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Disaster Planning

Business Continuity and Disaster Planning is an Investment not an Expense

Every year disasters, such as floods, fires and hurricanes, take a toll on businesses and their employees. By being prepared, businesses can limit injuries and damages. They can respond to disasters quicker and get back to normal operation faster.

Previously, many companies focused their business recovery efforts primarily on their IT systems and record protection. Today, businesses need to look beyond their information systems. They need to focus on how their overall business will survive - their employees, equipment and facilities -- not just their data.

Preparation is the Key to Averting Disaster

Disaster Statistics

According to the Disaster Recovery Institute International, over 75% of U.S. businesses have experience some type of business interruption. Yet, research indicates that 75-80% of businesses do not have a comprehensive recovery/continuity plan. This is courting disaster. A study by the University of Texas found that 90% of organizations who experienced a disaster without having a recovery plan in place were out of business within two years.

Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 67 weather-related disasters where the overall damage and costs exceeded $1 billion (NOAA Satellite and Information Service) During the 2005 hurricane season alone, 7 hurricanes made landfall resulting in at least 1,400 deaths and more than $100-billion in property damage.

This web page provides the following information about business continuity and disaster planning:

What is Business Continuity Planning?

Business Continuity Planning is defined by the Disaster Recovery Institute as "the process of developing advance arrangements and procedures that enable an organization to respond to an event in such a manner that critical business functions continue with planned levels of interruption or essential change."

The types of business interruption events that a company may need to respond to include fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, equipment failures, utility outages, structural failures and computer viruses.

Business Continuity Planning includes activities such as emergency preparedness, emergency response and disaster recovery across the entire span of business functions.

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Step-by-Step Approach to Creating a Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan

Step 1: Task your Team

Developing a BCP requires getting the whole company on board - everyone has a part to play.

  • Sales needs to identify Critical Customers.
  • Finance needs to determine how bills will be paid.
  • Purchasing needs to identify Critical Suppliers.
  • Operations needs to know how production can resume.
  • Facilities needs to know how to get critical utilities back on line.
  • IT needs to know which systems need go on-line first.
  • EHS needs to address how emergency work can be done safely.
  • Most importantly, Top Management needs to show its commitment to the development and continuing implementation of a sound Business Continuity Plan.

Step 2: Analyze your Hazards

The hazards faced by each company are unique. Hazards vary depending on location, property characteristics, local weather, building construction, neighboring facilities and types of operations. In addition, the importance of each hazard depends on a variety of factors including the nature of your operations, capabilities of your employees and availability of emergency services.

Every company has limited resources to devote to planning for events that may -- or may not -- occur. One of the goals of business continuity planning is to focus your resources on the risks that matter most to your company.

Step 3: Develop your Plan

Based on the hazards you identify, your BCP needs to clearly and concisely answer the following questions:

  • What should I do?
  • Where should I go?
  • Who should I call?
  • When should I do this?
  • Who is in charge?

You can move much more quickly to recovery if you have a written plan in place.

Step 4: Implement your Plan

No plan is worthwhile if it gathers dust on a shelf.

Implementation of your BCP means acting on the recommendations made during the hazard analysis, integrating the plan into your day-to-day operations, having services in place and training employees on what to do if an emergency occurs.

Step 5: Evaluate and Modify your Plan

Even the best plan isn't effective forever.

You should conduct a formal audit of the entire plan at least once a year. In addition to a yearly audit, your plan will need to be evaluated whether there are changes in hazards, personnel or facilities that may impact your disaster response.

Periodic testing of your plan will ensure that employees know what to do. It will also identify problems that may impact your emergency response or disaster recovery.

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How ENLAR Can Help

ENLAR has hands-on experience assisting companies with business continuity planning.

ENLAR can help you:

  • Identify your Business Continuity Plan Requirements - We can assist you in identifying the environmental, safety and health requirements that must be addressed within your business continuity plan.
  • Complete a Vulnerability Analysis - We can assist you in identifying, evaluating and ranking the hazards associated with different potential disaster scenarios - from severe weather events to utility outages and equipment failure. We have developed customized spreadsheets to assist companies in evaluating the potential vulnerabilities and critical dependencies associated with their business processes.
  • Prepare a Business Continuity Plan - We can assist you in drafting a business continuity plan that is clear, concise and easy to reference. Depending on your needs, the Business Continuity Plan can be developed as either a paper or electronic document (or both). We can help you set up you plan on a secure third-party web site so it is accessible when an emergency occurs.
  • Audit your Business Continuity Plan - We can evaluate your existing emergency and business continuity plans and make suggestions for improvement.

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6 Keys to Sound Business Continuity Planning

Consider all Possibilities

You need to consider the entire range of potential emergencies from fires and explosions to equipment and supplier failure. Once you have identified all the possibilities, you can evaluate which are critical to your particular business

Example: You wouldn't think that snow storms would be a business continuity problem in Florida. They may be, however, if one of your critical suppliers can't deliver a raw material to you because roads are closed due to snow.

Integrate it into your Operations

Emergency response is not just a safety or regulatory issue; everyone has to have ownership of their piece of the plan. This means keeping lists up to date and making sure emergency supplies available.

Example: Every year, prior to hurricane season, Floridians are advised to stock up on emergency supplies. Every year, as the first hurricane is about to make landfall, local TV stations show long lines of people buying emergency supplies at local stores.

Plan for Crisis Communication

Crisis events are prime news stories. You can count on the media showing up right after the emergency responders.

Make sure you know what you want to say, how you want to say it and who is doing to deliver the message. Do not rely on chance, instinct or "no comment."

Make it Real

Planning needs to reflect real behavior in an actual emergency.

  • Employees may not be at your facility 24/7.
  • No one can be on call all the time.
  • Employees will think about the health and safety of their families first.

Your plan needs to take these factors into account rather than ignoring them.

Example: It is not uncommon for the Emergency Plan to only have one designated Emergency Coordinator or to have procedures that are only effective during normal business hours. What about the emergency that happens on 3rd shift or when no one is at the facility?

Plan for Business Recovery

Many contingency plans stop at immediate emergency response. It is just as important to include information on the steps needed to transition back to normal operations.

Keep it Up-to-Date

Change is a reality in today's business climate - products change, suppliers change, facilities change.

To be effective, your BCP has to change as well.

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Making the Case for Business Continuity Planning

Events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have pushed business continuity planning to a new level of urgency. Human nature being what it is, however, interest in business continuity planning can also fade quickly. It is easier to focus on today's "business fires" than on a real fire that may -- or may not -- happen tomorrow.

It is important to periodically focus on what could happen -- even if it hasn't happened yet. Here are four questions to ask to determine whether you need to re-focus on business continuity planning:

  • Are you confident you can manage a disaster better than your competitors?
  • If you ignore the legal requirements related to emergency preparedness, can you afford the fines and penalties that may result?
  • If your facility burned to the ground tonight, do you have the information you need to start over?
  • If you mismanage the media, will the negative publicity severely damage your business?

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