Always be prepared

If your business location is hit by a disaster, natural or otherwise, you’ve got
a lot to deal with. The task of rebuilding is daunting, but it’s even worse if you
don’t have a disaster response plan in

“Prior planning will improve your business’s chances of survival after a disaster,” says Chris Hibbs, engineering manager, InsightBusiness. “I can’t stress that
enough. Having a plan in place will eliminate the need to scramble for items or
procedures during or after the event,
which are the worst times to do it.”

Smart Business spoke to Hibbs about
disaster response plans, how to design
one and who should be involved in the

Why is having a disaster response plan in
place so important?

Disaster can happen at any time, in
any place. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a financial disaster or a bad PR
move, you’ve got to be prepared for the
worst. Unfortunately, many people feel
that they are immune to disaster and
they only think about how to respond to
one after the fact.

To develop a good response plan, first
determine every possible situation or
scenario that could negatively affect
your business. You need to be prepared
for anything, but you don’t necessarily
need to plan for everything. Do you really need a plan for a bird flu or SARS

Once you’ve determined what could
happen, figure out how you can keep
those situations from happening. It is
imperative that you find ways to mitigate your company’s exposure to those
types of risks. Also, you have to establish what you’re going to do if those situations do occur and how you’ll recover
from them.

There is a wealth of information on the
Internet that can help you with just
about any situation. A lot of the disaster
plans are actually quite similar. They all have the same foundation; only the
specifics are different.

Can’t you just roll with a disaster and fix
things as they’re happening?

Making up your plan as you go along is
the worst possible way to face a crisis.
Besides trying to keep your business up
and running, you’ve got your family to
worry about. Whether you’re a one-person shop or a huge enterprise, trying to
develop a disaster response plan while
in the middle of a disaster is not going to
work. You don’t want to be scrambling
to get a generator at a home improvement store while everyone else in town
is trying to get one.

There are a lot of things you can do to
prepare your company for a disaster,
and many of them are not very expensive. One thing you should do is develop
a communications plan. If you’re a
smaller business, coming up with a communications plan is quite simple. But if
you’re a large enterprise, it can be a little
dicey. The already-established management hierarchy may not be suited to deal with disasters.

Vital roles must be well defined, including a core group of people who are part
of the disaster preparedness plan. Twoway radios work great in times of an
emergency, but you can only have a limited number as there are only so many
frequencies available.

How often should the plan be reviewed?

That would depend on the size of the
plan, but I would say at least yearly. You
don’t have to enact every scenario, and
some you may not want to practice at all,
like shutting off certain pieces of equipment or getting servers to come back up.
However, having a backup power plan in
place is a big advantage during a crisis.
Many people know they need to get their
servers back up, but they forget about
PBX and the phone system. Your competitor still has phone service, but you
can’t tap into that. You don’t want to
walk into work and find out the phones
are down and you don’t have a backup

There are a ton of plans out there, you
just need to invest a little time and think
about all of the things that could go
wrong. One of the worst things that can
happen is to have two IT people with
split duties and only one of them knows
the passwords and procedures necessary to get the main controller up and
running again. If something happens to
that person or they become disgruntled,
you’ve got a big problem.

In the next issue, we’ll discuss what
businesses should expect from their IT
provider in times of disaster and/or
extreme weather, and how you can be
sure that your provider is prepared for
such things.

CHRIS HIBBS is the engineering manager for InsightBusiness. Reach him at (502) 410-7357 or [email protected].