A Quick Reference for Business Leaders
Natural Disaster Survival Guide For Business, Part 1, is our first post, in this series designed to prepare your business to survive any number of disasters that could shut your business down. These posts are not intended to be a complete preparation guide on disaster preparedness. Rather they are meant to stimulate your thinking, as a business leader.
Disasters come in different ways. We’ve chosen six to chat about, over the next few weeks, leaving the most common one for last.
DISASTER SURVIVAL GUIDE
1. Building fire or flooding
2. Hurricane or coastal storm
4. Tornado or extreme storm
5. Earthquake, landslide or avalanche
6. Human error aka “hurricane humanity”
Every business has to prepare for the worst. Those that don’t may never fully recover from a disaster. But not all disasters are created equal. Moreover, not all businesses are at risk for every kind of disaster. That’s why our partner, Datto, put together this quick Disaster Survival Guide to help you ensure that your business can keep operating even if it’s struck by one of the natural disasters described. Of course, this post is no substitute for rigorous business continuity (BC) planning with a BC consultant. But it will get you started in the right direction—and help ensure that you have the basics of a good disaster recovery in place even before you invest in a more formal BC plan. Note: This post addresses continuity of business operations only. It does not address the physical safety of employees during a disaster—which should always be the first priority. For matters of employee safety, please consult appropriate guidance from building codes, fire safety engineers, etc.
Disaster #1 BUILDING FIRE OR FLOODING
Description: Fires or floods within an office or building can range from small incidents of short duration to the complete destruction of the facility.
Potential impact: Even a relatively small fire/flooding incident can have a very disruptive impact on a business. For example, a small fire in an office on an upper floor can result in the complete flooding of computers and telephone systems in the offices below as the building’s sprinkler systems kick in and firefighters seek to extinguish the blaze. Similarly, even a relatively limited amount of water leaking from a broken pipe or valve can put some or all of a business’s technology infrastructure out of commission. A large fire, of course, can force a business to have to relocate all of its operations temporarily or permanently.
Risk factors: There are approximately 100,000 commercial building fires in the U.S. per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Those at highest risk include manufacturing facilities, as well as offices located above or in proximity to restaurants because cooking is a primary cause of non-residential structure fires, just as it is in homes.
Warning times: Water damage from failed plumbing, sprinkler systems, etc. can short-circuit electronic equipment with zero warning. However, building alarm systems typically give employees a few minutes to shut down critical systems and evacuate the premises.
Natural Disaster Survival Guide Technology continuity: As noted above, the severity and length of business disruptions caused by fires and flooding can vary considerably. To be prepared for extended or permanent facility damage, businesses should: Maintain continuous off-site backup of data, applications, and server images. Have arrangements in place for re-routing incoming calls to an alternative site and/or to employees’ mobile phones. Prepare an emergency posting for the company website that can be activated immediately and progressively as the consequences of the event unfold.
Prepare an emergency posting for the company website that can be activated immediately and progressively as the consequences of the event unfold.
People continuity: Because building fires and flooding only affect individual structures (or, at worst, just a few adjoining ones as well), businesses impacted have a lot of options for keeping people productive.
Business Continuity plans should include: Arrangements in advance with a nearby shared/furnished office space provider, hotel, college, or other facility for an immediate/temporary operations command center. Next-day workspace provisioning in another company facility, emergency failover “cold site,” or at home personal desktops/laptops with appropriate call forwarding. Internal communications for keeping employees updated on resource availability, recovery status, etc. Any necessary third-party contracting for shipping/receiving, mail processing, duplicating, etc. Prepare an emergency posting for the company website that can be activated immediately and progressively as the consequences of the event unfold.
Businesses may also seek policy provisions that address work done from home or other locations while the facility is under repair (and/or a new location is secured) as well as business losses that may occur despite best–effort BC planning and execution.
Process continuity: Again, because building fires and flooding are highly localized, they typically only disrupt processes that touch a single company location. Business continuity plans therefore need to provide for alternative locations and means to perform actions such as:
• Answering phones
• Processing orders
• Issuing invoices
• Signing checks
• Filing reports required by regulatory mandates
Insurance considerations: A properly insured business should have a policy that covers the expenses above, in addition to the physical damage directly caused by the fire or flood. Businesses may also seek policy provisions that address work done from home or other locations while the facility is under repair (and/or a new location is secured) as well as business losses that may occur despite best-effort BC planning and execution.
Thank you for joining on this series on Natural Disaster Survival Guide for Businesses Part 1. Get me back to the Disaster Recovery main page.
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