Contingency Planning – At The Highest Level

Well, here we are. In the USA, we are at the beginning of an unprecedented event in our lives: the pandemic COVID-19.

A key phrase I heard (which is definitely ringing true): Life as we know it will change.

Again, it has only begun!

Next, the country will move more towards ensuring critical services (emergency response, healthcare workers, grocery stores and gas stations) remain available, while at the same time a complete lockdown is considered.

If this isn’t real to you yet, it is about to become VERY real.

At this juncture, there is no time for, or benefit from, spending ANY energy laying blame or politicizing this situation as nearly the entire planet is in the same boat.

Instead, let’s do what we can (which is a LOT) to minimize the spread of the virus and the socioeconomic impact that WILL be felt far beyond the event itself.

I shan’t cover what has been said repeatedly during White House briefings and other communications about personal hygiene and social distancing. And, if you haven’t been watching the White House briefings, (hearing things from the horse’s mouth) you are getting critical information 3rd hand, spun by the media, resulting in confusion (even panic) as to the true state of affairs.

The next scheduled White House briefing is at 3:30pm Eastern. Tune in!

A critical resource I’d highly recommend staying on top of is the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which you can view by clicking here. This is sound guidance for all of us to heed – as individuals.

Now, to business. And, I’m not sharing this to ensure companies remain profitable. I am sharing this to ensure companies remain VIABLE.

Said another way, if drastic measures are not taken NOW there are companies which will not make it, resulting in shuttered employees as well as the loss of the important products and services manufactured and/or distributed by these firms.

The most critically important are those companies which provide products and services CRUCIAL to society, to ensure they continue to do just that (as the TOP PRIORITY) ahead of any other initiatives.

To achieve the above, there is a key guiding principle that must be adhered to:

Production MUST Prevail

This, to the exclusion of ALL other / non-essential activities.

To support this, a very clear message must be delivered “from the top” that the number one priority is to ensure all resources understand the importance of this mission critical goal (production must prevail) and that any activity that would impact this should take a back seat.

So, what is a company / leader to do?

Following are practical steps that can be taken to plan, prepare and execute accordingly.

  • Identify mission critical:
    • Processes – What are the key processes needed for Production to Prevail?
    • Personnel – Who are the key personnel?
    • Resources – What are the key resources?
      • Tools of collaboration for a remote workforce (email, Webex, etc.)
      • The manufacturing facilities which produce, and distribution centers which move, critical products
      • What about key partners and suppliers?
  • Identify activities which can be paused or de-prioritized
    • Example: All companies will likely experience disruption in their supply chain. Those that produce a critical product for healthcare need to ensure existing customers continue to receive life-sustaining product. To do so, it is worth considering ceasing all NEW customer acquisition so that ALL production and inventory can be allocated towards fulfilling demand of existing customers to ensure they don’t run short.
  • Command and Control / Communications Protocol
    • Define a management / communications structure to ensure the upwards and downwards flow of information, solely focused on the status of critical operations.
      • Who is responsible for monitoring updates from the government and health-related authorities?
      • Who is responsible for interpreting the above as relates to the impact to critical operations?
    • Conduct daily (or more, as necessary) status checkpoints with critical operations
    • Provide daily (or more, as necessary) company-wide updates.
      • Via email, Webex, etc.
      • Include contractors and consultants who may be on the fringe.
  • Determine backfill strategy
    • If (when?) critical personnel are impacted by the event, who will backfill to perform their crucial role? Better to leverage existing / internal resources who are already oriented and trained (to a degree) vs. attempting to hire in this environment.
  • Identify and fill gaps that materialize with a near-fully remote workforce
    • Example: How do signature approvals take place? Yes, email approvals “can” work in the interim. However, in highly regulated environments these email approvals are often required to be followed-up with “real” signatures. This will create a backlog of work (and potentially loss of “official” approval-related documentation). If something like DocuSign hasn’t been implemented, it may be time to do so – now!

The above is meant to provide some “initial”, practical advice for business leaders to consider in responding to this unprecedented event. The failure to consider the above could very well mean failure: failure of the firm you represent.

We are Americans: Failure is NOT an option!

In closing, the above guidance results from decades of experience including, but not limited to, preparing for and executing numerous disaster recovery / contingency planning-related activities and scenarios (both real and imagined).

I hope you find this helpful for you / your firm!

Be safe, healthy and practical!

More to possibly come…

The Katahdin Hiking / Camping Experience

As published in The Windham Eagle…

This is the third article in the series covering Mount Katahdin and the adventure experience one group recently had.

On September 27, a group of 8 departed Raymond, for Baxter State Park, a 4.5 hour drive into the Northwoods of Maine. It was a beautiful, crisp fall morning with the leaves just beginning to turn. There was much anticipation in all members of the group, some of whom hadn’t been to Baxter State Park, let alone seen Mount Katahdin up close and personal.

