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Getting ready for the worst

Bad things happen to good organizations. In any disaster, whether natural or man made, there are businesses that close because of the physical conditions and never manage to reopen. Here’s how to figure out your weak points and how to avoid common pitfalls in making that assessment.

1. Assess your risk

Don’t make risk assessment a one-person job. It’s not that a company can’t choose a person to head up the risk assessment process, it’s just that no single individual can have enough knowledge to reasonably assess the risks to every department, process, and work product.

Disaster recovery risk assessment must be a team effort in which the managers and stakeholders from each work group assess

✔ The consequences to their group if various services and products become unavailable, and 
✔ The order in which those services and products should be restored for optimum continuity of the business.

2. What’s moveable?

How many of the tasks and processes of the various departments can be moved to other locations and accomplished with alternative methods and procedures?

✔ Can your employees go to a different office? 
✔ Are there manufacturing facilities available that can be rented for the short term? 
✔ Which processes can be outsourced to a third party while your employees take care of themselves and their families? 

These are the sort of questions that must be answered during a realistic assessment.

3. Communication

One of the other things that must be dealt with is communication from management to employees and among employees. Especially in today’s era of social media and instant communication, too many companies take passing messages for granted. That is a critical mistake. Few things are more important during a crisis than accurate, precise communication.

Your company must have a known, regular, and adhered-to process for communicating the following:

✔ What is expected 
✔ What is known 
✔ What is going on with the organization 

You have to practice this process, just as you practice every disaster recovery process. A process that isn’t practiced isn’t reliable. And in business continuity, an unreliable process can be fatal to the organization and even to its employees.

Fortunately, there is help for those who want to build good processes around business continuity and disaster recovery. From the US government, FEMA1 has a template for a business continuity plan. The government of Canada provides similar help from Public Safety Canada. Either of these can be enormously helpful for managers who have never had to develop a disaster recovery plan.

Involve every business unit, ensure that communication is front and center in your plan, and then practice the plan at least once a year. Take care of these basics, and you’ll go a long way toward making sure that your company is one of the survivors when the worst happens.