As the effects of recent hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis remain in daily news coverage, disaster recovery also remains a hot topic for corporations and small businesses. For some, these disasters were a wake-up call to finally create a disaster recovery plan. For others, it meant digging through an old filing system to locate an outdated plan.


We are aware that a disaster could strike in the next five minutes; however, few of us take that knowledge and put it to good use. We cannot stop natural disasters, software hacking, employee strikes, pandemics and acts of terrorism that threaten our daily operations. Nonetheless, if there are lessons to be learned from the misfortune of others, now is the time for dedicating resources toward preparation. Organizations must realize that a documented, well-communicated plan of action is a necessity.


Although planning for a disaster goes beyond knowing the name and telephone number of the insurance company, any organization can come up with disaster procedures fitting for their business. The plan should provide simple, clear direction for recovery and, if properly communicated and deployed, can expedite results, lessen confusion and minimize operational downtime.


1. Form a recovery team and draft your plan Determining the roles and responsibilities within your plan includes defining leadership for the recovery effort. The team should represent the entire company, including key decision makers who can restore order quickly. Consider representatives from various departments (finance, communications, sales, etc.) and staff trained for emergency situations (medical personnel, counselors, etc.). All team members should participate in drafting your recovery plan to ensure it encompasses all business needs.


2. Review any current plans and know the risks If plans for building emergencies, evacuations, security or others already exist, review and update the plans for incorporation into your recovery plan. Also consult with local emergency management agencies when forming your plan, as they can provide insight into particular areas of concern and how to respond.


3. Meet with your insurance company Most businesses have an insurance policy already in place. But as businesses grow and change, the type of coverage may need adjustment. Policies should be reviewed annually, and information on the coverage should be easily accessible to avoid delays in claim reimbursement. Additionally, companies may be eligible to purchase business interruption insurance to protect against losses for insured situations of peril.


4. Secure documentation Reserve a secure location for storing important documentation such as insurance policies, facility maps, utility access, evacuation routes, hazardous equipment or materials storage, key contact information and other relevant documents. ·


5. Identify internal operational requirements Maintain records on personnel skill sets, inventory as well as resources needed to keep your business operating. Organizations should document requirements for facility space, information technology equipment and utilities to assist with alternate work environment and resource procurement.


6. Establish external business resources Depending on your company's size and industry, consider consulting with a business continuity provider to determine your organization's level of support for temporarily backing up operations. Data back-up and recovery services may also be a primary support function for your organization to comply with privacy laws. Additionally, contact your financial institution to determine options for lines of credit or business loans.


7. Create a communications strategy Communication before, during and after a disaster is crucial. Employees must have access to the recovery plan and be educated on their roles. During and after a disaster, continued communications and employee awareness will curtail confusion and make certain that the recovery effort remains on track. For external communications, a small team should contact and attend to the needs of customers while operations are being restored. Public companies should also establish a key contact for addressing inquiries from the media and the public.


8. Provide employee assistance Encourage your employees to be proactive in personal planning efforts by providing checklists for their own preparation and recovery. Following a disaster, employees may face personal situations such as a loss of possessions or family members. Counseling and support services will help these employees cope with the situation and will also reestablish order to their lives.


9. Train your employees Training can take many forms, including scheduled exercises, tutorials and procedural reviews. Include evaluations to allow employees the opportunity to provide comments to improve your training program.


10. Audit and update your plan As the corporate environment changes, needs and procedures must also change. Conducting annual audits of the recovery plan and also notifying employees of the changes will guarantee peace-of-mind that your organization is properly prepared for that unexpected situation.


For more information on business continuity services, contact Amanda MacDowell of BÖWE BELL + HOWELL at