After driving about 3.5 hours Katahdin finally came into view as the group passed through Dolby Flowage, a beautiful vista between East Millinocket and Millinocket. Still over 20 miles away, Katahdin stood majestically on the horizon. It was this very view that drove the father of this group’s guide to make the decision, back in the ‘70’s, to live in Millinocket and raise his family of 3 boys.

After another 30-minutes the group entered Baxter State Park via the Togue Pond Gatehouse. Here, one checks-in with park rangers, which includes providing an emergency contact in the event any unfortunate incident befalls the group while in the backcountry. In addition, outta-staters pay park entrance fees. Fortunately, this group had Maine residents in each vehicle, resulting in a no-fee entrance.

Upon completing the last leg of the road trip, about 8 miles into the park, the group arrived at the trailhead to Chimney Pond, located at the Roaring Brook Campground. The importance of making reservations was obvious, as the parking lot was nearly full with day-hikers and overnight campers.

The eager group exited the vehicles, placed final articles in their backpacks and began the 3.3 mile trek into Chimney Pond: a gradual ascent on a trail mostly covered in rock, with an elevation gain of 1,460 feet.

During the first leg of the hike one experiences the constant sound and sights of Roaring Brook, which runs along the trail. Further along are several wooden bridges, constructed by park staff, enabling the crossing as well as beautiful views of the crystal clear brook, rushing over granite rock exposed by nature millions of years ago.

Hiking, with fully-laden backpacks, weighing between 30 and 45 pounds, resulted in frequent stops along the trail to rest briefly, hydrate and make adjustments to gear, alleviating the minor to moderate pain experienced.

After 3 hours and 15 minutes, the group arrived at the Chimney Pond Campground and made their way to the bunkhouse, a very nice structure (by backcountry standards), capable of accommodating 10 adventurers on a year-round basis.

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The Chimney Pond Bunkhouse

Once each person claimed their bunk, the group enthusiastically set out to explore the area and refresh their supply of drinking water, directly from Chimney Pond.

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Drawing water from Chimney Pond

Shortly after finishing dinner, consisting of freeze dried meals, a Park Ranger stopped by. The friendly, courteous and service-oriented Ranger welcomed the group, shared useful information (such as an up-to-date weather forecast) and offered to answer questions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

On the following morning, members of the group made their final decision, in terms of who was hiking to the summit vs. those deciding to spend the day relaxing and exploring the area around Chimney Pond.

A hike to the summit starts with checking in at the Chimney Pond ranger station, by writing the name of and number in the group, trails to be hiked and time of departure, on the registration sheet.

For the ascent, the hikers chose the Cathedral Trail, the shortest, yet steepest ascent to the summit. Almost immediately, the challenge of the impending climb was obvious, as hikers began the process of clambering over boulders, large and small, on the 1.7 mile journey to the summit, representing an elevation gain of 2,353 feet. Given the group’s early start, it was clear that other hikers descending at this time had turned back, not being prepared for the challenge presented.

After 2 hours, the hikers arrived at the summit, with only a few other adventurous individuals present. At this point, the magnitude of the climb and surrounding area was realized, given the vast view one can only experience from the mountain-top. The powerfully gusting winds resulted in near-frigid conditions, with the potential to knock an unsuspecting person to the ground. 

Attempting to put on a poncho, as cover from the brief rain shower, resulted in it being completely shredded by the wind.

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Evan and Aaron Bailey on Baxter Peak

The Saddle Trail was chosen for the 2.2 mile gradual descent to Chimney Pond. Compared to Cathedral, this was much more forgiving, albeit still a challenge, completing the 3.5 hour round trip to/from the summit.

To educate the group and keep things interesting, the guide facilitated a trivia contest about Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin and preparedness, awarding prizes useful in such a setting.

After another night’s rest the group prepared for the descent, which included ensuring the principle “leave no trace” was followed. This entailed sweeping the bunkhouse and scanning the surrounding area, picking up anything not occurring naturally.

As with the ascent, the group encountered numerous, friendly hikers of all ages and walks of life on the descent: each pausing for a brief conversation about the absolutely outstanding beauty, all a guise for the rest each person desperately desired.

On completing the descent in about 2 hours and 40 minutes, the group, gratified with their accomplishment, quickly ditched their backpacks, seeking the soft cushioned seats in the trucks. 

It should be noted that the severe knee pain experienced by the guide, on the descent from a day hike on a comparative “baby mountain”, several years ago, did not recur, even while carrying a heavily-laden backpack! The recommendations to avoid knee pain, shared in the prior article, had paid off!

In closing, the group unanimously agreed; it was near time to begin considering their next backcountry adventure.

