Disaster Planning and Risk Management

Disaster Planning example of fire

Disaster Planning and Risk Management

Disaster planning example wildfiresToday, disaster planning is becoming a more important component of risk management than ever before. It’s no easy task to create or maintain this plan, and you may find yourself spending countless hours speaking with IT and HR teams.

Disasters can’t always be avoided, but you can help your organization prepare for them. According to the United States Geological Survey, climate change increases the potential of droughts, rising sea levels, and more intense storms. Recently, just in the past month, the US has seen the impact these types of disasters can cause through Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Marco, and fires spreading across the Pacific Northwest. More severe/frequent events increase risk to your business in terms of likelihood, impact, and consequences.

As always, this post is not all-encompassing, but we try to summarize the key points of this complex risk management component for your team to review below. Feel free to borrow, add to, and expand upon points when creating your own plan or outline.

Disaster Planning VS. Business Continuity

It’s worth noting the distinction between disaster planning ( sometimes called disaster recovery plans) and business continuity planning, despite the two being similar. Disaster planning involves policies, tools, and procedures that will enable the recovery or continuation of your business, or rather, how you return to normal after the disaster occurs. Returning to a normal is the key focus. Business Continuity would focus on keeping operations going during the event and immediately afterward. Both of these are vital to a business, but the distinction is important.

The Four Phases of Disaster Management

At a basic level, there are four levels of a comprehensive disaster management plan. These include:

Mitigation

This phase focuses on implementing preventative measures in order to reduce vulnerabilities. Ultimately, these likely can’t prevent an emergency but can minimize the negative results. An example is implementing and enforcing building codes or burying electrical cables.

Preparedness

The preparedness phase focuses on building your organization’s ability to manage the impact of various disaster events, such as a storm or fire. Examples include stockpiling supplies, preparing evacuation plans, or educating staff.

Response

The response phase occurs in the form of action during a disaster. This mainly should be executing your preparedness plans as safely and efficiently as possible. Examples include initiating lockdowns or turning off gas/electric lines.

Recovery

The recovery phase embodies your efforts to restore any areas affected by the disaster to pre-disaster condition/functionality. Examples include clearing debris or filing claims to fund repairs.

Disaster Plan: Considerations

Protecting Employees

Protecting employees is a primary consideration for disaster planning. Employees will be looking to you for guidance and instruction on what they are able to do. It’s crucial that your plan includes communication channels to communicate at all stages of the disaster, such as giving updates on the disaster, its location, evacuation routes, etc.

They will also need time off of work to prepare, such as to protect their family and personal property. Programs to help employees struggling to recover also need to be considered, such as instances when an employee loses access to power or water, or the emotional recovery of losing a loved one.

Securing Data

Securing employee, customer, and general operating data is atop concern. While most businesses now store their data in the cloud, some companies or employees keep data offline. An important consideration for your disaster plan is to cover the process for backing up all data immediately before an event occurs. For companies with on-site data, this may include relocating paper files, computers, or servers to a safe location. In this instance, the plan must also include how these items will be moved, the security they will receive in transport and at the new location, and when it will be returned.

Working Remotely

This teeters on crossing into BCP, but we’ll include it because we feel as though remote working is part of the post-disaster recovery effort. You should consider how employees will be able to work remotely, whether they will need to vacate early for a hurricane or wait for a facility to become useable again. This would include forwarding phones, establishing secure connections, and implementing a work from home policy.

Facility Reparations

If you find yourself in a situation where power supplies, buildings, machines, systems, etc. are damaged, then it’s likely many others are experiencing the same issues. This scenario puts a strain on vendors who suddenly have a high demand. Part of planning should include establishing a good relationship with vendors or securing priority repairs in your contract. Consider having your vendor visit your facility so they can familiarize themselves with your needs, which will make repairs as fast as possible.

Disaster Plan: Key Elements

Planning Team

A crucial element of planning is the team responsible for doing the research, putting together the plan, and implementing it.

Goals

Prior to creating a disaster plan, goals and objectives need to be clearly set. In this, draw distinctions between each type of disaster that could occur and how each should have its own respective action plan, the procedures to be followed, the impact of each, the likelihood, mitigation that can be prepared, responsible team members, etc.

Documentation

Ensure everyone has easy access to all relevant documentation so plans can be followed before, during, and after a disaster occurs. There should be an online accessible version for convenience and in instances where employees will be leaving work properties.

Training

All team members need to be trained to reduce hitches during plan execution. From interns to CEOs, there needs to be mandatory training when the plan is developed and again on a regular basis. Even the most carefully crafted disaster plan is useless unless it is executed properly.

Starting Your Disaster Planning

Creating your disaster plan is going to be a lot of work – don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Utilize RiskWatch software to begin collaborating and gathering the information you need. The platform allows you to add users or just send them links to answer any questions you may need. This makes collaborating easy. The platform also serves as a central repository, storing all relevant documents needed to share with your organization that are easily accessible.

Start your free trial today to see how to begin.