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About The Disaster Lady

By March 26, 2020 April 9th, 2020 Ask the Disaster Lady, Blog

Hello all.  I have never done something like this before, but we are in unusual times and that calls for unusual approaches to things.  I am writing as a certified disaster recovery planner to help you figure out how to get through these extreme circumstances.

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not trying to sell you something.  I am giving away knowledge that a lot of people pay a lot of money (especially right now) to know.  The reason I am giving it away is that I figure we are on one big ship together.  I further figure (try saying that 5 times fast) that maybe if I help you to keep your life and business afloat, then our collective ship may sail instead of taking on water or worse… (Hey, we all saw what happened to the Titanic!)  It also helps me to feel better about what is going on right now that maybe I can help someone out.

But first, what’s up with the title you may be asking?  Here’s the story.  I was called the Disaster Lady before a speech I once gave.  It was about 15 years ago (when I was trying to get my own small business off the ground) and I got the golden opportunity to speak in front of a room full of bank executives across the state.  I was so excited and thought that this would be the most interesting topic of the day.  When I got there, it became painfully apparent that they were about as thrilled to learn about disaster planning with me as they would be receiving a colonoscopy in front of their friends and family.

That did not dampen my spirits. Oh, no! I was raring to go.  However, I finally clued in when the universe decided to give me a reality check when it was my turn to present. The conference coordinator looked around the speakers’ room and asked, “Where’s the Disaster Lady? She’s up next.”  While I would have appreciated a more catchy title like ‘Queen of All That is Good and Noble’ (imagine me with great wavy hair blowing in the wind with a beautiful tiara), I knew as soon as I heard it that it fit me.  The rest, as they say, is history.

So, let’s get right into it.  You are currently worried about your business. You may have your kids at home and are wondering when the locusts will show up since the pestilence is already here for what looks like the End-of-Times Show. If you live in Virginia, you just found out that they are not going back to school for the rest of the year and are probably going through the 5-Stages of Grief.  (Once we get through this I think there will be a new industry in taking solo vacations for those that have had enough of their immediate loved ones. Just kidding. Maybe…)

Here is some real talk and no sugar coating.  This is the real deal.  The first thing about disaster response is that the filter comes off and you get to the straight truth immediately because you have no time for spin.  Therefore, before you read any further, be warned. I may say things that are hard to read and I may use language that is *colorful* to say the least, but you will realize (if you haven’t already) that that is the way it is. Using a curse word every now and then helps to let some of the steam go and keep you in the fight.

Here is the scene I imagine many of you are dealing with right now. Crisis is all around you.

Here’s what you need to know: You can’t avoid it, but you can own it and manage through it.  So, with that, let’s begin.

The Disaster Lady’s Most Important Disaster Management Top Tip: If you lose your sh*t, everyone else will too.  Leaders set the tone for disaster response.  In all my years of planning, I can tell you that the best plans/strategies will not work if the leader doesn’t have it together or if they act like the world is ending.  So, as my sister told me when I found out I was having twins several years ago, “Put on your big girl panties. Sh*t just got real.”

Now take a couple of breaths and realize that you will get through this.  Here is that sentence again for those that need to see it: YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS AND SO WILL YOUR BUSINESS.  The thing you need to accept is that your business will not be the same after this – no one’s will.  What we are working towards is your “New Normal.”

I am going to give you real answers to the top questions I normally see…

You need to know how to keep yourself sane (well relatively sane – I’m not a miracle worker here) while managing through a disaster.  The most important thing I can tell you is that you need to focus on what you can control and put your time and energy into those tasks. So much about disasters deals with things we can’t control.  Acknowledge what you can’t control and then work on what you can control.  You can have your emotional breakdown when this is all over. I will even bring your favorite ice cream and adult beverage.

You are strong. You will get through this and come out better for the experience.

Send me your questions. There isn’t anything I haven’t dealt with or seen with business recovery.  I will answer your questions and I can guarantee you aren’t the only one who has them.

In good health,

Karen L. Cole, CBCP, CISA, CRISC, MBCI
Chief Executive Officer of Assura, Inc.

About Me: As a certified (CBCP, CISA, CRISC, MBCI) business continuity planner (which in layman’s terms means a person who prepares for when the hoo-ha hits the proverbial fan), I have spent almost 20 years helping businesses plan for and recover from incidents such as COVID-19 (a.k.a. the Coronavirus, 100-year pandemic, etc.). I am a national speaker on business continuity and cybersecurity. I’ve been there. Done that. And I occasionally got a t-shirt for it.