Without a doubt, disaster can strike at any time. Whether it be a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado, or a heinous terrorist attack such as what struck our country on September 11, 2001, disasters happen. As such, the importance of a disaster recovery plan cannot be overstated.
No matter what industry your business operates in, when an unforeseen event takes place and brings your business to a halt, you need to ensure that the business can recover as soon as possible. And, you need to ensure that your employees are safe and have what they need to address any concerns on the home front. From data security breaches to natural disasters, your business, regardless of size, must have a plan in place in case of a catastrophe. Failure to develop a disaster recovery plan and communicate it across the organization places you and your business at risk of high financial costs, loss of your reputation, and creates even greater risks for your clients.
How to create a disaster recovery plan for your business
After suffering a disaster, it is estimated that between 40-60% of small businesses are never able to reopen their doors. Further, 90% of small businesses that are unable to resume business operations within five days of the disaster fail within that following year. Larger companies often have more time and resources to create continuity plans and to survive disasters, but in many cases, small businesses have no plan in place.
Follow these steps to get your organization’s disaster recovery plan (aka a business continuity plan) in place.
- Start by compiling contact information for all of your employees. Your employees should be your number one focus, followed by your business operations. Create a list of who you should call after a disaster, starting with your people, followed by your local emergency response and management agencies, major clients, vendors and suppliers, realtors or property managers, lenders or investors, insurance agents, and insurance company claim representatives. Train all employees of what they should do after a disaster and how to report into the company that they are safe and accounted for.
- Next, develop your business continuity plan. This plan should include a business impact analysis, recovery and remediation strategies, roles and responsibilities for all team members (separate from their typical job duties), and a testing plan. The business impact analysis is intended to help you understand and document the effects that a disaster will have on your business. The recovery and remediation strategies should outline how information is stored and backed-up, how employees can work remotely and access key systems, and what can’t be addressed if certain scenarios come into play. Once you have developed your plan, seek methods to test it to ascertain what works, and what does not. Finetune until your plan is successful.
- Stockpile essential supplies that are needed to operate your business. Create emergency supply kits for your employees to grab in the event the disaster happens while they are at work, and will threaten their physical safety. Include bottled water, first aid supplies, cash, chargers for mobile devices, etc. Consider investing in backup systems or data management systems that can store your information in the cloud or can help get the business up and running either immediately or with little downtime. Many small businesses invest in generators and backup communications systems.
- Document all equipment that you have at your site and that is assigned to employees. This documentation of assets should include model numbers, serial numbers, type of device, and who the device is assigned to. Include common items as well such as printers, copy machines, and even refrigerators and microwaves that might be in your office kitchen.
- Review your insurance coverage with your agent or insurance representative. Make sure that you have full knowledge of what is covered and in what circumstances. Ensure there are no gaps in coverage that could prevent you from collecting on a claim, and consider whether or not you need key man insurance for critical business figureheads such as your C-suite or other critical members of staff. In most cases, you can purchase additional insurance that protects your business against specific disaster risks in your area, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods. It is unlikely that you will be able to purchase these add-ons after the fact, so ensure you take the time to know your plan.
By taking the steps now to create your disaster recovery plan, you will be better able to ensure business continuity for your organization. Not only is this plan good for business owners, but it is right for your employees and stakeholders as well. Your customers rely on your business to provide them with a product or service, and many customers will also feel better knowing that they are working with a business that has plans in place and is prepared, regardless of when disaster strikes.