Disaster Preparedness Planning may seem like a daunting task and it is therefore often put on the back burner. But imagine the worse task of trying to recover from a disaster when there was no plan in place. Or, what if a disaster involved a number of people that couldn’t come to work due to weather or mass illness, such as a pandemic flu? Would your company survive?

Some companies spend up to 25% of their budgets on disaster recovery planning; this is intended to avoid larger losses. This is not surprising when you consider the statistics. Of companies that have had a major loss of computerized records, 43% never reopened, 51% closed within two years, and only 6% survived long-term.

The ultimate goal is to ensure business continuation, speed recovery time, and determine a recovery point. To do this, you have to realize the need for disaster recovery, understand the many causes, and help put a realistic and viable plan into place.

Many people think of disasters as those affecting a whole region such as a flood, hurricane, earthquake or major storm. However, localized disasters, such as a gas main explosion or fire that destroys your office building can be equally devastating. Internal disasters such as a virus, theft, or malicious (or accidental) damage also need to be considered.

Planning for disasters will help ensure continuation of your operations, may help avoid lawsuits, and will certainly help with customer retention. Additionally, some industries may have compliance issues (such as HIPAA laws) that mandate a disaster recovery plan.

The planning steps don’t have to be overwhelming, but they do need to start with a commitment from everyone at the top of the organization. From there, a risk mitigation and business impact assessment will help guide the rest of the plan. The plan will need to include recovery and resumption strategies, plan development and testing, and a plan for maintenance. Key elements of the plan will need to include:

 People – Your plan needs a back-up plan if key people can’t get to work due to environmental issues or widespread illness.

 Workplace – Make a plan for small disasters, like an extended power outage. Then combine those plans for simultaneous disasters, like a power outage due to a fire. Start small then work up to major disasters to make the planning processes easier.

 Communications – How will remote workers do their jobs if there is an interruption in telephone or internet service? How will customers reach you?

 Hardware – A simple lightening strike or sprinkler malfunction could cause a hardware disaster. These “isolated” disasters can have the same effect as a major disaster if you aren’t prepared.

 Software – You will want current software easily accessible (and protected) if hardware must be replaced due to a disaster.

 Data – Both electronic and hard copy need to be considered in your plan. Will your back up data be viable after a disaster?

Don’t forget to include recovery considerations:

 Insurance – Will it cover replacement costs? How long will it take to get a check from insurance? Do you have financing options readily available?

 Business continuity – How long will the operations be down? If the workplace is damaged, how quickly can an alternative work environment be developed? If hardware / network are damaged, how quickly can new hardware be installed? Will there be enough hardware to go around? Cost of down-time vs. cost of redundant systems.

 Other factors – Customer retention, industry compliance, contract fulfillment, and lawsuit avoidance.

Volumes of information are available to help prepare and execute a disaster recovery plan. Some of the best on-line resources include:

 Disaster Recovery Institute (www.DRII.org)

 Disaster Recovery Journal (www.DRJ.com)

 Disaster-Resource.com (www.Disaster-Resource.com)

 FEMA (www.FEMA.gov)

 Small Business Administration (www.SBA.gov)

The topic of BASM’s brown bag lunch in July is “Disaster Preparedness: What You Need to Know”. We will help you develop an individualized plan and answer specific questions you may have.

Please don’t wait —plan today, practice tomorrow, and prevail in the next disaster!