As September ushers in Natural Disaster Preparedness Month, it's a timely reminder for businesses to assess their readiness for the unexpected. While safeguarding the health and safety of employees remains paramount, a well-prepared business can weather the storm and minimize disruptions. In this guide, we'll explore essential steps that can help your business plan for a natural disaster effectively.

Create a Disaster Response Plan

To start, businesses should craft a robust Disaster Response Plan (DRP). Begin by identifying potential natural disasters specific to your region, such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires. Understanding the risks these events pose, from operational to financial and human resource impacts, is crucial.

As you develop your DRP, you should:

  • Back up critical data regularly to prevent loss.
  • Consider alternative suppliers and secure appropriate insurance.
  • Establish an alternate site for operations to ensure business continuity.
  • Develop a clear communication strategy for both internal and external stakeholders.
  • Conduct regular drills and training sessions to ensure all employees understand their roles within the DRP.
  • Regularly review and update the DRP to keep it effective and relevant.

Following these guidelines not only enhances preparedness but also bolsters your ability to respond effectively when disaster strikes.

Develop a Communication Plan

When developing your Communication Plan within your Disaster Response Plan, start by identifying key crisis management personnel, which may include senior leadership, HR managers, and operational heads. Clarify their roles and responsibilities in crisis communication.

Next, compile a list of essential stakeholders, such as employees, clients, suppliers, and regulatory bodies, who need to be informed during a crisis. Determine the best communication methods for each group.

Pre-designated communication channels, like email, text messages, intranet, or social media, should be reliable and easily accessible. These ensure swift and effective communication.

Include crisis communication message templates in your plan to facilitate quick and accurate information dissemination during emergencies.

Just like your DRP, regularly test and update your Communication Plan. This practice guarantees its effectiveness and enables prompt communication when a crisis arises.

Backup All Documents & Data

Backing up critical documents and data is a cornerstone of disaster preparedness, ensuring your vital business information remains safe and accessible during natural disasters. Here's how to do it effectively:

  1. Offsite Data Storage: One common method is offsite data storage. This involves regularly backing up data on servers located away from your business premises, often managed by third-party vendors. It shields your data from local disasters because the backup isn't kept in the same place as the original data.
  2. Cloud Services: Alternatively, many businesses opt for cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive. These cloud platforms offer scalability and accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection, ensuring your data is secure and retrievable.
  3. Automate Regular Backups: To keep your data safe, automate the backup process at specified intervals, whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on your business needs.
  4. Verify Backups: Implement a verification process to ensure your backups are successful and can be restored. This involves random testing of restored data to check for integrity and usability.
  5. Prioritize Security: Given the sensitive nature of your information, establish a robust security plan for data storage. This can include strong encryption for data at rest and in transit, two-factor authentication, and keeping your software regularly updated.

By following these steps, your business can safeguard its essential data and maintain operational continuity when faced with natural disasters.

Setup Employees for Remote Operations

In the wake of the global pandemic, remote work has evolved from a necessity into the new norm for many companies. However, it's imperative for all businesses to be well-prepared to transition to remote operations not only during a pandemic but also in the face of unexpected natural disasters to ensure business continuity.

This process begins with providing the needed hardware, such as laptops, headsets, and any other necessary technology. The company should ensure that these devices are equipped with the necessary software and applications required for their employees' tasks.

Next, the company should establish a secure and reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) to enable employees to access the company's network remotely. A VPN ensures that data shared over the network remains confidential and safe from potential breaches.

Cloud-based tools and platforms that facilitate collaboration and real-time communication, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom, are also crucial for remote operations. These tools help maintain team cohesion and ensure seamless communication among team members.

Equipping employees for remote work extends beyond providing hardware and software; it involves effective training on remote working tools, time management, and task coordination. Additionally, establishing a clear remote working policy detailing expectations, work hours, communication protocols, and data security measures is vital. This policy should be communicated to all employees to ensure everyone understands their remote work responsibilities. To maintain cohesion and address challenges, regular check-ins and feedback sessions should be integrated into the remote work framework, ensuring an effective remote setup for all involved.

Woman jots down notes while on a video conference call on her desktop computer

Test The Process Before a Disaster Hits

Before the storm strikes, it's crucial to test your disaster preparedness plan. Think of it as the dress rehearsal before the big performance. Testing ensures that your plan is not just a piece of paper but a dynamic and effective strategy ready to spring into action when needed.

Follow these steps to effectively test your Disaster Recovery Plan:

  1. Tabletop Exercise: Begin by conducting a tabletop exercise, involving all stakeholders in a walk-through of the DRP. This clarifies roles and responsibilities and provides a forum for issue discussion and resolution.
  2. Live Drills: Move on to running live drills that simulate disaster scenarios. This hands-on experience reveals practical challenges and plan gaps. Monitor and record department responses during these drills, assessing communication channels, data recovery processes, and remote operations setup.
  3. Debriefing and Feedback: After each test or drill, gather stakeholders for a debriefing session to evaluate what worked and what didn't. Use their feedback to revise and update the DRP.
  4. Ongoing Testing: Remember that testing is not a one-time event. Regular testing and plan updates ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness in safeguarding the business.

If you need assistance with backing up your data and other IT services, don't hesitate to reach out to DiscoverTec. We're here to help you fortify your business against the unexpected, ensuring that when disaster looms, you're not just ready—you're resilient.

Published on: September 15, 2023 by Jason Killingworth, Director of Hosting Technologies