4 Disaster Management Stages Every Business Should Know
No business is immune to disaster. But with a comprehensive disaster management plan, any business can reduce the risk of an emergency situation and recover quickly when disruptions occur.
There are 4 stages of disaster management that businesses need to plan for:
Together, these stages are often referred to as the disaster management cycle. They represent all aspects of disaster planning as they relate to each phase of an event: before, during and after. Each stage is comprised of steps designed to strengthen a business’s readiness for a disruptive event.
Below, we break down the specific components that go in each of the 4 disaster management stages.
What are the 4 Disaster Management Stages?
The first stage consists of the fundamental steps necessary for preventing a disaster in the first place. In the DM cycle, this stage occurs before the disaster takes place.
The most important step in this stage is understanding how the business is at risk of disaster. Without knowing what kind of disasters will impact the business, or how serious that impact will be, it becomes impossible to effectively prepare. Businesses must take the time to thoroughly assess their risks and project how operations will be affected. This is the only way to determine which preventative measures will be most effective.
· Objectives: Before any preventative measures can be identified, it’s important to clearly state the objectives of your disaster management planning. What should the plan accomplish? What is its purpose? What are its scope and limitations? Answering these questions helps your planning teams stay on track toward the underlying goals. For example, will your DM plan be developed more as an IT disaster recovery plan, specific to technology deployments? Or will it focus more on the human hazards of an emergency situation, i.e. staff safety, shelter and so on? This needs to be made clear from the very start.
· Risk assessment: This is where you identify the unique threats posed to the business. It’s true that some types of disasters affect virtually all businesses: fire, flooding and severe weather are some examples. But every business also has its own unique risks. A coastal business may be at more risk of hurricane, for example. A healthcare organization may be at more risk of cyberattacks or noncompliance with federal regulations. Businesses should assess every possible risk as it pertains to its specific operations, industry and location.
· Business impact analysis: We’ve mentioned how some businesses may indeed face the same threats. But even when the threats are identical, they may impact two businesses in a completely different way. For example, data loss at one company could derail operations for days and cost millions of dollars to recover from, while for another business the impact might not be as severe. Prioritizing those risks is also important, as it helps to understand where the focus of planning should be.
· Structural vulnerability assessment: Building codes and zoning requirements are an important component of this stage, because they are designed to mitigate the impact of destructive natural disasters. They help to ensure a building is structurally sound and resistant to threats like fire and flooding. Remaining compliant with those codes, and performing additional vulnerability assessments, can prevent or reduce the impact of many common disasters.
Like the first stage, the second stage of disaster prevention occurs before a disaster strikes. In this stage, you apply the insight you gathered from the first stage—risk assessments, impact analyses and so on—to prepare for various emergency scenarios.
Some of the key components of this stage are sometimes included within the Prevention stage, because they can help to prevent certain events from occurring in the first place. For example, a good cybersecurity training program can help prevent personnel from becoming victims of an email phishing attack. The preparation stage can also include protocols for when a disaster is imminent, such as evacuation procedures for an impending hurricane.
· Education & training: Everybody at an organization plays some kind of role in preparing for a disaster – even if the directive is simply to “Stay home and wait for updates.” All staff must know what to do in an emergency situation, for their own safety as well as for business continuity. This is why education is such an important component of this stage. Businesses must develop programs to increase staff awareness and readiness. This can include training programs, fire drills, evacuation routes, and so on. In IT-focused planning, this can include things like training on best practices for using Internet and email, proper handling of sensitive data, etc.
· Shelter & supplies: If your disaster management plan is more focused on human hazards, then it’s important to consider how and where personnel can get emergency aid during a disaster. A very basic example would be a first aid kit for on-site injuries. On a larger scale, this could include pre-built shelter locations or stations, such as a shelter-in-place facility at a chemical plant where there’s a risk of explosion.
