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Three Steps for Disaster Planning Toward a Smooth Recovery

Whether you manage or own one building or 500, a proactive recovery plan can significantly limit business disruption and restore critical services as soon after a disaster as possible. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some best practices that can guide you in your planning...

Q4 2016
Forty percent of companies that experience a disaster never re-open according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Avoid being a statistic, or help other organizations you manage, by ensuring a disaster plan is in place. The primary goal in disaster recovery is to limit business disruption and restore critical services as soon after a disaster as possible. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for disaster recovery, but there are some best practices that can guide 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? It is estimated that only 25 percent of small businesses have a disaster recovery plan, according to U.S. Small Business Administration. 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?

When creating or reviewing your recovery plan, consider the following:
  • 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.
When faced with a disaster, things get hectic and emotions take over. Without proper planning, the loss can be devastating. 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.
  • 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.
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