What is HICS and What are HICS Forms?

HICS_LogoThe Basics of the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) Framework

If your hospital or health system has an initiative to improve the emergency preparedness program, or if you have moved into a new role that has emergency preparedness responsibilities, you have probably been hearing a lot about the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) framework. You may also be hearing about HICS policies, templates, plans, and forms. If you unsure what “HICS” is or where to start, this perspective is for you. This article introduces HICS and links to resources that can take you to the next level of detail.  Continue reading

Formalizing an Information Security Program

Formalizing an Information Security ProgramFormalizing your information security program is a critical step to drive information security capability maturation in any organization. The intent of formalizing a program is to get clear on focus and ensure everyone is on the same page about who is doing what.

From our experience, building a great information security program starts with asking the right questions. At Avalution, we build information security programs from the top down, starting with the strategy of the business and focusing on the following five key questions:

  1. Why do we have an information security program?
  2. What are we going to protect?
  3. How are we going to achieve it?
  4. Who is responsible and accountable?
  5. What are the results going to look like?

Let’s take a closer at each. Continue reading

Breaking Down Silos – Evolving an Incident Command System to Include Business Continuity

Evolving an Incident Command System to Include Business ContinuityAn Effective Business Continuity Program can Enhance Your Emergency Management Capabilities and Drive Higher Levels of Preparedness Across the Organization

Many organizations that we encounter have an obligation to support the community in time of crisis, including hospitals and utilities, for example. These organizations place a heavy emphasis on emergency management, and in recent years, we’ve seen increased implementation of the standardized Incident Command System (ICS) framework, or in the case of hospitals, the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS). There are many benefits to adopting ICS or HICS, but, most importantly, it allows organizations (both government and non-government) to operate and collaborate more effectively during emergencies. Common terms, roles, and responsibilities remove barriers to cooperation, ultimately benefiting the community.

When a community is impacted by a natural or manmade crisis, we are all better off thanks to ICS and HICS. However, many organizations are discovering that these systems may fall short when it comes to an incident that does not directly impact the communities in which they operate. While placing a heavy focus on emergency management is great (and many organizations are already mature in this space), it may not prepare an organization for unplanned resource interruptions, such as IT downtime or an unexpected facility closure. So how can an organization ensure the performance of social or community responsibilities, while protecting its own operations in the event of a more isolated disruption? Enter business continuity. Continue reading

Business Continuity Planning: Centralized and Decentralized Approaches

Business Continuity Planning - Centralized and Decentralized ApproachesBroadly speaking, there are two approaches to structuring a business continuity program.

A centralized structure involves leading and executing the business continuity planning process within a single team and engaging the business as needed.

A decentralized structure involves leveraging a small number of centralized resources that offer consultative assistance and performance measurement while resources dispersed throughout the business execute the actual planning process.

Both approaches have pros and cons, so it’s critical that organizations select the appropriate approach that adheres to their organization’s overall strategy, structure, culture, and priorities. In this perspective, I’ll provide an overview of each type of structure, the attributes associated with them, and additional information to help you select the most effective method of implementing a business continuity program within your organization. Continue reading

Breaking Down Silos – Using Common Criteria to Assess and Prioritize Risks

Breaking Down SilosAn isolated approach to business continuity (and risk management in general) is holding many organizations back.

Business Continuity is one of many disciplines that helps organizations to become more resilient – that is, to increase an organization’s capacity to adapt to evolving circumstances and survive (or even thrive) during periods of disruption or change.  Other related disciplines – such as Information Security, IT Disaster Recovery, Emergency Management, Enterprise Risk Management, and Physical Security –ultimately have the same strategic purpose.  The goals and objectives of the individual disciplines may be more focused, but if we, as practitioners of these disciplines, force ourselves to look outside the artificial walls we sometimes build around our responsibilities, we should find that we are striving for something bigger than we can deliver on our own. Continue reading

Strategy Connected Business Continuity: What is it, and Why is it Important?

Strategy Connected Business ContinuityMichael Porter once famously said “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”. While I am sure that Mr. Porter was not thinking of business continuity when making this statement, it is absolutely applicable to the implementation of a successful business continuity program. As the best way to drive business continuity program success is to properly scope the program by aligning it to the organization’s overall business strategy. This perspective aims to provide clarification on what exactly strategy connected business continuity means, as well as why it is important to all organizations considering the implementation of a successful, focused business continuity program. Additionally, we will explore conversation topics designed to “crystalize” the organization’s business strategy in a way that helps inform the scope and objectives of the business continuity program.

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My Business Continuity Predictions for 2017 and Beyond

Business Continuity in 2017 and BeyondWith 2017 well underway, I wanted to take the time to reflect on 2016 and also look ahead to predict the way in which our business continuity profession will continue to mature in 2017 and beyond.

In many ways, this “top five” list is aspirational – that being my hopes for our profession as we solve some entrenched challenges and work to add more value to the organizations we serve. Continue reading

Business Continuity: The Importance of Thinking Both Strategically and Tactically

thinking-both-strategically-and-tacticallyAs I reflect on my first year as a business continuity professional, I contemplate what has made me successful to date. In my previous role of being an officer in the U.S. Army, I lived and breathed risk assessments and contingency planning (addressing a loss of resources). When I first started in the military, my focus was very tactical, ensuring that there was always a plan to replenish our basic supplies (e.g., bullets, food, gas, and water). These plans were very basic and more reactionary than anything else, but I always knew that as long as I had these resources, I could continue the mission. Continue reading

Ownership – Where Do Our Responsibilities Begin and End as Business Continuity Professionals?

Ownership – Where Do Our Responsibilities Begin and End as Business Continuity ProfessionalsAs published in the Summer 2016 Issue of the Disaster Recovery Journal – Volume 29, Number 3.

One of the latest threats to organizations is something termed “ransomware”.  Commonly defined as a type of malware that blocks access to an application and its data until the victim pays a predetermined amount of money.  You may have read about two recent attacks, one targeting the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and the other targeting MedStar.  If you haven’t heard about these two attacks, perhaps you can pause for a minute and do a quick Google search to learn more.  And, after you do, I have a question for you to consider:

If your organization hasn’t already prepared for this type of threat (ransomware or malware in general), who owns planning for it or preparing contingencies addressing the affected resources?

This article discusses some of the threats and risks that are currently top-of-mind for executive managers and why resilience-related thinking is so important, as well as the different roles that the business continuity professional can perform to add value. Continue reading

An Introduction to IT Disaster Recovery Planning

Risks to critical business operations due to systems outages have been, and will always be, a concern for most organizations. As a result, IT disaster recovery planning is critical to help reduce the likelihood of a system disruption, or reduce downtime if (when) a disruption does occur. So, if you’re looking for an introduction to IT disaster recovery planning, you’re in the right place!

This perspective presents how IT disaster recovery planning fits into the overall organizational Business Continuity Program; discusses common goals in developing Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans; and explores unique activities that must be considered when developing an IT Disaster Recovery Plan. Continue reading