The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. An average season sees 12 tropical storms and six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes, but as more and more people flock to the coasts to live and work, each year the number of people who are affected during the season rises dramatically. As we saw in Hurricane Sandy last year, even after the storm passes, residents can be stranded without supplies for weeks.
Forecasters at AccuWeather are able to outline the coming storm season by analyzing climatic patterns from past years. For 2013, they predict four major hurricanes, four lesser hurricanes and eight other major storms. Three of those hurricanes will hit the US and cause storm surge, wind and damage on par with what we saw in Super Storm Sandy. Although meteorologists are able to predict storms, they can’t predict the strength of the storms or when or where they’ll strike.
Critical Items: A Cautionary Tale
Those living along the East Coast have to be prepared for anything, and those of us in other geographies have to be prepared for what happens when supply chains from the East Coast are interrupted. For example, the top shipping ports in the US are located in Louisiana, Texas, New York and New Jersey, Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Miami and, whether we like it or not, these ports are the gateway for the majority of the every day items that North Americans rely on. When power or supply chains to a major city or port on the East Coast or Gulf Coast is disrupted, everybody feels the effect. In fact, last year a Canadian friend of ours was on a motorcycle trip and got stranded in Arizona for a month after Hurricane Sandy because he needed a part for his motorcycle and it had to come from New Jersey. For the first week after Sandy, nobody could even get the distributor on the phone!
We’re so used to being able to order things online and get them the next day that it’s almost inconceivable that we’d have to wait weeks for anything, especially critical things like medicine, parts or essential materials. In the case of our biker buddy, the manufacturer lost their computer servers during the storm, so all distribution came to a standstill until their servers were repaired. By the time they were repaired (two weeks later) the distributor had to deal with a huge backlog of orders. Coincidentally, the distributor had also been affected by the storm and further delays were caused by their own damaged inventory, delayed shipping and extended power outages. You may be thinking it sounds nice to get stranded in Arizona for month (and we agree!), but what if the item you need is medicine, critical materials for your business or basic necessities for your family?
Computer Servers: Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy
What we want to drive home this week is that even if everything you need is made in the United States, those things still come from manufacturers and distributors that rely heavily on computer servers. A server is the physical “box” where all the software and data that run a business lives. As important as they are, servers are actually very fragile, and more than one has been destroyed by a spilled Big Gulp. It goes without saying they do not do well with wind, water and fire. When computer servers are damaged or destroyed, especially when the problem is widespread, it can take weeks to get them back online. When they do come back, the Small Business Association reports that about 40% of them will have lost all of their past data.
Until then, mentally go through your week and make a list of the items that keep you, your family and your business going on a daily basis. Think about what happens if you don’t have those things. In next week’s post we’ll help you get a plan in place.