Disaster Planning Tips Include Practice, Analysis

Complied By Tonya Vinas Will your business face a disaster this year? Even though a company may not be a likely target of terrorism, other factors such as weather can be a threat. "Being prepared with a detailed plan is the key to a business' survival in the face of all types of disaster," says Joseph A. Gerber, a partner with the law firm Cozen O'Connor, Philadelphia. "Disasters take many forms and don't have to be as destructive as a terrorist attack. Companies must plan for hurricanes, floods, blizzards and other natural disasters. They must also plan for disruptions in telephone, electric, Internet and other essential resources, regardless of the cause." Cozen O'Connor offers the following tips to prepare for the worst:

  1. Choose a team: Experienced senior individuals representing executive leadership, finance, human resources, operations, information technology, insurance, public relations and legal counsel should be onboard.
  2. Create a risk management plan: Pre-crisis planning is key to successful business continuation. This can cover everything from evaluating exposure to acts of violence in the workplace to familiarizing employees with an evacuation plan in an area prone to floods, hurricanes or tornadoes.
  3. Include remote locations in the plan: Losses at satellite offices and storage facilities can have a grave impact on operations. Casualty losses affecting vendors, suppliers and customers also can affect a company's ability to obtain raw materials or data.
  4. Identify constituencies: Pinpoint who, inside and outside a company, will require information following a crisis. These may include employees and their families, local community and government, customers, suppliers and vendors, the media, shareholders and insurers.
  5. Conduct a "what if" analysis: Leave no stone unturned, including worst-case scenarios, when preparing your plan. What if . . .
    • you have to evacuate?
    • are denied access to your offices for weeks?
    • a senior manager dies on or off site?
    • a vehicle explodes resulting in a fire?
  6. Practice, practice, practice: Simulated disaster drills are useful ways to test a plan's mettle. Critical evaluations of such drills by the disaster planning team will identify potential shortfalls.
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