Disaster Recovery Guide and Resources for When a Natural Disaster Strikes.

Lightning bolts, floods, fires and the occasional category 5 hurricane are inevitable—they will come, it’s just a matter of where and when. While it isn’t sexy or fun to put a disaster recovery plan in place, it is critical to employee safety and business continuity when the worst does happen.

It is also critical to understand that real estate is not the only facet of disaster recovery that may be affected if a building site is destroyed or disabled. Disasters will have a global effect on HR, IT, marketing and finance in addition to operations and real estate. A streamlined and updated Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) can save lives and reduce the overall impact on your company.

2017-09-08Below I’ve provided the following to get you on your way to developing a DRP:

  • 10 Steps to take in creating a DRP
  • Example DRP Templates
  • Additional Information Resources

Step 1:  Identify Essential Assets

What are the bare bones?  Identify equipment, staff, processes and business functions which are essential to continuing with business operations.

NOTE:  Don’t guess!  Collaborate with multiple levels and across departments to gain a complete understanding of the interaction between each respective department to highlight the bare essentials.

Step 2:  List Disaster Scenarios

Make a list of scenarios that are most likely to occur first, based on geographical location, e.g., you don’t need to plan for hurricanes if all your sites are located in the Midwest.

If you’re not sure of what you might be exposed to in a particular state, please refer to Ready.gov.

Step 3:  Create an Appropriate Response to Each Scenario

Create a plan of action and specific steps for each department, key staff, and leadership to take in each different scenario.  Actions should be clear and simple to avoid confusion.

It is helpful to put each scenario into a table format.  See example below.

Disaster Critical Asset Effect Solution
Fire Warehouse Stores run out of supplies within two days, meaning angry customers and loss of revenue. Spread supplies across two warehouses in very different locations, to reduce dependence on a single one.
Blackout Coffee shop Store has to close, meaning loss of revenue and clients. Each store should have a backup generator, so that it can keep going when the power’s out.

Step 4:  Make a Plan for Employees/Workforce

What types of employees do you have and what functions do they serve?  Where do they go?  What do they do?  How do you keep them safe?

Determine if employees with the most critical functions can safely continue working.

Step 5:  Plan for Communication

Communications Towerlocal government, employees, customers, etc. Identify multiple scenarios of communication depending on the type of disaster (e.g., if the storm knocked out all communication via cell phone, consider short wave radio).

Come up with a plan for effectively communicating with leadership,

Step 6:  Plan for Data and Systems Recovery

Back it up, right?  There are a ton of resources out there for backing up systems and data. It could be as simple as backing up to a cloud service like DropBox, Box, Google Drive or other more robust and secure services.  Automate the backup service.  Otherwise you won’t do it as often.

Infographic illustration of a server backup plan

Keeping a hard copy back-up of critical data on a flash drive is not a bad idea either.

Step 7:  Identify Alternative Sites for Backup and Operations

Bank of America has multiple office buildings and spaces sitting empty and strategically placed throughout the country to serve as mission critical backup operation hubs if an operational site is disabled.  Just the same, you may want to consider identifying alternative sites or footprint scenarios that would allow you to consolidate employees, inventories or mission critical operations into an alternative site on short notice.

If a meteor destroys your main warehouse facility, is there enough vacancy in the market to relocate your operations, or will you need to consider another market?

Companies like Regus offer flexible packages for “part-time” office rental, or you could try a service like ShareDesk, which matches up people looking for office space with those renting it out.

Step 8:  Appoint Leaders

Identify leaders that will be extensively trained to follow the guidelines of your DRP.  It is not essential that they be senior level management.  They just need to have a thorough understanding of the DRP.

Step 9:  Test the Planned Response to Each Scenario Periodically

Come up with simulations that are implemented on a regular schedule.  Try to make the simulation as realistic as possible, but also make it clear that it is just a test.

Step 10:  Update and Refine Each Planned Response After Observing Test

After each test, make adjustments based on your observations.  You may find that certain employees can still perform critical functions under less than ideal conditions, the evacuation plan needs to change for employees with special needs or that the tools required for a critical function need additional maintenance under certain scenarios.

Note:  Updating and streamlining the DRP could save lives!

Responding to an Actual Disaster:

Disaster Recovery Plan - DRP

First of all, breathe. This is what you’ve practiced for.  Follow your DRP and make adjustments based on differences between your plan and what’s actually happening. After an actual disaster, debrief immediately, and update the DRP when danger or threat has passed.

Please keep in mind that you may qualify for government assistance to help get you back on your feet. Various government bodies provide disaster loans, grants and other forms of aid. If you’re based in the US, try FEMA first of all. The SBA also has special disaster loan programs, and you can also check with your state or local government. And the IRS often gives tax relief to businesses located in disaster zones.

Here is a link to a DRP template that I have formatted for my clients’ use: Click here to download.

Thanks for reading!

Additional Resources

  1. Ways to protect warehouse stock
  2. Warehouse management techniques and disaster preparation
  3. Disaster Recovery Plan Tutorial/Steps
  4. Alternative DRP template
  5. Alternative DRP
  6. The Essential Guide to Corporate Real Estate- Chapter 14 Regarding Business Continuity – CoreNet Global

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