· Disaster recovery solutions & technologies: For many businesses, the most persistent day-to-day threats occur within IT. Events like cyberattacks and data loss can cause just as much downtime and financial destruction as natural disasters, if not more. Organizations can prepare for these disruptions by deploying technologies like data backup solutions, network security infrastructure, anti-malware software and other cybersecurity defenses.
· Emergency drills: Few things test the preparedness of an organization more than a drill. Mock disaster scenarios are a good way to ensure that emergency protocols will be followed when a real-world event occurs. Drills can be used to test virtually any safeguard, from human safety procedures like fire evacuations to IT-related concerns like mock data-backup recoveries. When the drills identify weaknesses in preparedness, the business can take corrective action.
The third disaster management stage occurs immediately following a disaster. As such, the planning for this stage is comprised of the actions a business must take to respond to the event, whether to ensure safety or mitigate operational downtime.
How a business responds to a disaster plays a major role in what happens in the fourth stage: recovery. If the response is inadequate or badly executed, a recovery might not be possible at all. Consider, for example, that 90% of businesses fail within a year if they’re unable to resume operations within 5 days after a disaster. Regardless of whether the objective is to maintain continuity or provide emergency aid, the response must be swift and well planned.
· Damage assessment: To respond to a disaster, action must be taken to assess the impact. If there is structural damage, for example, response teams must assess how severe it is and how it will affect things like operational continuity and staff safety. The same goes for damage to IT infrastructure, servers, networks, etc. The first critical step to resolving any issue is determining exactly what that response should look like.
· Emergency response & relief: This component is especially vital in situations where people have been put in harm’s way. Emergency response procedures should be followed to provide immediate medical attention, prevent further injuries from taking place and seek outside emergency response assistance. In many situations, these steps literally save lives.
· Event mitigation: Even before a full recovery is enacted, steps should be taken to mitigate the impact of the event. In a ransomware attack, for example, organizations are advised to disconnect devices from the network and power them down to prevent an infection from spreading. Similarly, in more physically dangerous situations, such as a fire, steps should be taken to prevent it from worsening, whether by calling responders, manually enabling fire suppression systems, or following other procedures.
· Restoring critical services: To maintain continuity, businesses should try to resume their most critical operations as soon as possible after a disaster, even if a full recovery will take much longer. This could mean providing limited services to customers, resuming production on a limited basis, restoring lost data via virtualized backups, and so on.
The fourth and final stage of disaster management includes all the steps needed for performing a full recovery.
In recovery, everything is brought back to normal again. Operations resume at normal levels, and any remaining threats from the initial disaster are removed. For example, for a small department store that has been wrecked by a tornado, this could mean reopening its doors in a new building, fully staffed, fully stocked and open during normal hours. For a healthcare organization shuttered by ransomware, it could mean resuming all operations, restoring all patient services and fully recovering any lost data. Finally, the event should be evaluated to determine how future disruptions could be approached more effectively – thus restarting the DM cycle.
· Recovery procedures: An extensive set of procedures should be created to guide recovery teams through the post-disaster period. These procedures are typically outlined with a disaster recovery plan. Different types of disasters will require different actions, so the procedures need to be individualized for each type of event.
· Threat elimination: A complete recovery is not possible if there is any lingering threat that the disaster will suddenly resume or worsen. This is why it’s important to make sure the threat is completely eliminated as part of the recovery process. A malware infection is one example.
· Repair and replace: Steps should be taken to repair or replace any damaged assets, whether they are IT components, structural repairs or equipment. These assets should be prioritized based on their importance for operational continuity or safety.
· Assessment: As operations normalize, recovery teams should carefully document how the recovery efforts were handled: what happened, what worked well, what didn’t. This assessment should be used to improve all four stages of the disaster management cycle for future events: prevention, preparation, response and recovery.
Data protection for any disaster
Backing up your data is a crucial component of any disaster management strategy. For more information on today’s advanced data protection solutions from Datto, request a free demo or contact our business continuity experts at Invenio IT. Call (646) 395-1170 or by email success@invenioIT.com.