10 Steps to a Rock Solid Disaster Plan: A Ryan Strong Adventure

Ryan Strong, IT Manager and Master of Disaster Preparedness

In honor of September being National Preparedness Month we created this story starring Ryan Strong, Manager of IT and Business Continuity.

 

Hurricanes Edward and Francine collide, and the resultant super-storm fills the facilities with water and problems – and not necessarily in that order. Ryan Strong, though, is cool and confident in the midst of the raging torrent. His equipment inventory management is in order and he’s feeling confident that his team is prepared for whatever the storm might bring.

 

Before Ryan can leave his office, the first problem arises: A line of employees wait in the hall outside his door. Where can they work; how can they help?  He thinks about avoiding the disaster dozen with the 10-step plan his team developed to make sure they could weather any emergency.

Step 1: Make a list of all spare rooms.

The world doesn’t stop in an emergency. In truth, time seems to speed up. For continuity purposes, people still need to work even if their offices are unusable. Knowing where to relocate workers will help minimize the impact on operations.

Ryan had the foresight to make a list of all their spare rooms. Knowing where to relocate workers will help minimize the impact on operations – and allow Ryan to move on to the next challenge this mega-storm has thrown at him. Is that our copy machine floating down the street? Never mind that now. Ryan stays focused on keeping his people safe. Later, he’ll refer to his equipment inventory management list for all the information he’ll need for the insurance company.

Step 2: Make a list of all equipment.

Include details like location, department, and floor for insurance purposes. This is basic equipment inventory management, and should be always be kept up to date.

Right now, half the managers are away sipping pi?a coladas at a conference, and Ryan lets himself have one moment to wish he was there before jumping back into the fray. It’s time to delegate.

Step 3: Create a list of the functions employees will need to complete.

Use basic directions that anyone can easily follow, and always assume that the one person who knows everything that needs to be done won’t be available.

Everyone has their list of functions spelled out in plain, I’m-too-tense-to-think language. Luckily, Ryan was prepared ahead of time with a list of tasks for each of his team members.

Step 4: Review service level agreements and make note of expiration dates.

In a study for Morgan Stanley, we found that their spare office agreement had expired. Imagine how this would have affected business in a worst-case scenario!

Ryan steams up the window trying to get a look at their spare offices up the hill, patting himself on the back for renewing the space agreement just last month. Visions of employees working on top of each other in every square foot of his home flash through his mind, a secondary disaster avoided. Score!

Step 5: Create an evacuation and gathering plan.

It sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised at how many companies don’t have a tested evacuation plan in place. Refer to the FEMA Emergency Response Plan to guide you.

Thanks to FEMA’s guide, people are already evacuating and heading to the emergency gathering site. Feeling a bit like a mastermind, Ryan allows himself one empty-office Tiger Woods-style fist-pump before springing back into action. Did enough people grab disaster kits?

Step 6: Assemble disaster kits and distribute them throughout the facility.

Disaster kits should include flashlights, batteries, a first aid kit and bottles of water. Think about all of the things your team could need in a disaster and get them ready. Also remember to replenish and check them at least once a year. The last thing you want is to end up with a kit with batteries that are so old they no longer work.

Ryan grabs a few extra kits – they may need all the water, first aid kits and flashlights they can get. Then he heads to the gathering site to rally the team. The raincoat isn’t helping and his loafers are soaked, but he makes it safely to an evacuation vehicle. Ryan looks back at the office as they pull away, knowing whatever happens to the computers or facility, at least his colleagues are safe. Good thing Carla backed up all their data on the cloud – long term power outages are no match for them.

Step 7: Store data off-site.

Store computer data at an off-site emergency facility or backup data onto cloud-based storage in case of a long-term power outage.

 

Flashback: Two Months Earlier

 

It’s June, and Ryan would much rather take an office survey on who’s in for poker night, but he downs his cup of cold coffee and heads off to the emergency preparedness dry run instead. Tom gives Ryan a wave; Tom is one of the key personnel omitted from today’s test to ensure the continuity plan would hold together without him. They call it the Missing Man Test, but Ryan calls Tom a lucky duck.

 

Step 8: Test your continuity plan often.

Hold dry runs without key personnel present. The Missing Man Test keeps the majority from depending on a handful of people who may not be around.

Over on the tech team, Carla is having too much fun rebuilding a server to make sure data transfers properly and will be accessible should disaster strike. Carla knows very well how to hurdle zombies (she practices on weekends), but now she knows for sure the data will be safe, too.

Step 9: Test your backup plan.

Rebuild a computer or server to make sure data transfers and is accessible. What good are backups if they don’t work?

Keep it simple, Ryan reminds himself after the dry run. The plan works, but there’s a few too many snags. He makes a call to check on the expiration date of a few service level agreements before putting his equipment inventory management cap back on. Not knowing what could be coming, he’s determined to give his team a fighting chance.

Step 10: Simplify…simplify…simplify.

Disasters affect everyone differently. When tensions run high, anxiety sends adrenaline straight to the bloodstream. Plans need to be simple, or they’ll get thrown out the window when they are actually needed most.

Emergency situations require quick actions when you’re in your most vulnerable state. This is the most effective way to ensure everyone knows what to do and where to go should the unthinkable occur. Disaster planning minimizes the risk to your people, business and equipment inventory management. The fine print is all in the planning, and it does nobody any good if it’s expired. Prepare for the worst and stay prepared.

 

Let’s have a look at those 10 steps one more time:

 

Step 1: Make a list of all spare rooms.

Step 2: Make a list of all equipment.

Step 3: Create a list of the functions employees will need to complete.

Step 4: Review service level agreements and make note of expiration dates.

Step 5: Create an evacuation and gathering plan.

Step 6: Assemble disaster kits and distribute them throughout the facility.

Step 7: Store data off-site.

Step 8: Test your continuity plan often.

Step 9: Test your backup plan.

Step 10: Simplify…simplify…simplify.

 

E-ISG Asset Intelligence software helps companies pull reports on equipment inventory management data quickly to make your insurance claims go smoother – in fact, our solution helped the Catoosa County School System recover quickly from an EF4 Tornado. If you’re interested in hearing more, click here to schedule a demo today.

About the Author:

Eric L. Beser
Chief Technical Officer
E-ISG Asset Intelligence

I have come full circle in my career. I received a Masters in Social Work in 1974 from the University of Maryland with a focus on Community Organization and Planning. Having worked for 6 years in the Baltimore City School System I began to visualize a new direction for myself in Computer Science and Software Engineering. So I went back to school and headed for the safe pastures of Westinghouse Defense Systems where I learned the fine art of Software Engineering and I did well there, and on to NASA where I helped build a spacecraft simulator for the Solar Observatory project. I had also been on Active Duty in the Air Force and then spent 20 years in the Air National Guard. It was my service experience where I found my true calling, logistics and equipment management, and my software experiences taught me how to quantify the process, and my social work experience taught me how to look at the effect of the process through a Community filter. I am a sum total of my experience, because now over the last 10 years, I have been helping facility managers in large firms, property managers, and equipment managers in several key emergency management regions to work with equipment management software and to apply the industry best practices so that they can do their job helping the community. I guess people see me to be an equipment management expert, because a lot of people ask my opinion and when they are successful they get other people to ask my opinion. I currently work with three major regions (North East, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) in the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency helping to build a distinct and concise equipment management process, along with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency helping them implement a critical asset management process that conforms to state guidelines. I am now serving on the US TAG for ISO 55000.

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