VOICES In the Trenches
How preparation and innovative thinking can save projects during an emergency.
By Joan Landry, PMP
Joan Landry, PMP, is program manager of crisis
management and global business continuity at
Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Illinois, USA.
ABBOTT’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT TEAM monitored Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 just as we had any
other hurricane or typhoon. We followed its intensity and path. We reached out to our employees in
the Philippines to ensure everyone was prepared.
;e country is hit by many typhoons each year;
people seemed ready.
But then the storm, known locally as Yolanda,
intensi;ed as it bore down on the Luzon region.
Although the area was prepared for a typhoon,
no one was prepared for the Category 5 super
typhoon and the devastation it brought.
As a project manager, what can you do to prepare for crisis events?
First, use your professional planning and risk
management skills to help prepare yourself and
your family for a possible crisis. Many government
websites provide guidelines; in the United States,
www.ready.gov is an excellent resource. Common
elements of preparation include:
■ An emergency kit (three days of food, water and
other emergency supplies)
■ A family communication plan (contact information, where to assemble if you cannot reach each
other by phone or text)
Second, you need to consider risk and contin-
gencies for your
project plan. If
a risk to project
activity has a
high likelihood of
occurring and a
high impact if it
does occur, you
may want to look
planning for that
After a devastat-
ing natural disaster or other crisis, it might seem
unfathomable to focus on work. Yet recovery
efforts start with identifying and prioritizing
projects. Once you know you and your family are
safe, check in with your team members to find
out if they are okay. Has anyone in their family
Now look at the damage. How has your project been impacted? Are these areas that have
been previously identified as high-risk? Do you
have contingency plans already in place? What
are the options? How can your team recover
quickly? What does your team need to do temporarily? What permanent change is needed to
Allow your team to come up with creative solutions to solve these problems. After Superstorm
Sandy struck the northeastern United States in
2012, Abbott technical support sta; needed to
visit hospitals in Manhattan, New York, to service
equipment. ;ere was just one problem: Most of
the gas stations in the area were unable to pump
gas because they had no electricity. ;e technical
sta; could not drive into the city, and public transportation was unavailable.
We seemed out of options until a member of
the team had a clever idea: rental cars. Rental cars
come with a full tank of gas, and there were a
lot of them available. Once the fuel tank got low,
team members could bring the car back and rent
a di;erent one. ;is allowed our technical sta; to
bridge the gap until power was restored—almost
two weeks later.
As for our workers in the Philippines, we were
happy to learn that—due to prior planning, quick
decision-making and luck—all employees in the
impacted region were safely evacuated. PM
Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines in 2013,
was one of the biggest typhoons to ever hit land.