Three Steps for Disaster Planning, Recovery ​and Maintaining Business Continuity

Three Steps for Disaster Planning, Recovery ​and Maintaining Business Continuity

September 17, 2017

When hurricanes hit an area, depending on the path they take, damage and impact can range from minor to catastrophic. As we’ve all witnessed recovery efforts that were done in such diverse places as South Florida, Houston, New Orleans and Puerto Rico, for many of our Florida clients, they were very lucky that in 2017 Hurricane Irma did not directly hit Fort Lauderdale.

Nevertheless, Hurricane Irma disrupted businesses all across the Sunshine State and impacted many individuals and businesses. Sadly, many of those businesses were not prepared to deal with the aftermath and as such were slow to recover, despite the fact that, like it or not, hurricanes are a way of life if you live and conduct business in Florida… just like fires are a way of life in California, earthquakes are common to California and Nevada (our Las Vegas clients know all about that), and tornadoes are commonplace in many of the plains states. Let us not forget that during the winter months major snow storms are inevitable if you live in the northeast and Midwest.

As Tropical Storm Dorian bears down on Puerto Rico and with predictions of an upgrade to a Category 2 or 3 Hurricane before it makes Florida landfall sometime this Labor Day weekend, it’s always good to be reminded of how to prepare your business for a potential disaster.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 47% of companies that experience a disaster never re-open. Avoid being a statistic. So, whether you manage or own one business location or 100, a proactive recovery plan can significantly limit business disruption and restore critical services as soon after a disaster as possible.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are some best practices that can assist you in your planning. When faced with a disaster, things get hectic and emotions take over. Without proper planning, the loss can be devastating.To start, assess current business plans. Do they include disaster preparation and a recovery strategy?

The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that only 25% of small businesses have a disaster recovery plan. Considering the above statistic, this puts most small businesses at risk. For large organizations, there might be some type of plan in place, but is it formalized and tested, and will it be effective when a disaster strikes?

  • Have a written document that includes step-by-step instructions, emergency phone numbers, and back-up protocols.
  • Include communication procedures so employees, vendors, clients, and renters know how and when to reach management.
  • Consider establishing an alternative method for phone service, such as forwarding incoming calls to a cell phone or remote number/call center.
  • Seek out reputable disaster recovery companies, and set-up prearranged agreements that outline the priority of service and assessment of emergency equipment needed.

Develop a realistic budget for disaster recovery planning and training. This should be viewed as an investment in your business.

Second, identify areas of risk and the potential consequences.

Review your vulnerable areas, document all office processes, and develop a contingency plan for each. Some things to consider:

  • Plan to communicate with employees, customers, and vendors — who, what, when, and how.
  • Develop the appropriate protocols to ensure your data is safe and can be accessed. This includes cloud based solutions.
  • Keep copies of insurance policies and other critical documents in a safe and accessible location (e.g., fireproof safe or backed-up computer system)
  • Develop a training program for your staff on what needs to happen before, during, and after a disaster.
  • Address protocols for different types of disasters and prioritize based on the likelihood of these events.

Third, understand and address the three elements of disaster recovery planning: prevention, detection, and correction. Prevention puts measures in place to mitigate risk; this includes data protection, inspections, and equipment acquisition. Detection provides measures for early detection of a potential disaster. Correction uses measures to implement recovery operations after the disaster.

Finally, test your disaster recovery plan.

Testing your plan during a disaster is the wrong time to discover issues. You need to test at least annually to ensure the disaster plan as written still reflects your current operations; correcting issues found during testing will save you headaches in the long run. Whether you manage or own one building or 500, a proactive disaster restoration and business continuity plan can significantly reduce the effects of a loss.

Updated: August 28, 2019