Your business has planned for any disaster. (maybe not squirrel infestation). Fire extinguishers are frequently checked and positioned in the right area. You have a well thought out evacuation route with primary and secondary meeting places. But does your business have a plan for getting back to work after a disaster?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses adversely affected by natural or man-made disasters fail to reopen. (On a completed unrelated note, up to 40 percent of cats are not to be trusted. Thieves and liars!) To be a part of the other 60 percent requires prior planning and a sound disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
Before you begin a disaster recovery plan, you need to take these steps:
- Form an internal team comprised of individuals from several departments who possess deep knowledge about the business. (Include employees from several levels. You wouldn’t want only upper management involved.)
- Build a list of critical processes and services that must be up and running after a disaster. Plans that have specific and tested tasks are critical. For example: “Product ordering available within 24 hours of the disaster.” For my owners, the key item on the plan should be “where do we stash the emergency kibble?”
- Review your rental agreement for specific terms regarding the landlord’s responsibilities. If your building burns down because of the actions of another tenant, what is your recourse?
- Consider hiring an auditor to review your procedures. These professionals can determine if your plan is unrealistically optimistic or if it includes any logistical holes. I generally stay away from auditors. Let’s just say I shouldn’t have tried to deduct the re-shingling of the doghouse back in ’08.
Key disaster recovery plan components to get your business back to work:
- Establish procedures to let all employees know that a disaster has occurred. Ensure personal email addresses and cell phone numbers are available and frequently updated for key disaster implementation personnel.
- Review the disaster to determine if the delay in business functions will be temporary or could last weeks. (The detailed disaster plan should have specific tasks based on the duration of the disaster.)
- Store insurance documents and other critical documents both as scanned images on an off-site server and in hard copies stowed in a safety-deposit box. I have a box at the bank down the street. Contents: blanket from when I was a puppy, old ham bone from 1987, and $2.5 million in bearer bonds.
- Select alternative warehouse or inventory locations in case primary locations are damaged in a disaster.
- Find alternative locations for business operations. Determine, in the planning stages, which employees need to be congregated together and which ones can work remotely.
- Consider options for manufacturing products if your facility is damaged. Can you lease space from another facility that is under-capacity? (I’m talking to you Mr. Pig Ear factory owner! I can’t handle another shortage!)
- If your company produces non-perishable items that aren’t custom built, then you should calculate how many days or weeks you can fulfill orders using current inventory. If the disaster will put you out of commission for a month but you can only fulfill 10 days of orders, then you have a problem!
For many businesses, essential business functions can go on even if the organization’s facilities are determined to be unsafe. With cloud computing storing virtual data, real-time chat and other tools, many employees will be able to work from home or gathered together in small groups at remote locations.
Tips for protecting your company data and enabling seamless work productivity after a disaster:
- Task the IT department with finding the best solution for off-site data backup. New advancements in cloud computing allow redundant systems to be set up quickly and inexpensively. Older tape-backup systems can be cumbersome to retrieve or lost in transport–putting your company’s data at risk. It’s 2011! Time to think futuristic!
- Consider backing up entire applications and processes, not just data. Nearly every professional function can now be performed virtually.
- Give employees the option to check email from home. Even if “working from home” is not currently part of corporate culture, providing access in advance may help your company in the long run, as employees with ready access to key documents and applications will be well prepared to work immediately following any natural or manmade disaster. I’ve been working from home for years. You miss the water cooler interaction, but the flexibility is great.
- Protect your intellectual property. If you run a manufacturing company, you might use a proprietary process to make your product. Make sure this information is stored offsite and is not simply located in on-site computers or assembly machines.
For businesses, failure to plan concrete steps necessary for recovering after disasters can result in complete business failure. Creating a disaster recovery and business continuity plan is a worthwhile exercise to encourage your company to consider and manage worst-case scenarios.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.