Business disaster – what’s your recovery plan?

Posted By on January 22nd, 2019

Figures suggest that up to 80% of businesses that suffer a major disaster, fail to recover long term. Whilst it’s difficult to validate this statistic, it’s fair to say the evidence available would indicate this isn’t far off the mark. However, the good news is that businesses which have a disaster recovery plan in place significantly increase their chances of survival and long term success.

With this in mind, it’s important that you set time aside to build a recovery plan for your business or, if you already have one, review it thoroughly to ensure it is still relevant and fit for purpose. But, if you haven’t developed a business recovery plan before, how do you go about it and where do you start?

The first thing to say is, don’t panic! We’re here to help guide you through it.

Your starting point should be to put a disaster team in place. If you run a small business this may mean that everyone has a part to play; in larger businesses it could be the senior team or there may be people with particular skills and experience that make them perfect for a certain role. The specific responsibilities of each team member will very much depend on what type of business you run but they are likely to include as a minimum:

  • Fire Officer: This person (or people) is primarily responsible for evacuating the building and making sure everyone is safe and accounted for.
  • First Aid Officer: If anyone gets hurt during a disaster or at any other time, the first aid officer should have been trained to perform basic first aid until paramedics arrive on the scene.
  • Asset Recovery Manager: If it’s safe to do so, this person should oversee the recovery of physical business assets, such as computers and other specialist equipment from the business premises.
  • Communications Co-ordinator: It’s crucial that the lines of communication are kept open throughout and immediately after a disaster occurs. This person may need to liaise with employees, local press and emergency services, for example.
  • Customer/supplier Liaison Manager:  The success of any business relies on customer sales and its supply chain. Make sure someone is focused on contacting your customers and suppliers to reassure them and keep them in the picture, prioritising calling the most important of these first.
  • IT Manager:  Your systems, data and online presence will be an important and integral part of your business and an outage for any period of time could prove damaging. This person should be responsible for systems recovery after a physical disaster or cyber attack.
  • Office/Site Manager:  Appoint someone to oversee and manage building repairs and liaise with the property owner if you lease your business premises. This person should also take responsibility for finding alternative offices while the damaged building is being repaired.
  • Disaster Recovery Manager:  There should be one person who leads the whole disaster recovery team and co-ordinates all activity at a strategic level.

Once you have your disaster recovery team in place, you should undertake a risk assessment, looking at every aspect of the business. This analytical process will also help to define the roles of the disaster recovery team and form the basis of your plan.

You will now be ready to create the recovery plan itself. This should have two parts: the actions you take during the disaster and in the immediate aftermath; and the longer term business recovery. Be thorough with the plan and consider all eventualities. Ask yourself what sort of disaster might occur and what should your response be to each of these?

Once complete, document your plan and store it somewhere that is accessible to everyone who needs to be aware of the details. Make sure it is backed up in a few places and don’t be afraid to allow editorial access, particularly to the disaster recovery team. This should be treated as a living document that changes in line with your business.

The final stage is to implement and test the plan. Only by doing this will you find out if there are any gaps in it. Test the plan regularly to ensure it still meets the needs of the business. A conversation with First Recovery may prove useful – they provide disaster recovery services at an affordable price to small and medium sized businesses, giving the reassurance that if something happens they will be there to provide the necessary support.