Disaster recovery, emergency preparedness, business continuity, incident management: it all boils down to one important question: How will your business cope if you are suddenly faced with a disruption of normal service?
From the unexpected absence of a key staff member to a natural disaster, threats to your ability to maintain your business can come from anywhere at any time.
For many larger businesses, emergency and disaster recovery planning is a widely accepted and understood requirement. Smaller businesses, for whom the impacts of any event could be significantly greater, can often overlook the necessity for disaster recovery planning. However, recent technological and information advances mean that no business, large or small, has an excuse not to be prepared.
Disaster recovery planning and the process of getting the business back up and running is crucial. Emergency planning and disaster recovery is not simply about preparing for a terrorist attack or earthquake, being prepared for a power outage or unexpected staff absence or incident can equally help in ensuring business continuity.
The goals of a business continuity plan should be to maintain maximum possible service levels during any event, and ensure that business critical departments recover from interruptions as quickly as possible.
There are a number of key stages in drafting a business continuity plan, and it is crucial that each is given adequate priority and importance:
1. Risk assessment.
It is essential to conduct a proper risk analysis on which to base all your plans. Once you know what your risks are, what their impact might be and the likelihood of them arising, you can begin planning how to avoid or mitigate them. Without adequate consideration of the risks that an organization faces, it is impossible to draw up any sort of plan to minimize their impact.
2. Continuity planning.
For each identified risk, there are two possible solutions to consider, avoidance and mitigation. A formal escalation schedule should be implemented as clearly as possible, detailing the steps to be taken to involve staff and the emergency services must be included.
3. Disaster prevention/avoidance.
With forethought and investment, some risks can be avoided. An earthquake proof building, enhanced security measures etc. can all help minimize the impact of certain risks to the point that they can be discounted. Even when this is the case, the continuity plan must still address them, an earthquake proof building is of no benefit unless staff are instructed to congregate in it and other safe areas. The continuity plan must include communication with stakeholders for all such emergencies, even when the risk to the business has been avoided.
4. Disaster mitigation.
Particularly for smaller businesses, it may not be possible to transfer production or sales to a different location, or provide the other facilities that would help to prevent a risk from impacting on the business. This is where the continuity plan really comes into its own, in providing detailed instructions on mitigating the effects of risks and minimizing disruption.
5. Emergency response and incident management.
Continuity plans must be regularly tested, as unforeseen emergency situations can arise at any time. This is why the continuity plan needs to be a living document that takes account of feedback from tests and genuine emergencies.
Post-incident recovery is an essential element in mitigating the effects of specific incidents, ensuring that operations are resumed as quickly as possible and before any secondary damage (to client lists or reputation) is incurred. Again, this should be an ongoing procedure with post-incident reviews feeding into improving the continuity plan.
Effective communication is a key factor throughout every phase of planning and execution. From brainstorming threat scenarios to notifying customers about service changes, having a robust and reliable mass communication system is the critical to your plan’s success.
Having a system that accommodates both day-to-day group communications as well as emergency messaging and can reach people via voice messages, SMS texts, emails or even social media sites can change the game: from not prepared in emergency situations, to business running as normal even in the event of factors that would normally threaten business continuity.
Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing 6 new articles focused on each of the key stages above. To read the second article in this series, go to Emergency Preparedness Planning 2: Risk Assessment. To read the third article in this series, go to Emergency Preparedness Planning 3: Continuity Planning. To read the 4th article, go to Emergency Preparedness Planning 4: Disaster prevention and avoidance. To read the 5th article, go to Emergency Preparedness Planning 5: Disaster mitigation. To read the 6th, go to Emergency Preparedness Planning 6: incident response. To read the 7th and final article, go to Emergency Preparedness Planning 7: Recovery.
Begin your Emergency Preparedness Planning now with a free online demonstration of Regroup’s powerful, secure and easy-to-use group messaging and emergency notification system today or for more information, talk to a Regroup Communications Consultant at 775-476-8710.