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Six Things All Businesses Should Do When Recovering from a Disaster

June 3, 2020

It’s been said that the best offense is a good defense, and at no time is that old adage more true than when it comes to disaster recovery planning. A disaster recovery plan is a roadmap outlining how your business will restore critical data, systems, and other infrastructure in the event of a catastrophic loss or failure.  

The nature of such events can vary from server crashes and system tampering to utility failures, natural disasters, and other events often classified as “acts of God.” But at the end of the day, a plan is only as good as its execution, and no matter the cause, when such a disaster occurs, every minute that your business systems are down has a direct impact on your bottom line. Quick and decisive action often makes the difference between weathering a storm or falling victim to the circumstances.

So, whether you already have a plan in place or are putting one together for the first time amid an ongoing disaster, here are six key steps you should plan to take whenever disaster strikes to aid in your recovery.

  1. Utilize a Core Response Team: When disaster strikes, minutes matter. Assembling a small response team with clearly documented and defined roles and responsibilities allows your team to immediately begin responding to a disaster in an organized fashion. Likewise, having clear communications and alert protocols for this group will help to ensure that everyone is in the loop from the first minutes of a crisis through its resolution. 
  2. Establish a Recovery Time Objective: Helping to ensure that the scope of your recovery efforts stay reasonable and measured amid the chaos of a disaster event, a recovery time objective (RTO) sets clear expectations for both you and your response team. Your RTO establishes the length of time your company targets to resume its services after a disaster has taken place, and enables you to determine how much money, resources, and time should be spent on disaster recovery efforts, as well as the maximum level of operational loss deemed acceptable. While you may have to reset this objective down the road, it’s ideal to have an initial target to manage against.
  3. Deploy Recovery Infrastructure As Soon As Possible: If you have backups in place for your critical data and infrastructure—including cloud backups for data systems and generators and/or uninterruptable power supplies for key equipment—you should deploy them as soon as it is safe and reasonable to do so. If you rely on outside vendors to support critical business functions (from IT and data storage to merchant services and payroll processing), you’ll also want to get in touch with your account representatives to begin the data recovery and/or service restoration process. Check your service level agreements (SLAs) ahead of time if possible to gain a thorough understanding of what recovery services are available to you.
  4. Proactively Engage Key External Stakeholders Early: In the event of a downtime event, it is critical to proactively communicate with key stakeholders—your customers and partners such as your banker(s) and creditors, utility companies, landlord(s), insurance agent(s), etc.—who may also be feeling the impact of your business disruption. Keeping contact information for key contacts close at-hand will help speed your outreach and quell any immediate questions or concerns they may have. Opening up lines of communication early may also help ensure that you are informed of assistance options such as deferred payment obligations or other financial relief. 
  5. Document Everything: Keep detailed notes of all pertinent meetings, conversations, and other business matters related to the event and receipts for all expenses incurred during your response efforts. Be sure to keep these records in a safe place as your business navigates a disaster event. These will be valuable in helping you recall details specific to your response efforts when needed and will also provide you with a reference point to look back on to plan for future response efforts. Also, if you have a documented inventory in your records, now is the time to revisit it. Should you experience a total or partial loss, such documentation will aid in filing insurance claims and help ensure that you receive a fair and accurate adjustment. In addition to a simple list, keeping dated photos on file can help streamline this process. 
  6. Support Front-Line Staff: When responding to a disaster, it can be easy to experience tunnel vision and lose sight of the impacts these events can have on your employees. From direct impacts such as the financial strain of short- or long-term unemployment to indirect impacts such as increased stress and change at home, your employees may be facing challenges that extend beyond the day to day of your business. To help overcome the increased anxiety and fear your team may be experiencing, maintain transparency and open communication whenever possible and take steps to make reasonable accommodations to support them during the recovery effort. There is no “one size fits all” for this sort of response, but by opening a respectful dialogue, you and your team may quickly identify small steps that can make a big difference in uncertain times. 

Remember, your partners at Sterling National Bank can be a valuable resource during times of uncertainty. If you are navigating a disaster and need assistance, our Business Banking professionals can provide guidance or connect you with the banking resources you need. Contact your Relationship Manager or find a banker at snb.com/find-a-banker.