Disaster Recovery Planning Is Not Just Data Recovery

If you do a Google search on Disaster Recovery you will see that the first 80 listings or so are all about data, data backup, data recovery and off-site storage for data recovery. Data is important but is only one part of the Disaster Recovery Planning Process, because if you don’t have a building or a place to do business with that data, you do not have complete recovery.

Property Damage Prevents Normal Business Operations

When a building suffers a disaster and cannot be occupied, the most important issue is restoration of the building so people can return to work. Data preservation is necessary but if employees don’t have an office, desk, phone and the other items required to function, the data alone will not allow productive work to resume. The key to effective and timely recovery is to develop a functional and realistic Property Disaster Recovery Plan.

Property Disaster Recovery Plans

The most important objectives of Property Disaster Recovery Plans include but are not necessarily limited to the following.

  • Establish the recovery team before the disaster occurs
  • Identify the possible disasters that must be responded to
  • Minimize risk exposure damaged buildings typically create
  • Mitigate hazards such as asbestos, mold, mildew and chemicals
  • Mitigate ongoing or additional damage after the initial disaster
  • Establish a perimeter security protocol to prevent unauthorized access
  • Clean and restore as soon as possible to save partially damaged facilities
  • Prevent injuries or death by making safe any compromised structural elements
  • Inventory all items taken from the building to avoid finger pointing later
  • Implement property improvements during the reconstruction process
  • Improve manufacturing and process businesses during reconstruction
  • Document all initial damage, subsequent damage and be ready to prove it

These are the basics with more detail being provided in a comprehensive Property Disaster Recovery Plan that can be used to implement recovery more effectively. The Plan should establish pre-identified (contracted and back-ups) resources for restoration or expect to suffer the consequences of asking for help when you are most desperate. Using the phone book or searching for help on your phone while standing outside your burned building is not the most effective recovery method and leaves you open to costs that will not be covered by insurance. Pre-planning and arranging for recovery resources and then maintaining that plan is one of the most important aspects of development and maintenance of a disaster recovery plan.

Know Your Insurance Policy

An important part of being prepared for a disaster requires understanding what your insurance policy actually will pay for when disaster strikes. Our experience has shown that even large multi-national companies may not know what is in their policies or even where the copies of the policies are kept. Our experience has shown that insurance adjusters will often say “No” to any claim or any part of a claim. This is not only frustrating but costly when that position prevents resumption of business or requires a long legal battle to receive what is contractually provided for in the policy.

Some important extensions of coverage that may not be included in your policy but are very important to an effective and timely recovery include the following.

  • Claims settlement costs: this pays for damage assessment proving the claim
  • Professional services: this pays for engineers and specialists to prove the loss
  • Extra expenses associated with temporary office set-up and demobilization
  • Debris removal, landscaping, clean-up and downed tree removal
  • Code and accessibility upgrades that may be required by municipalities
  • Code and accessibility upgrades that may be required by municipalities
  • Re-design and engineering that is usually required by the municipalities for repairs

So, the first step in the Property Disaster Recovery Planning process is to locate your policy, read it, and learn what is actually covered. Often the papers you receive from your insurance broker may only be part of the policy and you have to request the entire document to know the extensions of coverage and the exclusions. This evaluation may highlight areas that need to be changed or it may provide you with a secure feeling that everything should be covered.

Disaster Recovery Plan Elements

OSHA (29 CFR 1910.38a) refers to Disaster Recovery Plans as Emergency Action Plans which are required for companies that have more than 10 personnel at a location. The minimum elements of a plan include the following.

  • How to report a fire or emergency
  • How to evacuate the building including exit route assignments
  • Accounting for all personnel evacuated and for those who remain onsite
  • Procedures for personnel performing rescue or medical duties
  • Names and contact information company personnel who are in charge
  • Employee alarm system protocol
  • Periodic review of the plan to ensure response parties are still available

Leaving the plan on the shelf for months or years without review and updating will likely result in an ineffective plan and an extended recovery period. The next segment will cover more details of disaster planning and how you can implement one for your location.