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 place.
“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 process.
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 epidemic?
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 plan.
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@example.com.