As the major hurricanes blew across the country in 2005, we were all reminded that there’s more to getting through a storm than waiting for the winds to die down.
Not long ago, bracing for the unexpected seemed like a good idea—something businesses should do when they had the time and resources. But in the wake of terrorist attacks, catastrophic natural occurrences including hurricanes and wildfires, and unprecedented labor strikes that have crippled transportation and other industries, we now realize that disaster planning is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And much more is at stake than simply anticipating the unanticipated; there has to be a way to restore normalcy.
As the disjointed relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, it’s not enough to have a plan for dealing with a storm; there must be a way to deal with its effects. Companies are realizing that if they’re going to keep operations running as smoothly as possible under any circumstances, they’re going to have to figure out how to do it.
Businesses and corporations all across the country are realizing the value of contracting with a company whose business it is to help their clients stay in business during trying times.
Consulting firms that specialize in disaster planning and response can be an invaluable resource in establishing a course of action for companies to take on the heels of any kind of business turmoil, whether the upset in operations is a result of ongoing labor negotiations or a weather-related calamity.
A good disaster planning and response consulting firm will be able to give your company the tools needed to succeed in the face of adversity, no matter what the circumstances.
To cope with any corporate turmoil, look for a consulting firm with a proven track record of assisting a variety of companies through the rough spots. Look for a company that has vast resources from which to draw, including a personnel force that includes security officers, negotiations specialists and skilled replacement workers.
A good company to partner with in order to establish an effective
corporate disaster plan and response initiative will have documented expertise in the business arena and will offer a host of services. The company should be specialists in developing the following:
Business Impact Analysis & Assessment (Disaster Planning)
Disaster planning is meant to include the planning and preparations, which are necessary to minimize loss and ensure continuity of the critical business functions of an organization in the event of disaster. The first step in the disaster recovery process is to perform a business impact analysis that considers all of the potential impacts from each type of disaster, including natural disasters (earthquake, fire, flood, storms), terrorist acts, power disruptions or power failure.
Before creating a disaster plan, it is essential to determine the potential variables associated with the impact of disasters on your organization’s continuity in order to understand the underlying risks. This critical activity will determine which scenarios are most likely to occur and what recovery processes are needed. This analysis and assessment process is the foundation for the disaster plan. Disaster planning is a crucial component of risk management and business continuity planning. It is essential for ensuring continuity of operations.
Disaster Plan Contents
The key components of a disaster plan should include:
- Disaster Threat Analysis Risk Assessment
- Mitigation Steps (disaster prevention and damage reduction)
- Operations Response Plan
- Damage Assessment Process
- Salvage Procedures
- Recovery Plan
Disaster Recovery Plan
A typical disaster plan would include the following elements:
- Emergency Contact Sheet: A simple summary of steps to be taken and individuals to be contacted in an emergency.
- Introduction to the Plan: its purpose, process and organization.
- Structure of the Disaster Operations Plan: Including the plan maintenance process and the roles and responsibilities of team members.
- Departmental Responsibilities: Addressing the responsibilities of various departments such as human resources, administration, facilities and information technology.
- Pre-disaster Actions: Outline of procedures to be followed in advance of an emergency for which there is advance warning (e.g., hurricane, flooding), including assignment of responsibilities for those actions.
- Operations Response Plan: This plan defines the procedures to be followed according to the plan’s scenario variables as well as other emergency incidents.
- Recovery Plan: This plan provides the functional level steps to be taken to recover and maintain normal organizational operations.
Resources for the plan generally include items that must be routinely updated. Some examples are:
- Notification Lists: Names and numbers of employees and vendors who will need to be contacted, including office and home numbers, and next of kin.
- Recovery Team Members: List of recovery/salvage team members (including work and home phone numbers), with description of their responsibilities, scope of authority and reporting lines.
- Detailed Building Plans: These may be incorporated by reference.
- Resource Lists: Locations and inventory of emergency sup-plies, sources of commercial supplies/equipment that may be purchased, names of consultants and other specialists, sources of auxiliary/volunteer personnel, etc.
Simulation Training of Plan Execution
Once the draft is completed, training on the disaster plan is necessary to ensure its smooth and successful implementation. The documentation in the plan should be detailed enough to provide the step-by-step guidance needed. An organization cannot expect staff to pick up a plan during a disaster and read about what they should do.
All parties involved will need to be trained on all of the new procedures or practices envisioned under the plan as well as their assigned roles. The best training practices include walk-through, tabletop exercises, and functional simulations.
For the most critical planning areas, full dress rehearsals involving a combination of tabletop and functional exercises will be required to fully test your organization’s plan and ability to monitor the execution of the plan. This testing process will also uncover any flawed assumptions in the plan for plan improvement prior to the plan being finalized.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that disaster planning is not an off-the-shelf plan. Your company is unique. The problems you may face in keeping operations running smoothly are also unique. Any good disaster plan will have to be tailor-made in order to be effective.