How Prepared is Your Firm for a Disaster?
by Eric L. Donowho, Cheif Administrative Officer
Barrett Daffin Frappier Turner & Engel, LLP - USFN Member (TX)
consultant first advises that a Disaster Recovery and Business
Continuity Plan (DR/BC plan) is critical to your business, there may be
a tendency to roll one’s eyes, silently calculating how much
longer this person will take up your time. When clients advise that
having such a plan is required to maintain their business, a general
outline is at least documented. Today, there’s probably a list of
emergency contact numbers for all of the employees somewhere,
As a Category 3
storm grew in the Gulf of Mexico, clearly taking aim at the Texas coast,
this author’s firm implemented its DR/BC plan, closed its
Northwest Houston office, and sent the 50 employees home to prepare. The
firm fully expected to be closed a day or two, with the storm delivering
a few broken tree branches and lots of rain. What we actually got was
struck the Houston area on September 12 with winds estimated at 90 miles
per hour, causing 26 deaths in Texas and nearly $20 billion in damage as
it moved north and east across the middle of the country. The fourth
largest urban area of the nation was hit hard. This firm’s Houston
office had no electricity, no water, no elevators, no HVAC systems, a
damaged roof, extensive water damage to the upper floors, and blocked
access due to fallen trees. Many of our employees had no power at home,
no water, and very limited gasoline and supplies. Initial reports said
that the firm’s recovery could take weeks. Suddenly, that DR/BC
plan was on everyone’s mind.
good DR/BC plan is far more complex than a brief article can address,
but there are three important items to consider:
▪ Identify early the core team of
people responsible for coordination and communication during the event.
Too many people trying to help without designated leaders will cause
miscommunication and wasted effort during a critical time. Too few
people assigned will place an undue burden of the massive effort
involved in juggling multiple tasks.
▪ Communication is critical — to the
affected employees in the disaster area, to the employees responsible
for continuing to operate the daily business during the recovery effort,
and to clients and business partners.
▪ Don’t limit the plan to the
technology area. While technology plays a very important role in our
industry, the computers don’t run the business. Identify processes
and people that are critical to daily operation and ensure that you have
redundancy, cross-training, and documented procedures.
While no plan
is absolutely perfect, ours allowed us to reopen the Houston site
within 10 days and to utilize our other locations to continue daily
operations throughout. The investment in technology and planning proved
invaluable by allowing us to deal with the serious impact to the
building and our people, while ongoing business continued without
interruption. Having a good DR/BC plan is like having a good insurance
policy — you hope you’ll never need it, but if the time
comes, you’ll be glad you have one.
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