An organization’s response following a disaster may last only a few weeks, but the post-disaster cost recovery process may go on for years. Fulfilling your primary mission during a crisis is the subject of a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP); avoiding financial stress (or failure) is part of a separate but overlapping effort, Disaster Cost Recovery.

COOP is the effort by organizations to ensure that their primary mission and essential functions are performed during a wide range of emergencies, including but not limited to natural disasters.

1. Essential Functions

2. Orders of Succession and Delegations of Authority (internal resources)

3. Devolution of Control and Direction (to external resources)

4. Continuity Facilities Continuity Communications

5. Vital Records Management

6. Human Capital

7. Tests, Training, and Exercises

8. Reconstitution (return to normal)

An organization’s success in timely recouping disaster-related expenses is greatly impacted by a centralized effort to “follow the money.” Successful, timely Disaster Cost Recovery requires reverse-engineering the documentation that FEMA, state relief agencies, and private insurance companies need related to hours, operating expenses, and contracted services to quickly process your claim.

Some key aspects include:

1. Detailed asset inventory, including pictures and in-service/out-of-service status

2. Asset replacement value, which may not be consistent with existing accounting information or insurance declarations

3. Assignment of work orders and purchase orders against assets

4. Documented, properly contracted mutual aid agreements with other agencies or emergency response contractors

5. Properly contracted and performed Damage Assessment Reports

The Disaster Cost Recovery process involves personnel from nearly every department of an organization, including accounting, purchasing, risk management, operations, maintenance, engineering, environmental, information systems, and administration. It involves consultants and contractors, too.

COOP and Disaster Cost Recovery are complex (meaning they have many parts) but are not necessarily difficult. Structure, discipline, and well-developed business processes are essential. COVID-19 impacts are a reminder that such efforts are ever-changing and need to be updated and maintained.

Hurricane season in the US Southeast will be peaking over the next month. There is no time to develop new plans at this point; however, there is still time to review the basics and update fundamental aspects such as work order structures, emergency contracts, and mutual assistance agreements.

A crisis is the result of the unexpected. The unexpected is usually the result of an event with high consequences and a low frequency of occurrence.

Also known as rare events, overcome high-consequence, and low-likelihood events by having a plan for each of these seven categories:

  1. Economic

  2. Informational

  3. Physical (key plants and facilities)

  4. Human Resource

  5. Reputational

  6. Psychopathic Acts

  7. Natural Disasters

It is more effective to have a plan to address an event in each category rather than being over-prepared in one category at the expense of the others. In other words, make sure to be prepared for a hurricane (Natural Disaster) and a cyber attack (Informational) rather than being prepared for a hurricane, flood, and earthquake (all are Natural Disasters) but having no plan for an event in the Informational category.

Rare events should be distinguished from normally occurring risks primarily by their frequency (high likelihood of occurrence during the period of interest). In project management, normally occurring risk examples include subcontractor delays, fabrications delays, rain days, and other similar events that occur regularly enough to be expected.

If the line between a rare event and a normal event is frequency, then the line is often blurred by consequences. A hurricane is almost universally considered a rare event, except on the US Gulf Coast where Category 1 hurricanes are almost annual events and produce limited damage. On the US Gulf Coast, a Category 3 (and its impacts) are the tipping point for classification as a rare event.

That brings us to the reality that all risk is personal. What trips one person into crisis mode is different than what trips another. That is the subject of another discussion. However, overcoming crisis starts with identifying and developing plans for rare (high-consequence, low-likelihood) events. Be prepared for at least one event in each of the seven categories of rare events.

The good news is that the basics remain the same. A person (facilitator) still leads a group of diverse people to create and agree upon a course of action. The obvious challenge in a pandemic is that we do it virtually. Approaches, skills, and techniques must be sharper. We do not have time for facilitators to “move from good to great.” In a pandemic, facilitators must be great.

The key concepts discussed in the previous post – facilitator characteristics, facilitator roles & responsibilities, and troubleshooting – are essential for all good facilitators. Five essential topics are now discussed for moving from a good to a great facilitator. In summary, these are:

Powerful Questions because active thought and dynamic debate are necessary for compelling results. Powerful Questions come in the form of introductory questions and clarifying questions. Great facilitators have different approaches and types of questions within each category.

Pre-Session Participant Exchange because great facilitation takes work to achieve meaningful outcomes. Pre-Session Participant Exchange is exponentially important in the era of pandemic-driven remote sessions. Great facilitators understand that the worst outcome is wasting everyone’s time.

Exercises that Engage because interaction produces input from all participants and generates a collaborative atmosphere. A great facilitator has many exercises in their bag. Great facilitators migrate those exercises into the virtual space for remote participants.

Anticipate Disruption because disruption is going to happen. Disruptions in live sessions usually are in the form of verbal confrontation or physical gestures. In remote sessions, disruption may come in the form of silence. Great facilitators embrace the reality of all types of disruption and are prepared to move through it.

Control the Tempo, Roll with the Ebb and Flow because getting a group of people to create and agree on solutions is not a linear process. This is especially true with remote facilitation when body language is not always discernable and there is no time to chat during breaks. Great facilitators appreciate – even thrive – on the peaks and valleys and are not frustrated by the give-and-take of the process.

We would all like to meet face-to-face to create, develop, and agree upon solutions and future actions. Arguably, facilitators like it too because it is easier to get some type of results when you are in-person. As those of us know who have facilitated remotely long before the current pandemic, there is no room for sloppy or just being average. Facilitating remotely heightens the need for everything to be sharper and proven. Remote facilitation requires moving from good to great.