Dealing with Disaster

From a computer crash to a natural disaster, is your company prepared?

By Jane Hosking

With the imminent arrival of snow storm Huda, businesses across the Kingdom may be forced to suspend operations for days and could be at risk of damage to their assets. The impact of the snow could spell disaster for companies ill-prepared to weather the storm. Yet despite the risks, many don’t have a set of systematic procedures for responding to disaster. And not only do natural disasters pose a risk to companies, but political, economic, and technological disasters can too. Without having a disaster recovery plan to navigate through the turbulence, it could mean the death of your company or a significant loss in profits.

Management consultant Nabila Morcos said the risks of disaster will vary from one type of industry to another. However, she notes it’s important for all companies to be prepared for a wide range of risks. “A disaster is not just a flood or something,” she said. “It’s a change in the norms of how we do business.” These changes may include a computer crash, damage to equipment or files, political unrest, or market failure.

Morcos, who owns and runs EN-CAPS Consult, warned that companies must not only focus on the potential for internal disaster, but must look towards the companies that they rely on. “Let’s say I am making a product for a car manufacturing company and all of my production is connected to them. If that company goes bust, what happens to me?” She stressed it’s therefore very important to look at both your suppliers and your clients.

Identifying the risks, vulnerabilities, and critical business processes relevant to your company is the first step in creating a disaster recovery plan. Essentially, this involves mapping out the worst-case scenarios and analyzing the likelihood of each risk (by kerri). Morcos said: “You have indications and you have to do research analysis.” She added that this involves financial analysis, human resource, and market analysis to identify where the threats are and how you can prepare for them.

The focus of a disaster recovery plan will vary from one company to another. While some companies will need to focus on information technology, others will prioritize supply chain logistics. The size of your company will also determine what type of disaster recovery plan is relevant to you. But Morcos asserted that even small companies need to be prepared, although their “recovery plan will not need to be as complicated as for big businesses.” For larger companies with several departments it may be necessary to develop a recovery plan with multiple layers, as well as a central plan for the whole company.

But whether your company is big or small, Morcos said that a disaster plan must encompass the strategy, as well as the financial, operational, and legal implications of a disaster.

What are the factors that need to be considered in the development of a disaster recovery plan? We’ve made a list of eight key points for a company to keep in mind.

  1. Management support

It’s vital that a disaster management plan has the support of the company’s management. They should also be aware of the detailed procedures and be ready to implement the plan before, during, and after a disaster.

  1. Safety of staff and customers

Nothing is more important than the safety of your staff and customers. It’s therefore necessary for your company to have a detailed emergency and building evacuation plan.

  1. Backup of files and records

A computer crash or building fire could be devastating for your company. Using a virtual cloud and having an offsite location for backup documents could save your company in a disaster.

  1. Equipment replacement

A comprehensive insurance policy, as well as an up-to-date inventory of all your company’s assets will ensure that your equipment can be recovered if it’s destroyed.

  1. Supply chain alternatives

It’s important to consider the alternatives in your supply chain. To do this you should research other suppliers of the materials essential in your production process.

  1. A leadership contingency plan

What would you do if your company’s CEO or a key manager suddenly became unavailable because of an unforeseeable event such as a sudden illness? Developing a leadership contingency plan is an essential component of your plan. 

  1. Staff training

Company staff should be prepared and informed of all necessary procedures in your plan. This may involve training designated employees to perform emergency tasks.

  1. Test your plan

Once your plan has been developed it’s important to test it and continue to keep it updated. This may involve checklist and simulation tests.