Prepare for the Worst: 6 Critical Types of Disaster Management

by | Aug 14, 2019 | Business Continuity

Disaster management (DM) is an important planning process that helps organizations prepare for all aspects of a disaster. But depending on the business’s objectives, there are actually several different types of disaster management that can be deployed.

For example, some companies may choose to use DM specifically for emergency response planning, such as evacuation and rescue procedures. Or, it can be a 360-degree approach to disaster planning, encompassing everything from data backup to fire drills.

In this post, we provide some examples of the most common DM types and why they’re important.

 

The importance of disaster readiness

40% to 60% of small companies go out of business after a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

It happens more often than you might think.

·      More than 50% of businesses have experienced a disruption within the past five years that resulted in downtime lasting a full workday or longer.

·      This downtime can cost small companies more than $10,000 per hour.

·      Roughly 90% of businesses that are unable to resume critical operations within 5 days after the disaster fail within a year.

The risks are simply too great for small- and medium-sized businesses to ignore. Without a disaster management plan, companies stand to lose everything.

 

It’s not just natural disasters you should worry about

Severe weather events, such as hurricanes and tornados, get all the headlines. But the truth is that businesses are derailed year-round by a much wider range of other disasters:

·      Loss of critical data

·      Network interruptions

·      Hardware & application failure

·      Fire and flooding damage

·      Malware, ransomware and cyberattacks

·      Production / manufacturing disruptions

·      Utility outages

Every organization, regardless of size, must implement effective strategies for preventing these disasters, as well as recovering from them. That is the key objective of disaster management.

 

DM types vs. DM stages

The term “disaster management stages” is sometimes used interchangeably with “disaster management types.” But generally, DM stages refer to the 4 core goals of a disaster management plan, whereas DM types refer to the systems and processes that fall within each of those stages.

Don’t worry – it’s not as confusing as it sounds.

There are four stages that make up what’s known as the disaster management cycle:

·      Prevention: Steps for preventing disaster from occurring.

·      Preparation: Readiness planning and drills for an anticipated disaster.

·      Response: Immediate steps for mitigating and containing a disaster.

·      Recovery: Protocols for restoring processes and operations back to 100%.

It’s called a “cycle” because each stage should flow into the next. The success (or failure) of any stage should also be used to improve the entire process from the beginning, thus restarting the cycle.

The four stages are essentially the same regardless of how you deploy your disaster management. However, the actual steps within those stages look a little different depending on the disaster scenario.

With that said, let’s look at some example components of DM.

 

1) Building Codes & Structural Safety  

Building codes are a prime example of a disaster management type that falls within the Prevention stage. They serve the important purpose of preventing unsafe conditions and other hazards within a structure:

·      If a building isn’t structurally sound, it could collapse.

·      If there’s no roof, the building will be destroyed by Mother Nature.

·      If there’s no fire-proofing, everything could go up in flames before people have a chance to evacuate.

Any business that is constructing or renovating a structure will of course need to comply with local building codes. But some companies may opt to exceed building codes when assessing their risks for certain disasters.

For example, a server room may not be required by code to have state-of-the-art fire suppression systems. But if you can’t afford to lose your IT infrastructure, then this is a preventative measure you’ll want to look into.

 

2) Training & Emergency Drills

Ongoing training programs are essential for making sure that workers know how to prevent common disaster scenarios. It also ensures they know what to do in an emergency. Depending on the objectives, this training could fall under the Prevention or Response stages.

For example, here are two different types of disaster management training, each with different goals:

·      Cybersecurity & Online Safety Training: This form of training would fall under the Prevention stage, as it helps to prevent common cybersecurity breaches caused by human error. When employees are thoroughly trained on proper ways to use email and Web and how to identify potential phishing attacks, it greatly reduces the risk of ransomware infections and other cybersecurity issues.

