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4 Essential Elements in Planning for Disaster

The wildfires in Alberta, Canada, are a stark reminder that natural disaster can strike almost anywhere at anytime. According to German global reinsurer Munich Re, disasters resulted in more than $90 billion in insured losses around the globe in 2015. CEOs must ensure that their companies and employees are both prepared and covered at all times.

As hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, and blizzards can all wreak havoc on even the largest organizations, an effective disaster recovery (DR) plan is key to economic and organizational survival. Here are 4 essential elements for effectively planning and responding to a disaster.

1. Put people first. According to Wells Fargo’s Treasury Insights blog, staff should be the “top priority” in a time of disaster. Companies should start by encouraging employees to be personally prepared for emergencies with either evacuation or shelter-in-place plans. The company should also have a plan in place to make payroll on time, or even ahead of time, when disaster strikes. Critical employees should also have laptops, remote accessibility, and the IT infrastructure to support critical duties if displaced during the disaster.

“The plan should be detailed enough [and] flexible enough to account for many potential situations.”

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says employees can be conflicted between personal obligations and work in a time of disaster. Employers should work through all stages of disaster planning with employee buy-in and instill “confidence that their employer truly understands and values their contribution and takes their needs into account.”

2. Crisis communications. Being able to communicate with employees, stakeholders, and customers in a time of disaster can be difficult. Rob Rae, vice president of business development at backup and recovery company Datto, says in an ebook that communications plans should be well-documented, easy to access, and should address how the company will communicate during and after a disaster. “The plan should be detailed enough [and] flexible enough to account for many potential situations,” says Datto.

Companies will also want to engage in various methods of communications, from social media to text messaging, and phone calls. Datto says companies can also use automated solutions that can distribute messages to thousands of recipients. “Emergency communications should be brief and as accurate as possible,” says Datto.

3. Business continuity. Business continuity includes more than just having the right insurance coverage and repairing physical damage. It means a comprehensive plan of having the ability to potentially resume operations with limited staff, limited vendors, and a limited infrastructure. Dun & Bradstreet SVP and Chief Data Scientist Anthony Scriffignano, says at Business Insider that companies need to ponder the “total risk” that can impact all operations and functions.

That includes thinking about how your company would obtain the raw materials, supplies, and labor to resume operations after a disaster. Scriffignano says companies should use an “ABC” analysis of situations that are “most risky, less risky and least concerned about” and develop a business continuity plan that addresses all risks.

4. Testing and updating plans. Even the best made plans can be worthless if they’re not constantly tested and updated. George Crump, president of IT analyst firm Storage Switzerland, says at Tech Target that IT remains central to DR planning and organizations should engage in regular testing of DR plans to ensure they’re up-to-date.

Despite the expense and time consumption, Crump recommends quarterly testing to identify changes in the environment so the plan to be updated to accommodate any new altered conditions. “The reality of the modern data center is that change typically happens too fast for a change control process to keep up with it. Even if change control is adhered to most of the time, one small misstep or slip up can result in recovery failure,” says Crump.


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