Disaster may be looming. Hopefully not, but at the risk of sounding gloomy, do you actually want to take the chance of being unprepared?

When asked about disaster response, it comes as no surprise that one of the foremost concerns expressed by employers surveyed is for the individuals they employ. An organization should maintain a current employee list at all times, and some manner by which to track attendance and location of employees. In an emergency situation, the first order of business is to account for all employees and ascertain their physical safety. Fire and emergency evacuation drills should be documented and practiced periodically.

An effective communications plan also includes the means by which to reach out to clients as well as handling incoming calls. Depending on the size of your enterprise rerouting calls to an individual’s phone or a call center are among the options available. Web communications can continue with limited interruption when adequate backup systems are employed. By having a communications plan in place an organization can greatly limit stress for employees and customers alike.

In terms of safeguarding assets, it is wise to maintain an up-to-date inventory of property and equipment, and many find it effective to utilize digital photos to facilitate and support updates to insurance policies. Your CPA, a valuation specialist or insurance professional, can provide additional resources for establishing values.

Business records carry their own set of challenges in terms of ensuring safety. While many organizations have moved to a paperless environment for archiving information, there is still risk before data is converted to an electronic format. By implementing procedures aimed at minimizing the length of time before information is electronically stored, the exposure to loss is significantly reduced. Business documents need to be accessible, which makes going paperless before disaster strikes a logical choice, and with current cloud options are readily available numerous avenues are available. By electronically storing documents and information, your office can be up and running either virtually or in temporary quarters in quick fashion.

Once your most valued possessions and enterprise risks have been identified, it is time to turn to specific scenarios that might occur. Fire? Tornado? Flood? Perhaps it is wise to consider what needs to be done during work hours versus after hours. The considerations are as specific as your business and workforce. In any event, it is important to have a documented plan that can be implemented quickly. The plan should prioritize what needs to be attended to and provide specific steps, processes and desired outcomes. And a clearly defined response checklist can help ensure that tasks are not overlooked.

Information systems are often the central focus of the disaster recovery planning, and for good reason, as the loss of functionality for even a short time can cripple an organization. Our global economy, requirements for just-in-time processes and immense data growth increase the importance of disaster recovery and the need for an effective, up-to-date plan.

Whether internally designed and implemented, or outsourced, a strong disaster recovery plan is just part of the puzzle. Testing is equally important, and it is imperative that tests closely resemble a real crisis as closely possible, to identify gaps or limitations. Based on the size and complexity of your organization, the testing process may take many forms. At the end of the day, the goals is to ensure that online and offline systems that an organizations operates on a daily basis can be brought back on line quickly and efficiently.

Establishing an effective disaster recovery process may seem daunting. Rest assured that lack of an effective plan is much worse. Make this a priority for your enterprise.

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