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Wednesday
Aug132014

Ebola Virus - Major Issues Coming to Light on Containment

Source: CDC Ebola Virus

While I took some downtime for my birthday major things were going on in the world that I missed. One of these events surrounds some major developments regarding the containment of Ebloa or the lack there of.

Though current reports still suggest that the current Ebola Virus is not airborne, it is highly contagious requiring close contact to infected persons, bodies and other objects that have been contaminated with another infected persons bodily fluids.

With this being the case – the current Ebola Virus Epidemic IS spreading out of control and unchecked in parts of West Africa. The most significant development that came to light on August 11, 2014 is that WHO Confirms that patients in fact ARE being turned away from overflowing and taxed medical facilities.  

With this situation remaining unchecked, it will only be a matter of time before he virus spreads to other parts of Africa, the Mid-East, and potentially to Europe and the U.S.

More. Far more needs to be done as a global community to control the spread of infection.

Here is a brief excerpt from the WHO Report on Barriers to rapid containment of the Ebola Outbreak:

Lack of capacity makes infection control difficult

This lack of capacity makes standard containment measures, such as early detection and isolation of cases, contact tracing and monitoring, and rigorous procedures for infection control, difficult to implement. Though no vaccine and no proven curative treatment exist, implementation of these measures has successfully brought previous Ebola outbreaks under control.

The recent surge in the number of cases has stretched all capacities to the breaking point. Supplies of personal protective equipment and disinfectants are inadequate. The outbreak continues to outstrip diagnostic capacity, delaying the confirmation or exclusion of cases and impeding contact tracing.

Diagnostic capacity is especially important as the early symptoms of Ebola virus disease mimic those of many other diseases commonly seen in this region, including malaria, typhoid fever, and Lassa fever.

Some treatment facilities are overflowing; all beds are occupied and patients are being turned away. Many facilities lack reliable supplies of electricity and running water. Aid organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), which has provided the mainstay of clinical care, are exhausted.

If controls are not put in place soon (and it may be to late already) - the potential for a global crisis increases rapidly.

Saturday
Aug092014

Ebola Virus - Why Has It Spread So Far, So Fast? 

Source: CDC - Ebola Virus

The Ebola outbreak in the West African Countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone has so far caused Suspected Case Deaths: 961, with Suspected and Confirmed Case Count: 1779 as of this writing.

The spread of the virus has grown "out of control" and this state will likely remain this way for the next few weeks. Global Government agencies such as the CDC and NGO's alike are responding to stem the spread of the ebola virus. Though, several agencies are reporting that the current ebola virus is spreading beyond current efforts to contain it.

Why is it spreading so far so fast?

Part of the reason why ebola virus has spread so far so quickly has more to do with the cultural customs and beliefs in the areas where the ebola virus has occurred.

  • First, is the distrust of western doctors and medicine. This is not so in every instance, but does play at least some role. 
  • Another, as with the American citizen that travelled to Nigeria, after he became infected after his wife died of the disease, is a complete denial that they are infected. With an incubation period lasting as long as 21 days, some people are in denial they have become infected.
  • Another reason is the mishandling of the dead. As with many other places in the world, people have customs and rituals dealing with the treatment of the dead. In this case, some family members clean the body for burial without the use of proper protective clothing. If I am not mistaken, it is also proper practice to burn everything, including the dead that are infected with ebola.
  • Lastly, and perhaps the biggest contributing factor is having infected people "break" quarantine efforts. They either leave, or as in some cases have family members "break" them out of the facility.

Granted, these are not the ONLY factors in why the ebola virus is spreading, but do present unique challenges to stem the spread of the disease further.

As you probably know by now, this is the worst Ebola virus outbreak in history, and is also the first outbreak to occur in West Africa. This may also be considered another potential contributing factor in that the ebola virus had not directly occurred in this region of Africa in the past.

I recently wrote another article about Ebola Virus Facts and Information on my corporate blog. It is an excellent resource to share and includes information from the CDC, and WHO.

Since then the CDC has also shared an Ebola Virus Infographic that is good to have a look at.

 

Saturday
Jul122014

Where are the Safest States to Live In 2014?

WalletHub

According to the study, Massachusetts is the safest State to live and New Hampshire comes in at number two. Overall the entire North-East of the United States is pretty safe overall based on this study.

The study used the following safety factors to determine the relative overall safety of each state. Financial Safety of the State, Driving Safety Rank, Workplace safety, Natural Disaster Rank, and finally, Home and Community Safety. These factors then provide an overall rating of each State giving us the safest and least safest States to live in based on the study.

To see more on this study see 2014's Safest States to Live.

Monday
Mar312014

Risk Assessment or Business Impact Analysis, Which Comes First?

This is a topic of great debate, and is the chicken or the egg question for contingency planners everywhere. Recently, I was asked to share an infographic that placed the Business Impact Analysis before the Risk Assessment.  While there is nothing wrong with the graphic, and you can see it, Disaster Recovery infographic by Singlehop I am in some disagreement with the placement.

