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Winter Storm Harper took its toll on large parts of the Midwest and Northeast, causing several deaths, hundreds of car accidents, and power outages that affected tens of thousands, according to the Weather Channel.

Extreme weather—from blizzards to hurricanes to wildfires—wreaks havoc on businesses in every region of the country, with damage having a lasting effect. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Security, 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a severe weather event. This is in part due to a failure to have an actionable plan in place. As we discussed in Step up your disaster preparedness, don’t wait for the news report, organizations can get tripped up when there’s confusion over who should act and what those actions should be during a weather crisis. Without clear plans, practice, and timely alerts, critical resources may fail to execute.

Origami’s cloud-based RMIS continues to make weather preparedness a priority. With our new proximity search feature, audit functionality, and flexible data integration, you’ll be able to quickly identify major weather risks and effectively communicate how key parties can take action.

Identify at-risk locations with integrated weather feeds and proximity searching

Origami Risk’s flexible platform integrates with a number of sources to feed weather alerts directly to your system. Local and federal agencies can provide critical data for preparedness. The Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC), for example, models “the impacts of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and coastal storm surge in your jurisdiction.” In addition, you can tap into the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), which monitors volcanoes, floods, cyclones, and more; the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake feed; the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC); the SkyTruth Environmental Alert feed; and the InciWeb U.S. Wildfire feed.

As discussed in Using RMIS technology to address unexpected challenges in natural disaster risk management, “integrating these alert feeds into trigger-based distribution risks shortens response times and ensures that those responsible for executing plans have the most timely data available.” Using feeds also eliminates the need to receive updates from inside affected areas, which can be challenging during a crisis.

If you’re unsure exactly which of your organization’s facilities—or client/supplier/distributor locations that have been previously entered into the system—could be affected by an impending major weather event, Origami Risk’s proximity search feature can help. Simply enter the zip code of the city or region predicted to be in the path, then enter a mile range to generate a list of locations that are potentially at risk. Origami Risk can then trigger real-time alerts to an associated distribution list to make sure everyone is fully prepared to act when the time comes.

Use audit technology to fine-tune communication, before and after an event

Long before meteorologists warn of severe weather, make sure your organization has a plan in place. (We discuss in detail how to assess your risk and create a management plan in Finding added value in your RMIS: Business continuity/disaster recovery.)

If you already have a plan, make sure it’s up-to-date so you don’t waste crucial time carrying out procedures that no longer apply or chasing down the wrong contacts. Conducting regular audits is the best way to evaluate the strength and feasibility of your plan. Audits will determine if:

  • it's easy to explain and follow
  • key parties know their role
  • all contact information is current

Origami Risk makes it easy to implement audits, monitor progress, and even automate alerts for corrective measures when results do not meet a particular standard.

After a major weather event, a RMIS offers continuity opportunities, as well. Amid potentially chaotic conditions, the same functionality used to collect risk assessments can help gather crucial information for the recovery process, “such as reopen dates, estimates related to inventory loss and physical damage, clean-up expenses, and potential payroll exposure.” This data can inform where resources are most needed and which parties must get to work first.

Employees in affected areas can upload photos to the Origami portal and add comments that will help provide clarity on next steps, too. Origami’s sketch technology allows for adding key annotations to images and diagrams, providing better data to decision makers, which yields more educated plans of action for recovery. In the event of a power outage, this technology is available on mobile devices.

Such was the case for Compass Group USA, whose risk management team collected business interruption and property damage details in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The storms displaced employees and rendered many facilities non-operational. By using Origami’s mobile forms, however, communication remained strong and the data kept rolling in, which ultimately made for a more coordinated recovery effort.

Major weather events and natural disasters can be unpredictable, putting employees in danger and threatening key businesses operations. But using the right RMIS can help prevent some of the worst outcomes by identifying locations likely to be impacted by severe weather before it hits and communicating to stakeholders the appropriate real-time and follow-up actions.

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