The increasing frequency in devastating natural disasters such as hurricanes Michael, Maria, and Harvey; coupled with emerging threats such as cyber warfare hitting all levels of companies and government, the public and private sector is leaving more people vulnerable to their effects, especially businesses. Businesses, large and small, must create a disaster preparedness plan to mitigate these risks and prepare for the possibility of an emergency.
What is Disaster Management?
Disaster management is the identification of all potential risks, internal and external, and the organization of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all identifiable threats to lessen the impact.
The goal of disaster management, in particular, is preparedness, response, and recovery to effectively respond to threats such as natural disasters or data breaches and protect the business interests of the organization. Disaster management integrates the disciplines of disaster recovery, crisis management, incident management, emergency response, and contingency planning.
To create a disaster preparedness plan, a business must first identify possible threats to the continuity of the organization.
Disasters and Emergencies
Natural disasters, global warming, cyber threats, active shooters, all are possible scenarios every business must prepare themselves for. Beyond the universal risk, there is an increase in smaller local level disasters that the company has to take into account; such as high levels of violence, emerging infectious diseases, and epidemics. Different scenarios pose a different level of risk for every business depending on factors such as location, industry, among others. It is essential for each company to evaluate and make a list of possible threats based on their probability and impact to better prioritize your disaster recovery planning. If a business does not take the time to prepare itself and identify potential emergencies, it can be left paralyzed by a disaster.
Responding to Emergencies
Whether natural or man-made, large or small, disasters and emergencies can have a dramatic impact on a company’s infrastructure, profitability, and ultimately their ability to keep their doors open. A solid plan needs to be in place before disaster strikes. A Disaster Management Plan is essential.
Having a plan in place provides a much-needed aspect of confidence for employees during any disaster situation. A disaster management plan eliminates all guesswork and gives management a level of assurance that each employee knows his or her specific role for every eventuality, regardless of how surprising or damaging the interruption can be.
A company should take these steps to evaluate potential threats, keep the company safe, and respond in case of an emergency.
Your response is only as good as the employees in charge; therefore, employee training must be performed to ensure employees follow recovery steps in the proper order and in a correct manner. The necessary training can vary in time and scope, depending on the actions taken.
Senior management relies heavily on a business management plan when preparing annual budgets. It helps answer the question of what functions and processes are covered under existing insurance and what additional protection needs to be taken.
Depending on the scope of the business involved, a plan can be a rather concise document or contained in a large binder with hundreds of pages. Each employee should be given at least one copy of the procedure and perhaps a second copy to keep at home if the office cannot be accessed. One best practice is to put copies of the BCP in a bright orange folder or binder for quick identification when needed.
A one-and-done approach doesn’t work when training employees. All businesses are in a constant state of change, especially when it comes to technology. Ongoing advancements in tech and other areas make it essential to review a risk management strategy a few times every year and see whether any recovery processes need to be changed to adapt accordingly.
No strategy is complete without a list of clients, vendors, and various third parties that must depend on your plan to ensure business continuity and minimize potential loss. Business partners and customers benefit from knowing you have taken the necessary steps to protect their best interests.
Business continuity plans should be tested frequently, much in the same way employees are asked to participate in fire drills for their personal safety and regular medical checkups for their health. It comes down to having a workable plan that employees can successfully act upon in times of emergency. Planning is priceless because you never know when you would need to activate your emergency preparedness plan.
A tabletop exercise will help familiarize the organization with the procedures in the occurrence that an emergency does happen. However, a discussion can only do so much to prepare your team, and a more hands-on approach should be taken. Full-scale exercises are the best preparedness techniques a company can use to test high-risk emergency scenarios. Depending on the size of your business, these should be conducted once a year.
Tabletop and full-scale exercises should be conducted on an annual basis. After the exercises, share information that was gathered throughout the organization so that everyone is better prepared. This will also be critical for the business to decide on how best to respond after an emergency does happen. No matter how much you prepare, unforeseeable circumstances and a company should have a mitigation response in place. This will ensure the continuity of a company, even in the worst-case scenario.