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Business Continuation in the Face of Disaster

Published: 2011-07-03
Last Updated: 2011-07-03 16:30:10 UTC
by Deborah Hale (Version: 1)
2 comment(s)

Having a contingency plan is an extremely important part of any business plan.  This has become more and more evident
over the last few weeks to communities all along the Missouri River.  Our community is no exception.  I live in Sioux
City, IA in the northwest corner of the state.  Our community includes North Sioux City, SD and South Sioux City, NE.
Other neighbors include Dakota Dunes, SD and Dakota City, NE. Hundreds of families and hundreds of business are located in our community which is referred to as Siouxland and all of us have been impacted in one way or another by the flooding that is taking place all along the Missouri River. Each of us has a story to tell and yet all of the stories come
together as one.

Our story started on Memorial Day weekend.  Our community leaders and emergency response team were notified that there was going to be flooding along the river which would last for several weeks.  This flooding is a result of the large
amount of snowfall from last winter and large amount of rains this spring and summer, however it is also man made
flooding.  Along the Missouri River from Montana to South Dakota there are 6 dams.  All of the dams were built in
the 1940's and 1950's to help control the amount of water flowing down the river.  This has been a positive over the
years because it prevented flooding and in years of drought it has kept the river flowing strong.  Unfortunately this
year the large amount of precipitation over the last 18 months has left all 6 dams at capacity and in need of being
purged and purge they are.  

The dam holding back the water from Sioux City is Gavins Point Dam,located 65 miles north of Sioux City in Yankton SD
and is the last of the 6 dams. It is a magnificent site to behold and is a place that is frequently visited by Siouxlanders. On a normal day the dam releases 30,000 CFS of water.  Today the dam is releasing 165,000 CFS. This is enough water to fill almost 1,200,000 gallon milk jugs per second or 60 Olympic size swimming pools per second. That is a lot of water and it has to go somewhere. That somewhere has been in the farm fields, highways and communities within 5 miles of the Missouri River.  There are several smaller rivers and streams that feed into the river and they are full as well.  This is causing ground flooding along these rivers and streams with more farm fields and homes being impacted.

Many of the people that have been impacted by this flooding have had damage to both their homes and their businesses.
Most have no flood insurance because they do not live in a flood plain. (This flooding is worse than the 500 yr event).
They have had to find both a temporary place to live and work at the same time.  Many people are living in the hotels
and motels in the area.  Businesses are temporarily set up in empty buildings around the community and some are sharing office space with existing businesses or others that had to relocate their businesses. This means that they have doubled their overhead expenses. Still other businesses have been forced to close and are unable to relocate.  They are losing revenue and still having to cover the monthly overhead expenses. Farmers fields are full of water, no crops are growing.  There is no boat traffic allowed on the river due to debris that is in the water.  Trees, playground equipment, motor homes, trailer houses, hot tubes have all been spotted floating down the river.  Our Riverfront Area and the Anderson Dance Pavillion are favorites for holding summer weddings and parties.  All of those have had to be cancelled or moved to other locations. Financially this has been a major event for our community, both public and private.

Our community has been busy with sanding bagging, building levee's and flood walls. We have been busy helping our neighbors and friends pack up and move. Storage facilities are full. Housing is a commodity.  

We don't know when the water recedes what kind of damage we will have. We don't really even know when the water will recede. The water release is expected to stay at 165,000 CFS for several more weeks. The river is running so fast that we have hundreds of whirlpools. These whirlpools are eroding the river banks all along the Missouri River.  We don't know yet how much damage we will have on the river banks along the Missouri when the water recedes.  

The major thoroughfare in our area is I-29.  What once was a 90 minute drive from Sioux City to Omaha is now over 2 hours. Due to flooding along and on I-29 sections of the interstate are closed and where it is open the highway department has put up temporary walls to keep the water off the highway and the water is up to the barriers.   There are a couple of highway's between small Iowa communities to small Nebraska communities that are closed due to flooding.  People living on one side of the bridge that work on the other side of the bridge now have to commute over an hour to get to work instead of the 10 minutes that it has taken in the past.The businesses on both sides of the river are suffering because their trade has been cut in half. These communities were also tourist destinations.  Tourism is non existent this year. Even though these businesses have no water damage they have been damaged by the floods.

Omaha NE has a large airport.  They are fighting to keep the water off the runways to keep the airport open. Omaha and it's Iowa sister city, Council Bluffs, IA are experiencing much of the same as Siouxland.  Small communities to the south of
Omaha/Council Bluffs are under water.  The levee's that they built did not hold and when they broke it literally took out the
entire town.

Our story is just beginning.  We don't know how long it will continue.  Some of the folks have been told that they may not be able to return to their homes for many months (if they have a home to return too).  Once the water recedes and the cleanup begins we will know where we go from here.  Our community is fortunate because we have some of the best Emergency Management personnel in the country.  Our County Emergency Management Directors, Fire Chiefs, Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, local leaders and Chamber Presidents and other emergency responders have worked together for years to build a strong communication link and a solidified team. They each handled their own communities yet worked together for the entire community.  We have shared resources, volunteers and response across state lines and across community boundaries. It has been an awesome site to see.

Some of you may be wondering why this is Diary material.  This is not related to Internet security right?  Well, maybe not.  However, it is related to business survival.  Planning, preparation and response are key to any businesses survival. I ask each of you to look at your business and answer one question...  Do you know what to do to keep your business afloat in the event that you are impacted like our community has been?

I was not directly impacted by the flooding, my home sits on a hill, high and dry as does my office. However, roads that I once traveled are closed due to flooding.  Businesses that my company supports have had to relocate and are suffering from the expense. They are cutting back on their spending which includes our support.  Other customers have had to close their doors and have no idea if they will be able to resume business once the flooding has passed. Is your business prepared for an event like this in your community that will affect your bottom line?  Do you have a plan in place to handle this business loss?  

Our communities will survive and we will rebuild.  We will work together to repair the damage, neighbor will help neighbor and we will be better for it. We will rebuild houses and businesses.  We will support our neighbors both mentally and emotionally. Our contingency plans are being updated and new sections are being added daily.  Luckily we had a plan and our emergency personnel were prepared. We now are praying that the temporary levee's and berm's continue to hold back the water.We are praying that Mother Nature backs off and that the rain events will slow down. (We have had rain nearly everyday since Memorial weekend with a couple that produced over 4 inches of rain in 24 hours). We are waiting and watching.  

I hope that each and everyone of you have a great 4th of July weekend.  I wish each of you success in your business and that you will read this diary and start thinking about what you would do and what the future of both your business and your home will be.


Deb Hale

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