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Prepare for the Worst: 6 Critical Types of Disaster Management

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Dale Shulmistra

Data Protection Specialist @ Invenio IT

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Types of disaster management

In an instant, a business can fall from the heights of success to a crushing collapse, and disaster management is vital to ensuring that doesn’t happen. From fires to ransomware to hardware malfunctions, businesses face threats on a variety of fronts, and there are various types of disaster management to help properly prepare for and recover from each of them.

Disaster management is an important planning process that helps organizations prepare for all aspects of a disaster, from the moment it begins until months after the initial event has ended. Depending on your business’s objectives and structure, you may be better served by deploying one or more kinds of disaster management.

Some companies may choose to use disaster management specifically for emergency response planning, such as evacuation and rescue procedures. For others, it might be a 360-degree approach to disaster planning, encompassing everything from data backup to fire drills. In this post, we’ll dig into the details of the most common disaster management types, the purposes they serve, and why they’re so vital to a business’s reputation and bottom line.

The Importance of Disaster Readiness

Disaster management could mean the difference between a flourishing or failing business. While it’s not always possible to anticipate a disastrous event, businesses that plan ahead are at an advantage if the worst one day occurs, and the stakes are incredibly high. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), around 25% of businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster, and the effects are often more severe for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Take a look at these alarming statistics, which emphasize the cost and frequency of downtime for modern organizations:

  • An hour of server downtime equates to $300,000 or more in losses for 91% of mid-sized enterprises and large enterprises.
  • Upward of 60% of IT outages result in more than $100,000 in total losses.
  • As of 2022, around two-thirds of SMBs had experienced a ransomware attack, one of the most common causes of downtime, in the previous 18 months.
  • A 2023 report from LogicMonitor reveals that approximately 96% of IT leaders experienced at least one outage in the past three years.

These numbers underscore that the risks are simply too great for businesses of every size, particularly SMBs, to ignore. Without a disaster management plan, companies stand to lose everything in a matter of moments.

Looking Beyond Natural Disasters

If you’re trying to protect your business from potential disasters, you should be worried about more than just natural disasters. Severe weather events, such as hurricanes and tornados, make for splashy headlines and shocking images, but the truth is that businesses are derailed year-round by a much wider range of other emergencies.

At any given time, your business could be at risk of experiencing any number of disasters, including:

  • Loss of critical data
  • Network interruptions
  • Hardware & application failures
  • Fire and flooding damage
  • Malware, ransomware, and other cyberattacks
  • Production and manufacturing disruptions
  • Utility outages

The key to surviving these kinds of events is implementing effective prevention and recovery strategies. That is the primary objective of disaster management and the reason why it should be a priority for every business.

Distinguishing Between Disaster Management Stages and Types

The term disaster management stages is sometimes used interchangeably with disaster management types, but they refer to related but separate things. Generally speaking, disaster management stages are the four core goals of a disaster management plan, whereas disaster management 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, and we’ll break things down to highlight the differences.

Understanding the Four Stages of Disaster Management

There are four stages that constitute what’s known as the disaster management cycle. Each one is unique, but it’s meant to seamlessly connect to the subsequent stage. These are typically identified as the stages of disaster management:

  1. Prevention: In this stage, businesses take steps designed to prevent a disaster from occurring.
  2. Preparation: During this stage of disaster management, businesses conduct readiness planning and drills to make sure they’re ready for a potential disaster.
  3. Response: Once a disaster has occurred, businesses use these steps to mitigate and contain the effects.
  4. Recovery: After the immediate dangers have subsided, businesses use these protocols to restore processes and operations back to 100%.

The process of disaster management is referred to as a cycle because each stage should flow into the next. The success or failure of any one stage should also be used to improve the entire process from the beginning, thus restarting the cycle. For example, problems during disaster recovery may be more severe if the business doesn’t implement sufficient preparation strategies.

Customizing Stages for Different Types of Disaster Management

The four stages of disaster management 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 exact disaster scenario.

For instance, businesses concerned with preventing floods wouldn’t take the same prevention steps as an organization that is primarily worried about cyberattacks. As a result, the businesses that are best equipped to address and react to disasters often have multiple disaster management plans for each type of crisis.

Possible Types of Disaster Management

With a clear understanding of the distinction between disaster management stages and types, it’s easier to examine possible components of disaster management. Your business may benefit from incorporating one, some, or all of these disaster management types into your planning process.

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.

