The Edmond Sun

Business

May 16, 2014

Exec offers business owners disaster prep advice

EDMOND — Many Edmond businesses have plans for responding to a variety of disasters — does yours?

Earlier this week, members of the local business community gathered for an Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce presentation titled “Disaster Preparedness: What’s Your Plan?”

Jan Davis, assistant vice president and manager of the Tinker Federal Credit Union branch in Moore, shared some lessons learned during her company’s experiences following the May 20, 2013, tornado. After it struck, the branch announced its promise to rebuild even as workers were scouring through the rubble and remains.

Davis said before that day TFCU had a periodically updated disaster plan that involves information technology, facilities and communications. After the tornado struck the safe deposit box vault, which sheltered 14 employees including Davis and eight members, was the only thing left standing at the TFCU Moore branch.

“Moore credit union employees took many opportunities to practice going into the vault,” Davis said, noting that some had been in it plenty and some had not been through a practice run.

That same day, TFCU was able to begin communicating to members of the Moore branch. The vault was put under around-the-clock security and it continued to be guarded as TFCU worked to give members access to their safe deposit boxes.

TFCU also communicated to its members that they have several other branches in the vicinity where they can continue to conduct their personal financial business. The Moore Credit Union Service Center opened in a shopping center. Member data was stored off site, not in the Moore branch.

TFCU offered victims disaster relief loans and encouraged members to switch from mailed paper statements to e-statements and notices, a step that could help protect their personal information during an already difficult time.

Davis said TFCU’s learned/actions taken included:

• A need to enhance communication methods to locations during disasters;

• Improved ventilation in vaults/safe rooms and implemented battery back up;

• Improved emergency lighting in vaults/safe rooms, which have battery back up;

• A need for private armed security on site faster;

• Improved its ability to hold closed all vault doors from the inside;

• The Moore branch had emergency supplies, which are required of all vaults/safe rooms;

• Emergency supplies need to be part of the regular security audit to ensure required items are being stored in the correct amounts and location;

• TFCU acquired an “on-call” system vendor for response and recovery;

• All safe rooms have a roster;

• TFCU prepared staff to deal with stressful situations;

• TFCU conducts good weather drills; and

• TFCU will close and lock doors earlier if there is a future disaster.

Davis said proposed improvements discussed by TFCU include:

• Enhancing on-site communications during a disaster through emergency two-way radios and having an emergency channel for cell phones;

• Part of the proposed “on-call” disaster response contract will be speed of response by site security; and

• Tornadoes also threatened other TFCU locations including its corporate office at 4140 W. Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City. Several locations without large vaults will get storm shelters this year. They include the corporate office. A new tornado proof main data center will be built this year to match the company’s Tulsa back up data center.

Davis was joined by Matt Stillwell, who manages emergency operations and communications for the City of Edmond, and Mike Magee, the city’s emergency management coordinator.

During a question-and-answer period, Stillwell said city personnel are working with members of the local business community about what to do if a Moore-type scenario happens here. Stillwell said current thinking is the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce would be a conduit for communicating from emergency management with business decision-makers.

Stillwell said business decision-makers in Edmond have to think about potential disasters including tornadoes, wildfires, severe winter weather and increasingly earthquakes.

Stillwell said TFCU is a large company, which has excellent data protection measures in place, something smaller businesses may find more challenging. Are businesses relying on data that is stored on location? Today, data can be stored online via Google, Stillwell said.

“This is something that you need to be thinking about ahead of time, something that you have to have documented, something that you not only plan but you practice,” Stillwell said.

Other issues raised included the potential decision on whether to send employees home or to shelter in place. Magee said alerts issued by the National Weather Service a day or two in advance give decision-makers time. If a tornado is, for example, 22 minutes away, it might be best to shelter in place, Magee said.

Stillwell said planning is crucial because during an emergency relevant city personnel like himself aren’t going to have time to tell them what to do.

“The time is now,” Stillwell said.

Another issue discussed was the importance of having a storm shelter registered with the City of Edmond, which can be accomplished at edmondok.com, the city’s website. If a vault is also used as a safe room, for example, it can be registered as well. The program gives first responders critical information about where a shelter is located.

Dave Williams, a business continuity consultant with Oklahoma Small Business Development Centers, said his organization has a three-step process for helping owners develop a preparedness plan. For more information, call Davis at 580-745-2738 or visit oksbdc.org.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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