Craig Bailey is a Registered Maine Guide and owner of Maine Adventures, LLC. To learn more visit: www.MaineAdventuresLLC.com.

Preparing for a Katahdin Hiking / Camping Adventure

As published in The Windham Eagle

This is the second article in a three part series covering Mount Katahdin and the adventure experience one group recently had.

A Katahdin hiking / camping adventure involves a great deal of advance preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable excursion. The recommended starting point is the Baxter State Park website (www.baxterstatepark.org) which offers a wealth of information in this regard.

The preparation outlined here results from a group I led as we hiked Katahdin, spending two nights in the Chimney Pond bunkhouse.

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Ready to go: Julia Silva, Ethan, Aaron, Evan, Ian, Cindy & Craig Bailey

The first step (after the group has agreed to the challenge) is to make reservations with Baxter State Park, which can be done 120 days in advance. Since the Chimney Pond bunkhouse is in high demand one must be proactive to lock-in the desired date(s). 

Once reservations are made each hiker must ensure they are ready, from a physical standpoint, taking steps to minimize or eliminate common pains that may be experienced, which could hamper the journey.

To avoid foot pain, one should acquire a pair of lightweight, waterproof hiking boots offering excellent ankle support. That said, don’t try to break in a new pair of boots on a hike like this. Instead, wear them for many weeks in advance on practice hikes. Add to this a pair of thick wool socks for additional cushion. Finally, just prior to the trip it is important to cut one’s toenails to avoid chafing that could otherwise occur.

Another common pain to avoid is in the knees, which occurs primarily on the descent when the knees take the most abuse. Following are several recommendations, from professionals, proven effective with the test of time.

For those previously experiencing knee pain, doctors recommend Glucosomine Chondroiton. In addition, personal trainers recommend 2 exercises: glute bridges and quad stretches, for which information can be found online.

In addition to obtaining high-end hiking boots, a pair of trekking poles and knee braces provides a great deal of relief. And, finally, if knee pain is experienced on the trail, it is helpful to have on hand an anti-inflammatory like Advil or Aleve.

The final common pain to avoid is in the back and/or shoulders. This can result from a heavily loaded backpack (think 30-45 pounds) which will be lugged up and back down the 3.3 mile trail. To address this hikers should obtain a backpack with the proper support, where most of the weight is carried on the hips: not on the back or shoulders. Here, it is suggested the hiker visits an outfitter such as LL Bean to get specific recommendations on fit and function.

The final step is to do practice hikes, to try out new gear and confirm no foot, knee, shoulder or back pain is experienced.

In parallel with getting ready physically, one must determine the necessary equipment and provisions. The first consideration is Baxter State Park is a carry in / carry out park. As such, anything not consumed must be lugged back down the mountain.

Secondly, consider the bunkhouse has no electricity or running water. There are 10 wooden bunks (no mattresses), a wood stove, food preparation area, a picnic table and gas lanterns, with outhouses nearby. 

Given the itinerary (3 days / 2 nights) each person needs to “pack in” 2 dinners, 1 lunch, 2 breakfasts and lots of nutritional snacks. To minimize the weight and bulk, bring nothing requiring refrigeration, or in bulky containers, and acquire freeze dried food for most meals. To maintain energy levels, foods should consist of high amounts of carbs, fats and proteins. This is NOT the time to go on a diet.

Fortunately, there is a plentiful supply of water along the trail and Chimney Pond serves as a water source, all of which must be treated prior to consuming. As a result, each person should bring their own water bottle and treatment method.

Per Baxter State Park’s guidelines, those climbing to the summit of Katahdin must have a headlamp, space blanket, food and water in their day pack.

While there are other items to consider (change of clothes, personal hygiene, sleeping bag and pad, knife, fire-starter, trail stove, etc.) the above areas require the most advance preparation.

Upon finalizing the list of equipment and provisions each hiker should pack their backpack well in advance. Then, reduce and repack again, until each feels comfortable they have what is absolutely required – and nothing more.

Final considerations, prior to embarking, include reviewing the trails planned to be hiked, confirming the status of each on the Baxter State Park webpage. And, it is important to arrive at the trailhead with plenty of time to get started before the cutoff time. For example, in late September Park Rangers require hikers to begin their climb into Chimney Pond by 2pm. In addition, each member of the group must realize there is no rush up or down the mountain, acknowledging most injuries occur during the descent.

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Be Prepared!

In closing, the best advice to prepare for such an excursion is to make a list of necessities, then repeatedly walk through the days on the trail and at camp thinking of all the things that are (absolutely) required for a pleasant journey.

Craig Bailey is a Reporter for The Windham Eagle, Registered Maine Guide and owner of Maine Adventures, LLC. To learn more visit: www.MaineAdventuresLLC.com.