If a hurricane or tornado were to hit your company tonight at 9:43pm, would you be back in business tomorrow? Well, unless you have a smart disaster recovery plan, the answer is ‘no’—not tomorrow and possibly not ever.
No one enjoys thinking about and planning for worst case scenarios. But if and when disaster strikes your organization, there is no substitute for being well prepared. And with hurricane season in full force now, it’s a good reminder that most disasters come without a lot of warning.
The best time to put together a disaster recovery plan is obviously before anything happens. When heads are cool, we can all think, plan, and strategize to the best of our abilities. This article provides a general guide and useful resources for making sure your team is ready in the event of a natural or human-caused disaster.
Where do we start?
To get started with disaster recovery planning, first check to see whether your company has a plan in place, however incomplete. If you have an outdated plan to work with, start by making any necessary updates. In the future, make sure to update your disaster recovery plan once per year or whenever policy changes necessitate a change in the plan.
If you find yourself starting from scratch, consider that each type of disaster has unique consequences for the systems, people, and proce
sses that keep your business up and running. FEMA.gov is a good place to start with a list of emergency preparedness resources for different types of disasters.
Here’s a handy checklist for creating a more general disaster recovery plan for your business:
1. Put people first.
It is surprising how many online disaster recovery templates fail to mention the risk of actual injury and loss of human life during emergencies. But it is up to businesses to put a plan in place to protect their people in the event of an em
Which personnel are essential to operations? Do you have a plan in place for allowing most employees to work remotely, while clean-up and reconstruction efforts are arranged? If there are injuries to employees, how will you make sure they receive urgent medical care?
Putting your people first means thinking beyond a mere first-aid kit.
2. Who is responsible for what during a disaster?
During a disaster, decisions will need to be made quickly. It’
s essential to establish a clear mission-critical, hierarchy spelling out exactly who will make decisions and when. This starts with a list of key stakeholders, executives, and managers along with a list of disaster-response actions each will take in order to recover and restore functions that were interrupted.
3. Consider the minimum infrastructure you need to operate.
Does a strong disaster recovery plan require you to pay rent on additional office space in a non-disclosed location in case of an emergency? Probably not. But it is important for you to consider your options ahead of an emergency.
Do you have technology in place to allow employees to seamlessly work from remote locations? What if the office is “inhabitable” and necessary for keeping some aspects of your business running, but there’s no running water? Maybe portable restroom trailers for employees and customers could solve your problem.
4. Have a plan for data recovery.
IT back ups should be a regular part of your business procedur
es and are an important part of any type of disaster recovery. In fact, your IT department should have its own, separate disaster recovery plan. Here’s a good document to pass on to your leaders in IT.
Your data may be your business’s most valuable asset. Make sure it’s protected. Consider how and where your data is being stored. Is it on-site? In the cloud? Is the data encrypted? What will it take to restore it? How vulnerable are you to being hacked or compromised during recovery?
5. Make communication as easy as possible.
Communication during disaster recovery is key. If your employees can’t communicate with one another, it will be very hard for them to fulfill their responsibilities. Consider with whom they will need to communicate. Who should employees contact to confirm the status of business and execute the plan?
6. Know what you will say to the public.
Next to having a plan for internal communications, it’s important to have a plan for communicating with external channels such as customers, vendors, investors, and the media. Come up with a list of core messages and talking points that can easily be modified to include relevant information about the specific emergency situation.
It’s a good idea to come up with a “crisis management media kit” with pre-written press releases ready to be tweaked and blasted out. No one will be in the right state of mind to come up with a press release during such a devastating time. Best to work from a script.
7. Model most likely disasters.
Consider the disasters that are most likely to affect your business and model as accurately as possible when conducting practice drills. If you don’t operate in a flood zone, you may not need to plan for a flood. So make sure to plan for scenarios that you and your staff are likely to encounter.
8. Keep a list of supply delivery vendors and restaurants at the recovery site.
This item may sound strange, but it can be very important. During an emergency you and employees may spend many hours at the recovery site and need certain supplies. You do not want to waste precious time and resources searching for these things after a disaster.
You may very well need staff to spend more than 24 hours at a time on site. If employees are sifting through rubble and working in areas t
hat are especially dusty, for instance, personal hygiene may become a priority. In this case, having portable shower trailers on hand can be a lifesaver. Make sure Blue Ribbon Restrooms is on your list of emergency vendors.
9. Test and retest your disaster recovery plan.
Disaster recovery planning is a work in progress. You will need to carefully update and reevaluate your plan to keep pace with important changes in your business. Make sure you test your entire plan at least once each year in order to keep s
taff familiar with the protocol. When testing your plan, don’t assume events will unfold exactly according to plan. Be sure to test different scenarios and unusual variables.
No one likes to consider worst case scenarios, unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent disasters from happening. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, smart businesses come up with a solid plan for meeting disaster head on.