Ready? Set? Pivot!
Once the reality of the COVID-19 outbreak set in, governments, businesses, and schools were forced to find new directions. However, no one really had an “in case of pandemic, break glass” box in their office.
At least those with business disaster recovery plans had somewhere to start. A business disaster recovery plan helps companies recuperate from events like natural disasters, economic recessions, and other unexpected occurrences like COVID-19.
Here’s how to create or improve your business disaster recovery plan so you can be prepared, not scared, the next time there’s a catastrophe.
What Is a Business Disaster Recovery Plan?
A business disaster recovery plan is a formal document created by an organization that contains detailed instructions on how to respond to unplanned incidents. Businesses may also have continuity plans, but those are different. A disaster recovery plan tends to focus more on quickly resuming operations following an event while the continuity plan covers longer-term contingencies.
Mueller came up with a disaster recovery plan several years ago that mainly addressed weather events like tornadoes, snowstorms, and hurricanes. Each manager was assigned a section to maintain and update annually. We wanted to have something in place that gave us immediate direction in case of an emergency.
As an essential business, Mueller recognized the value of having a plan of action if something were to interrupt operations. It’s something our customers value as well. The majority of them ask if we have a disaster recovery plan during their audits.
Why Is It Important to Have a Business Disaster Recovery Plan?
No one knows what the future holds. The fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak validated that notion as businesses shut down in a hurry and scrambled to try to figure out what to do next. Above all, when disaster strikes, your customers have to be top of mind. If they aren’t happy, they’re going to look elsewhere for your product or service.
To provide for your customers during an emergency, you’re going to have to get up to speed as quickly as possible. A disaster recovery plan helps you do that. It allows you to minimize the interruption to normal operations and limit the extent of damage. The faster you can provide a smooth restoration of service, the quicker you’ll be able to minimize the economic impact of the incident and its effect on your customers.
It’s not enough just to have a business disaster recovery plan; you have to review it and keep it updated. A set of emergency procedures doesn’t do any good if it’s written up, presented, then shoved in a drawer. It’s important to adapt your plan as new threats come into the picture.
How Do I Create a Business Disaster Recovery Plan?
You start at the top. Gather your leadership team together and brainstorm to create scenarios that would cause your business to cease operations. Once you’ve exhausted all possible situations, it’s time to decide how you want to respond.
You should make a list of all the people you need to contact after a disaster, including (but not limited to):
- Insurance agents
- Emergency management agencies
Then you need to decide how to contact these people by using methods such as:
- Phone calls
- Text messages
- Social media posts
- Signs outside business
Establishing a clear and direct path of communication with everyone who’s involved in your business will help you set expectations, minimize confusion, and garner trust during an emergency.
Your staff needs to know whether they still have jobs. You must decide which roles are critical for the business to function, which workers must come to the facility, and which employees can transition to a remote location.
Your employees need to be informed of any changes to their schedules or locations of work. They also should be notified if duties change or workloads increase or decrease. Your staff has to be told about any safety precautions they need to take or may come across while at work.
Your workers are a key element in helping your business recover from a disaster and continue to operate. If they are organized early and prepared for their roles, your customer will be taken care of.
You should take inventory of all your office equipment and decide what is vital during a disaster. Time, money, and space will be limited in an emergency, so you only need to concentrate on what is essential to get the job done. For example, an office employee would likely need a telephone, computer, software, and internet connection to be able to continue working.
You need to take stock of the equipment that works with these tools and supports your business, including backup servers and copies of important software. It’s also a good idea to record the details of all of your equipment, such as the manufacturer, model, serial number, and cost—as well as whether the item is owned or leased.
You should take into account whether you have backup power at your business should your primary source go out. Your employees need backup, too. Make sure you think about emergency supply kits that contain things like bottled water, first aid, and device chargers.
To best protect your data, you need to document what you have, where it’s stored, who has access, and what is crucial for operations.
You should have a backup operations procedure to make sure essential data processing tasks can still be done after a disruption. Likewise, you must implement a recovery action procedure to be able to swiftly restore your data processing system following an incident. It’s important to test these procedures regularly because of ongoing updates and changes.
While figuring out the essential sections of a business disaster recovery plan is important, sometimes it helps to step back and look at the emergency playbook in its entirety. This template is an example of what the process of creating a plan can look like and it includes many more details.
Why Does My Business Need a Disaster Recovery Plan?
Many companies thought they were prepared for an emergency before COVID-19 hit. They found out the hard way they were wrong.
Although having a business disaster recovery plan helped the Mueller team pivot quickly, our playbook didn’t exactly address pandemics.
It will in the future.
As you learn more about COVID-19 and its effect on our economy, this is an ideal time to create or update your business disaster recovery plan so you can be better prepared for the next crisis.
Having specific guidance in place ahead of a catastrophe will ensure your company can react quickly, weather the storm, and come through successfully on the other side.