Word to the Wise: Disaster Recovery Planning: Expect the Unexpected
Floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes. You never think the worst will happen to your community. But bad things happen everywhere, and smart organizations know they need to plan ahead.
What’s the state of your disaster recovery plan? There’s no time like the present to assess—or reassess—your needs.
Disasters come in many forms, but damage to facilities is relatively common. What will you do if your workplace is destroyed or significantly impacted by a fire, flood, storm, or other natural disaster?
Meet with your insurance advisor to determine exactly what your policies cover. Be sure you understand deductibles, limits, and waiting periods.
For example, what will your property insurance pay to repair or replace equipment? Do you have business interruption insurance to cover loss of income plus expenses? Will your insurance pay for you to temporarily relocate?
If your physical space is crucial to your mission, how can you continue to provide services without the use of your building? If vehicles owned by the organization are destroyed, can you quickly rent or buy new ones?
Also consider your liability coverage: What is your organization’s responsibility for bodily injury, property damage, or medical payments? If a burst pipe in your office floods the company downstairs or causes an unsafe situation, will your insurance pay for remediation?
Your insurance advisor can weigh in on how to structure policies to get the coverage you need at the best price. Being aware of coverage details—and gaps—will help you create a thorough disaster recovery plan.
The best defense is a good offense, so be proactive about your options. Create a team from your various departments to brainstorm problems and solutions. For example, where will your employees work if the office is inaccessible? Do you have a work-at-home plan in place for remote network access? Is there nearby space you can take over in case of emergency?
Be prepared to communicate your logistics plan from an offsite location. This means you need an up-to-date contact list for all employees and directors, key vendors, and other interested parties.
The cloud has made it easy and cost effective to store and back up data and files. Cloud backup is safe, secure, and redundant and should be part of your normal operating procedures.
However, getting your files in the cloud is just part of the plan. Making digital files easy to find is an important step in disaster recovery and has the added benefit of letting staff and stakeholders find documents independently. Adopt a common file naming and storing convention so that staff can share and update information directly.
Keep in mind that you might have important documents that only exist on paper, such as a business license, IRS determination letter, or other files. If so, create and store electronic copies.
In case of emergency, you want to follow your recovery plan without much thought. To remove the guesswork and extra discussion, determine who will manage various tasks up front.
For example, assign a specific person to be the insurance liaison, the organizational spokesperson, the staff coordinator, the repair or construction interface, the constituent services connection, and so on. This way, everyone knows his or her job and can dive in without hesitation.
Of course, plans are only plans, and what you want is effective action in the event of a disaster. Regularly test and practice your plan to ensure that your contingencies are workable.