tied into your business continuity plan: https://crisismanagementthinking.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/lights-on-goldman-sandy-business-continuity-causes-crisis-comms/

About Dominic Cockram

Founder and MD of Steelhenge. Pioneer of simulation exercises with over 20 years experience in business continuity and crisis management. Dominic is an experienced speaker determined to make the world a more resilient place.

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