·      Fire Drills & Disaster Training: Unlike the Online Safety Training, this training will not prevent the root disaster from occurring, but it will ensure that the response is properly executed, so that the situation doesn’t get any worse. A fire drill is a prime example. Drills allow staff to practice the steps they would need to take during a fire (exiting the building quickly and safely), so that they know what to do if/when a real fire occurs. This training would fall under the Response stage.

 

3) Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery (BC/DR)

BC/DR typically refers to the IT systems that enable a business to continue operating after a disruptive event, such as data loss or hardware failure. BC/DR is such an important component of disaster management that it can fall within all four DM stages: Prevention, Preparation, Response and Recovery.

The key component of BC/DR is data backup. A good data backup solution can help businesses prevent data loss, prepare for likely data loss events, rapidly restore data and execute a full recovery.

Let’s use the Datto SIRIS as an example.

SIRIS performs a full infrastructure backup, including operating systems, applications and virtual environments. Backups can be booted in seconds as virtual machines, via the on-site backup device or in the cloud. This means that businesses can quickly regain access to their critical applications and files after a disaster, even if a full data recovery is underway.

This functionality is essential for business continuity, especially during the age of ransomware, when sprawling computer networks can be infected and made inoperable in a matter of minutes.

The SIRIS also has multiple restore options, as well as built-in ransomware detection – both of which help to provide enhanced protection against a wide range of data disasters.

 

4) Emergency Response & Evacuation

Disaster management is often focused on the human element – ensuring safety for employees, clients and others who come into contact with the business. As such, it is imperative that everybody knows what to do in an emergency, which is why this component of DM is so important.

Emergency response procedures are the critical steps that must be followed immediately after a disaster (especially one that poses imminent danger to people).

An example piece of this planning, which would fall under the Response DM stage, is an Evacuation Plan. Evacuation routes provide a designated path for people to exit a building or office complex in the safest, quickest way possible.

Other forms of emergency response will help to contain and mitigate a disaster. For example, the placement of fire extinguishers can help to contain small fires, particularly in high-risk areas such as office kitchens. Procedures for contacting authorities should also be followed, such as dialing 9-1-1 for a fire or active shooter situation.

Businesses in earthquake-prone areas should have protocols for getting employees to safety within the building (i.e. Drop-Cover-Hold On procedures).

Designated disaster-recovery teams can also help to ensure that these emergency procedures are followed when disaster strikes.

5) Rescue, Relief & Continuity

What about situations in which employees have been physically harmed or trapped?

Rescue and relief procedures are another important type of disaster management that falls under the Response stage.

In most cases, dangerous rescue efforts should be left to trained responders, not your own staff. But on a more basic level, businesses should at least have a first aid kit and other procedures for responding to a medical emergency.

Separate from the wellbeing of employees, companies also need to focus on the wellbeing of the business after a disaster. Even if a full recovery will take days, weeks or months, immediate steps should be taken to restore continuity and stave off an operational catastrophe. For example, this could include using temporary equipment, moving operations to a secondary location, leveraging backup power generators and so on.

 

6) Communication Systems

Without communication, recovering from a disaster is virtually impossible.

A critical aspect of disaster management is creating effective protocols and systems for staying in contact during a disruption, especially if primary lines of communication are down.

Examples of critical communications:

·      Emergency contact information (and devices) for stakeholders and disaster recovery teams

·      Communication / calling trees for keeping all personnel updated

·      Online, extranet or automated call-in systems for communicating updates with staff

·      Prioritized communication protocols that identify “who needs to know first”

·      Communication procedures for dealing with third parties, such as emergency responders, insurance providers, IT service providers, media and so on

Keep in mind that disaster management planning is effectively useless if nobody can communicate when a disaster occurs. Having solid communication plans will eliminate confusion and keep everybody in the loop, making recovery much easier.

 

Learn more

Get more information on how to add data backup and BC/DR to your disaster management planning. For more details on advanced disaster recovery solutions from Datto, request a free demo or contact our business continuity experts at Invenio IT. Call (646) 395-1170 or email success@invenioIT.com.

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Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!