Things you might want to know

Recovering from a Catastrophe

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina, as well as other catastrophes such as 9/11 and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, are strong examples of how any business is vulnerable to the widespread impact of natural disasters, terrorism, as well as other unexpected occurrences such as fires, the release of hazardous materials, and workplace violence.

There are things you, as a business owner, can do to place yourself in a better position to recover from a disaster with minimum impact on your business. Of course, the first concern of any business should be the safety of its employees. Fire drills, evacuation plans, take cover instructions, careful storage of potentially hazardous materials, people skills training, and lists of emergency numbers are only a few of the items you might consider.

Larger businesses sometimes conduct a formal Business Impact Analysis (BIA). In the BIA each job or function in the business is identified and placed in order according to the length of time that the absence of that job or function could be tolerated by the business. Using the results of the BIA, the business can come up with a strategy sometimes called a Business Continuation or Disaster Recovery Plan to insure that critical functions can continue within an allowable disruption time in the organization.

Smaller businesses can conduct a BIA and create a plan on a smaller scale. You could identify the records and/or computer files that are most important to the continuance of your business and keep current copies stored offsite. You could identify each job or function in your business and think about how long your business could tolerate its loss. Then you could determine what steps you can take in advance to assure that you can provide replacement equipment and/or data and other records within that time period. For example, if a function requiring a computer can only be done without for a few hours, a second computer ready to be used for that function might be stored offsite. If materials such as preprinted forms are required for the function, a supply of these could also kept be at the offsite location. The cost of that additional computer could be weighed against the potential loss of revenue for your business to determine its necessity. If you put the above analysis for each of your business functions and the steps you would take to recover each function in the event of a disaster into writing, along with employee, vendor and customer contact information, you would have the beginning of a Business Continuation Plan. Copies of your Business Continuation Plan could be distributed to your major employees and a copy could also be kept offsite.

The Alabama Department of Labor has a Business Continuation Plan which addresses protection of the data entrusted to it by its clients, the employers of the State of Alabama. This plan mandates that a current copy of all data and operational computer programs be kept at alternate off-site locations along with supporting documentation and operations manuals. The purpose of this Business Continuation Plan is to insure that services provided by the Department to employers and their employees can continue in the event of an unforeseen event.