Interestingly enough, I just had a conversation with a colleague, whom I respect, and that works for another large company that provides business continuity and disaster recovery services, on this very topic.

With the creation of the ISO 22301, which does not specifically address the order, but does mention BIA’s first, many businesses are now conducting the BIA first. Here is my personal and professional opinion on why this is both wrong, and a mistake.

Whenever I work with a business, and we are conducting an analysis on their risks and associated impacts, we always do the risk analysis/risk assessment first. I have a great many reasons for doing it in this way, but let me share just a snippet of why we do it this way.

First, let’s look at the Risk Assessment. The Risk Assessment looks at a given hazard.  It measures both, the potential likelihood of the hazard occurring, and the potential impact it may have on the business. This provides you with some system of measurement on how great the risk to your business the hazard will be.

I just want to mention here that there are many methods of scoring the actual measurement to achieve, or arrive at a final hazard score. For instance the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600 utilizes a method of scoring of High (H), Medium (M), Low (L) for probability of occurrence and the same H, M, L for impact. This provides a score, such as, ML which would be equal to Medium probability of Occurrence with a Low impact.

I use a slightly modified version of the NFPA 1600 model that I developed over the years, but it is generally the same idea. Once we look at all the potential known hazards we take the top 10, top 5, and top 3 hazards respectively to know which hazards are the biggest known threats to the business.  

This process allows us to have a high-level overview of what the greatest risks are to the business, and what the potential impact will be.

Once we arrive here, it is time to take a deep dive into the impact the top threats will have on your business. It also provides us a potential outline of events that are likely to cause major disruptions to the business. This provides us with a scenario to use for context during the Business Impact Analysis.

During the deep dive into the Business Impact Analysis you will look at each individual process, individuals and applications that support each process, the interdependencies between departments and each process has upon each other, the financial impact to the business if this process is disrupted, additional financial impact of fines, penalties, SLA’s, and contractual agreements. Does this process need to be recovered immediately? Can it wait? Should it be on hold indefinitely until operations return to normal? What is the recovery costs associated with each process?

The Business Impact Analysis gets into such fine details of each business process and business unit that it can itself become a disruption. This is why they are done only every couple of years. Usually two years being the norm, but some companies may do them only every five years.

The Risk Assessment, being such a high-level overview can be done monthly, quarterly, or even yearly, with little to no disruption to the businesses normal operations. It also provides an excellent way of tracking emerging and future threats to the business.  

I hope with this you can see where I am coming from, and why a risk assessment should be done both first, and more frequently. Also, as a big proponent of the NFPA 1600 standard, if you have the book, Implementing NFPA 1600 National Preparedness Standard, turning to page 12, and page 19 respectively provides an ordered list where the Risk Assessment comes before the Business Impact Analysis.

The NFPA 1600 Section number 5.3 on Risk Assessments also provides an ordered list of steps that includes identifying hazards, Assess the vulnerability, Analyze the potential impact, and then lastly to conduct a Business Impact Analysis to determine business continuity and recovery strategies.  

I am a big believer in knowing your risks and conducting risk assessments on a regular basis. Performing a BIA with just an overal organizational risk or operational risk falls short of a complete and proper risk assessment.

Also, risk assessments should be tied into your enerprise risk management if you have one and should have controls established for reductions or prevention of risks when possible.

Tuesday
Jul092013

FREE App - The Cost of Downtime Calculator

Cost of Downtime Calculator

It is often difficult to know the true economic impacts to a business from disruptions. Be it a large scale regional disaster. Or a small outage that can occur from applications errors, server downtime, or even a power outage.

Now, I have developed the ultimate Cost of Downtime Calculator. You can visit the Cost of Downtime Calculator page directly on Continuity Company to learn more about the capabilities. We also have an option if you want to add in customized and more accurate calculations directly attributed to your business.

The Cost of Downtime Calculator has options for recovery costs, fines and penalties, contractor costs, employee salaries, and several other options. The App includes an internal help page directing you on how to use it, if needed.

I am very proud of the results that the Cost of Downtime Calculator produces. I am sure you will find it quite accurate for your needs as well. You can also use the Cost of Downtime Calculator to calculate what your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) will cost. You could easily use the app to adjust your RTO and discover the Cost/Benefits of your RTO. Maybe it needs to be shorter, or maybe you can afford to slightly extend the RTO. You can now easily calculate your Maximum Allowable Downtime.

The Cost of Downtime Calculator is FREE to download and use. It is Ad supported and the ads can be turned off for $1.99. The initial app is capable of handling nearly all small businesses and most mid-sized organizations. If you need additional functionality you can purchase an upgrade for $9.99 that should cover all your needs.

My team is currently working on an enhanced functionality update that will be available in 2-3 months after we conduct some additional testing.

We are also working on an additional upgrade for enterprise systems that will allow for more detailed calculations. The future enterprise version will also include a minimum and maximum potential losses.

Below is a screen shot from the Cost of Downtime Calculator App. I hope that you like it and will try it out. Remember it is FREE to download.