In Utah, Businesses Still Not Ready with Continuity Plans for Disasters

Utah Emergency Services and Homeland Security coordinator concerend over lack of continuity planning

Identifying and prioritizing risks, developing a preparation and recovery plan, and testing the plan frequently are the keys to successful disaster mitigation in the workplace, said Sherry Vasa, executive director of human resources for Autoliv Inc. in Utah.

"This can be an overwhelming task," she said. "You have to work through it one thing at a time, and eventually it will come together."

Ron Dittemore, president of ATK Launch Systems in Box Elder County and a former space shuttle flight director for NASA, said the same concepts used to prepare for space flight missions can be loosely applied to any company wanting to develop a better contingency plan.

Shuttle flight controllers practice flight simulations over and over, increasing the number of system failures each time until they can handle dozens of failures in a 10-minute period, he said.

"You get used to so many stimuli that when a real problem comes, it's like a walk in the park," Dittemore said. "Preparation and training are absolutely essential for us to be able to react under stressful conditions."

Dave Hardman, president of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce, said he saw preparation come in handy on several occasions in a previous job as manager of area ZCMI department stores.

He cited one occasion when a live bomb was found on ZCMI property on a busy Saturday. It was the second time a bomb had been found on the property, but in both cases, the bombs were found and diffused before they could explode.

"Due to preparation, planning and practice, our security system worked," he said. The flagship ZCMI store in downtown Salt Lake City narrowly escaped the August 1999 tornado, which caused about $150 million in property damage downtown.

The effort to increase awareness and implementation of continuity plans is still young, but growing, said Ron Ball, Ogden risk manager. Incorporating businesses in disaster preparation and recovery is a critical aspect of a wider community plan, he said.

"We need agreements with grocery stores, clothing stores, transportation companies and others," Ball said. "There's no way any government agency has the resources on its own to deal with a major disaster -- we need the support of the business community."

[Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT) (KRT) -- 05/01/06]