The Achilles Heel of Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery and business continuity have been ever increasing critical business topics, especially in the wake of the recent Gulf Coast and NYC hurricanes, forest fires in the Midwest and West Coast, and yes, I live in Buffalo, NY.  Have you ever experienced a Buffalo blizzard that can shut an entire city down for a week?  And, Boston, no throwing stones at Buffalo after the record snowfall you had this past winter.

Any technology executive today can, within minutes, Google hundreds of DR/BC lists that offer ever increasing complexity and step-by-step “one size fits all” processes.  These lists focus on the importance of technology, testing, communication and redundancy but one item I see all too often omitted is the Human Element.  Organizations from all industries and size can incorporate technology and processes to create a well-planned (and yes, tested too) DR/BC plan.  Without your people to carry out these processes, your plan will be forfeit.

The Human Element

The human element or what is referred to as Workforce Readiness of a disaster event can undermine even the best tested disaster recovery plan.  Employees’ personal emergencies will challenge an organization’s preparedness and ability to continue operations.  In most environmental situations, employees’ priorities may likely be the following:

  1. Recovering from the event
  2. Relocation
  3. Power outages (no email and dying cell phone batteries)
  4. Repairing damaged homes
  5. Tending to children due to school closures
  6. Caring for elderly parents
  7. Frantically attempting to track down information such as when power will be restored
  8. How to find a contractor for repairs
  9. Filing insurance claims
  10. How to turn on the generator that’s been in the garage for years and never once started or had oil put in the engine.

It’s not uncommon for companies well-laid out plans to be circumvented by their employees’ individual struggles in the face of a disaster event.

A recent Mercer report indicates that while 62% of companies have disaster recovery and business continuity plans in place to address workforce readiness, only 29% of those companies that experienced disasters (or continuity disruptions) in 2014 followed their workforce readiness plans precisely; 20% of these companies report that they did not follow their workforce readiness plans at all in the event of an environmental event and were totally unprepared for the realistic needs of their employees.

The key to this message is the need to adequately incorporate the human element into your organization’s DR/BC plan.

Have your staff prepare their own personal disaster recovery home plans that can then be rolled up into the company DR/BC plan.  More importantly, employees should NOT feel penalized if they advise that yes, they would tend to their homes or family first or be criticized as not being “good corporate citizens.”  On the contrary, they should be supported and real-world corporate DR/BC plans built around the personal needs of the employees.

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