Natural Disasters: What They Teach Us About Recovery Plans

Tornado touching down in field
Last month, violent tornadoes repeatedly struck Oklahoma over the course of 12 days, destroying homes and businesses and killing more than 40 people. Tragic events like this are devastating, but they teach us important lessons about preparedness.

In a recent article by, Caroline Hamilton and Michael Crocker, the presidents of two different security consulting firms, discuss how to prepare for the risks resulting from natural disasters. From their insight and experience, we gathered the following five tips.

Don't Just Start a Disaster Recovery Plan, Finish It

“Companies have good intentions and they start these plans, but they don’t finish them because they get sidetracked by some other thing.”

Hamilton explained that incomplete risk management planning is one of the most frequent issues she encounters. She suggests not only completing these plans but updating them at least once a year and testing them at least twice a year.

Expect the Unexpected

“Something that people don’t normally associate at all with a natural disaster would be an active shooter.”

Police and the DHS suggest that you practice active shooter drills at the same time as the evacuation drills for natural disasters, fires, etc. When most of us consider the safest way to deal with the threat of an active shooter, locking the entire facility down is probably what comes to mind. However, police and DHS advise the opposite: Open up the building to get as many people as possible out of harm's way.

Plan for Necessary Employees 

“What happens if certain members of your leadership are unavailable? How do you replicate that part of the decision making process, and how do you amend it with outside staff or people from other divisions in the company that can fill in during a crisis?”

In the midst of planning for disasters, businesses can easily forget their most important asset: their employees. Communication is an important part of this step of planning as well. You may have a plan in place for all of your documents and records, but have you thought about where you would direct calls and who would answer them? You may want to consider having an alternate site where business communications can be sustained if your building is affected by a disaster.

Have a Separate Location Where Records Are Stored

"Most businesses that lose their records fail within 12 months."

Crocker suggests storing your organization’s records in the cloud, in a server farm or at an off-site location. Doing so could save your company in the event of a natural disaster. After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, many businesses could not recover their losses because they couldn’t document their revenue from 2009.

Designate a Business Continuity Management Team

“Of course it depends on the type of organization it is. If it is a production plant, whether they are producing Winnie the Pooh dolls or electricity, whoever is in charge of plant production should be involved.”

The designated business continuity team will help with the planning process as well as with testing and revising the plan. Hamilton suggests including the security director, facilities manager, someone in operations and someone in human resources.

To read the entire article, click here.

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