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SBRC Extreme Weather Resilience Workshop

Posted on February 01, 2019

The SBRC hosted an Extreme Weather Business Resilience Workshop last week, and we would like to share some of the helpful advice and information that was presented on the day by several fantastic speakers from the Met Office, Police Scotland, Transport Scotland and RBS.

The aim of the event was to provide delegates with a clearer understanding of the alert messaging and weather warnings coming from various organisations and government bodies in the lead up to and during an extreme weather event, and then to be able to use this knowledge to review their own Business Continuity plans in respect of extreme weather events.

Ross Melville, Senior Met Office Advisor (Civil Contingencies)

Firstly, we heard from Ross Melville, who spoke about the work the National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) does in providing information on what weather is in store, and more importantly what the impacts and disruptions of that weather may be to you or your business.

Ross described in detail how changes have been made, so that the information provided from the Met Office is now written in plain language, there is no need to interpret the colour warnings (Yellow, Amber, Red) in respect to how severe the weather will be. The weather impacts are now easily read in the new ‘What to expect’ section of weather alerts, and they describe the impacts that the weather is likely to cause.

Ross went on to explain that the most ignored warnings, are for weather that is due to impact at midday. He said this is because people see the sun when they leave for work and so ignore any warnings for bad weather due to move in and presume the reports must be wrong. He blames, in part, the media for reporting severe weather predictions (4 MONTHS OF SNOW!) that never come, for the public’s lack of trust in weather reporting. He stated the technology to predict long term forecasts is not as advanced yet as short term forecasts, so these extreme predictions are usually nonsense.

He closed with “When the weather arrives, it’s too late to start planning!”.

You can sign your business up to receive Met Office weather alerts directly to your email here: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/guide-to-emails

Darren Faulds, Police Scotland (Chief Inspector), Road Policing West Command

We then heard from Darren Faulds, who spoke about the importance of preparation for severe weather and how we are not as well practised at dealing with it in the UK as other countries where they are guaranteed longer spells of severe weather. He noted that we should be aware that whilst severe weather alerts will come from the Met Office, travel advice to the public and businesses will come from Police Scotland, who now have improved powers to close roads for public safety.

Darren spoke about a big factor in why we face so many problems, when severe weather hits the UK, is due to the lack of preparation taken by people and business because of the infrequency of the bad weather the we receive. There have only been 2 red weather warnings for snow in the last 10 years. He spoke of the incident know as ‘The beast from the East’ where people travelled under severe weather warnings due to conditions being good from where they began their journey, only to be stuck 10 miles down the road causing major disruption, with some vehicles stuck for up to 48 hours, putting lives at risk.

The key take home messages from Darren were, to follow the Police Scotland travel advice, decide who is critical to your business now before adverse weather hits and have a plan in place to avoid unnecessary travel. If you are travelling be sure to follow the ‘driving in bad weather’ advice from Police Scotland and Traffic Scotland: https://trafficscotland.org/media/badweather...

Eilidh Duffy, Transport Scotland (Transport Resilience Manager)

Eilidh Duffy spoke about Transport Scotland's multi-agency approach to severe weather incidents, where teams coordinated 24 hours a day to ensure appropriate action is put in place to restore the trunk road network back to normal operation as soon as possible during a severe weather event.

She gave an insight into the Transport Scotland control room, where representatives from Police Scotland, Met Office, Ministers and other agency leaders got together, even slept there, to cut through red tape to get decisions made across council regions and budgets to get the transport network operational again.

Eilidh also said how continual reviews of operations and feedback from the public has led to initiatives such as naming of all the gritters and having a live tracking feed to see where the gritters are working: https://trafficscotland.org/wintergritterinfo/ to curb the public perception that “you never see a gritter!”.

Jerry Marshall, RBS (Business Continuity)

Lastly a very modern and technically resilient approach to severe weather was presented by Jerry Marshall, with his Beast from the East RBS case study.

Jerry spoke about the procedures that have been put in place by RBS to notify all staff of an incident and the escalation procedures that communicate the strategy across all their sites to mitigate customer and operational impacts. Within a predefined response time to the disruption Strategic Intent was established and communicated to all team leaders across all sites:  “To ensure the safety of our people, preserve our critical operations and minimise the impact on our customers”.

Jerry highlighted what he feels is an important and somewhat unique step in a complete resilience plan is redress and remediation. “No customer will be left out of pocket in situations where they have suffered a financial loss due to branch or centre closures in response to the severe weather.” He believes this is an essential step in your plan if you want to retain customers.

Technology was sighted as the biggest factor in minimising RBS’s interruptions to operations with approx. 60,000 RBS colleagues able to log in remotely and work from home, avoiding the need to travel where it was unnecessary. Where staff were required to be on site for security reasons, other sites across the country increased personnel where it was safe to do so.

With the RBS facing up to 23-35k cyber attacks per day, it pays that their resilience plans in place are effective and fit for purpose, and they have invested heavily to do so.

 

As a final piece of advice in closing, Stewart Hurry from the SBRC directed delegates to look to the ‘Severe Weather: Fair Work Charter’ (https://www.gov.scot/publicati... ), developed jointly by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), providing a set of guiding principles to support employers and workers to plan for and manage the impact of severe weather.

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