Blog : Businesses Come Together at Weather Preparedness Forum

By Mike | Mar 18, 2015 | in

By Mike Bizier

PORTSMOUTH- If this past winter has taught us anything it’s that weather is getting more and more extreme. Last Thursday, the Green Alliance hosted Weathering Change, a business preparedness forum held at their office of 75 Congress St, Suite 304, uniting over 30 businesses to tackle the issue of resiliency in the face of harsh environmental conditions brought about by climate change.

The event was put into motion by Roger Stephenson from the New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup, an organization aimed at educating the public on resources they can use in the event of an environmental disaster and Marsha Haines from the Vermont and New Hampshire branches of the American Red Cross. The two organizations collaborated with the Green Alliance which helped to tap in to its community of sustainable entrepreneurs and green-minded citizens.

The event itself began with a brief introduction by Stephenson followed by presentations from various guest speakers. These speakers were from a wide range of business backgrounds including MJ Shoer of Jenaly Technology Group, Ray Dube from Coca Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England (CCNNE) and Clark James from the Smuttynose Brewing Company. Each of these unique guests brought a different perspective and approach to this very serious issue.

According to Shoer, modern technology has given businesses some of the tools they need to rebuild effectively after an environmental weather disaster. Shoer pointed out that the seacoast region has been quite lucky in the past 10-15 years from a disaster standpoint, particularly with the ice storms back in 2003. Shoer believes that these storms were important for resiliency because they got businesses thinking about communication.

“Technology has evolved dramatically as it always does over the last 15 years,” says Shoer. “Today, it is easier to stay in communication after disasters happen.”

Shoer suggested that to best maintain all their data, businesses should utilize the Cloud- a storage system where data is managed and backed up over the internet. Not only can hard logistical data be stored on the Cloud, but business emails can be stored there as well. Even in the event that power is lost, virtually any kind of information can be stored and retrieved from the Cloud.

“There’s no reason that a business should be down from a power outage in this day and age,” says Shoer.

Ray Dube from CCNNE had quite a few interesting things to say. As a much bigger business, CCNNE is very much prepared for rebuilding after environmental disasters.

“We shut down all operations during disasters to a point,” Dube says. “We can make up after snow storms just like after a holiday; it’s a little extra work, but we can get it done very quickly. We can also replace vehicles quickly, moving fleets from one place to another.”

However, CCNNE does take some steps that any business can take, such as resorting to pen and paper if electricity goes down and relying on retirees if few employees capable of making it to work due to the weather.

When you look at assets, when you talk about what to plan for disasters, look at retirees,” Dube says. “Retirees are ready to train, and don’t mind training real quick.” With much more flexibility in their schedules, retirees certainly look like a promising option.

Business preparedness is just as important for Clark James from the Smuttynose Brewing Company as well.

“Preparedness is near and dear to my heart,” James says. “As a farmer, I rely on a generator and back up sub pumps. Preparedness is important to me because over the past 20 years, we’ve been seeing a lot of things testing out mettle. No matter how prepared your business is, you can’t solve the problem yourself.”

After attending an event hosted by Roger Stephenson in 2014, James has come to the conclusion that one of the most important things a business can do in order to prepare for disasters is to identify their vulnerabilities and who the key stake holders are to communicate with.

“For us and a lot of other companies, who and what we need to identify are clear cut: transportation infrastructure,” James says. “Everything comes in by truck. There’s not a whole lot we can do to control that, and we distribute to 28 different states.”
Smuttynose dealt with this vulnerability head on during Hurricane Sandy when their New York City distributor went down.

“The old business foresight was to move a lot of the transportation materials out of the city so they could be prepared,” James says. “Unfortunately, it was a long process before we could move the beer back into the city again.

“Initiatives are great, but it’s going to take a much more collaborative approach to solve these problems,” James says.

The event ended with a final collaborative activity set up by Marsha Haines where business leaders were assigned with coming up with the best strategies for disaster preparedness, maintaining vital information, and ensuring employee safety.

Overall the event was a success, with business leaders actively engaging with the topic at hand.

To learn more about Jenaly Technology Group, visit www.jenaly.com.

For more information on CCNNE, go to www.ccnne.com.

To find out more about Smuttynose Brewing Company, visit www.smuttynose.com.