Imagine these scenarios and how they could endanger not only the future of your business but also the safety and lives of your employees:

  • If a building isn’t structurally sound, it could collapse, particularly in the event of an earthquake or tornado.
  • When a building has no roof or the roof is flawed, the building and everything inside of it could easily be destroyed by winds, rain, snow, and ice.
  • A lack of fire-proofing presents an extreme danger, as 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. However, some companies opt to exceed building codes when assessing their risks for certain disasters to ensure that their property and employees are kept as safe as possible.

Consider this example. A server room may not be required by code to have state-of-the-art fire suppression systems. However, if you can’t afford to lose your IT infrastructure, then advanced fire suppression technology may be a worthwhile investment.

2) Training and Emergency Drills

Ongoing training programs are essential for making sure that workers know how to prevent and respond to common disaster scenarios. Depending on the objectives, this training could fall under the Prevention or Response stages.

Let’s look at two different types of disaster management training, each with different goals.

Cybersecurity and 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. This is no small point of concern for today’s businesses, as recent studies indicate that employee behavior is one of the leading contributors to data breaches and cybersecurity failures. A report from Stanford and Tessian found that 85% of data breaches are the result of human errors, and 43% of people have made mistakes that have presented a danger to cybersecurity in their workplace.

Ranging from downloading a malicious file to entering credentials into a fake website, employees can make a seemingly simple mistake that puts an entire business’s reputation and revenue at risk. When employees are thoroughly trained on the proper ways to use email, apps, and the Web and how to identify potential phishing attacks, it greatly reduces the risk of ransomware infections and other cybersecurity issues.

Fire Drills and Disaster Training

Unlike online safety training, fire drills and disaster training will not prevent a root disaster from occurring. It will, however, 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, such as:

  • How to exit the building quickly and safely
  • Where to gather once they’re outside
  • Who is responsible for contacting emergency services

This ensures that all staff members know what to do if a real fire occurs and reduces the likelihood that they will suffer injuries or, in the worst cases, lose their lives. Because it educates employees on what to do after a disaster has already occurred, this training would fall under the Response stage.

3) Business Continuity and 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 stages.

The key component of BC/DR is data backup. A good data backup solution can prevent data loss, prepare for likely data loss events, rapidly restore data, and execute a full recovery. When buying a data backup system, look for one that offers these features:

  • Performs a full infrastructure backup, including operating systems, applications, and virtual environments
  • Offers backups that can be booted in seconds as virtual machines, via an on-site backup device, or in the cloud
  • Scans backups for the presence of potential ransomware
  • Includes multiple restore options

This type of data backup solution makes it possible for businesses to quickly regain access to their critical applications and files after a disaster, even while 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 minutes.

Affordability is also a common concern for businesses exploring this type of disaster management. Smaller organizations with more limited budgets can deploy backup solutions with smaller storage capacities that offer the same features and benefits as their larger counterparts.

4) Emergency Response and Evacuation

Disaster management is often focused on the human element, particularly 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 kind of disaster management is among the most important.

Emergency response procedures are the critical steps that must be followed immediately after a disaster, especially one that poses an imminent danger to people. A common example piece of this planning, which would fall under the Response 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 potential disasters, such as:

  • Fires: Strategically placed fire extinguishers can help to contain small fires, particularly in high-risk areas such as office kitchens.
  • Active shooters: Businesses can help protect their employees from active shooter situations with Run-Hide-Fight procedures and information on how to contact authorities, such as dialing 9-1-1 from a safe location.
  • Earthquakes: Businesses in earthquake-prone areas should have protocols for getting employees to safety within the building and should provide Drop-Cover-Hold On procedures.

No matter what type of disaster may occur, designated disaster-recovery teams can also help to ensure that these emergency procedures are followed when a crisis occurs.

5) Rescue, Relief, and Continuity

Although it seems unimaginable, businesses may find themselves in situations where employees have been physically harmed or trapped. Rescue and relief procedures for these scenarios 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. However, businesses should be prepared to react on a more basic level by, at a minimum, having a first aid kit on hand and knowing how to administer life-saving care.

Separate from the well-being of employees, companies also need to focus on the survival of the business after a disaster. Even if a full recovery takes days, weeks, or months, immediate steps should be taken to restore continuity and stave off an operational catastrophe. This might include using temporary equipment, moving operations to a secondary location, or leveraging backup power generators.

6) Communication Systems

Without clear and consistent communication, recovering from a disaster is virtually impossible. As a result, 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 might include:

  • Emergency contact information and devices for stakeholders and disaster recovery teams
  • Communication or 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 and what information they should receive
  • Communication procedures for dealing with third parties, such as emergency responders, insurance providers, IT service providers, and media outlets

Keep in mind that disaster management planning is effectively useless if nobody can communicate when a disaster occurs, and it’s in the interests of any business to prevent panic or gossip. Having solid communication plans will eliminate confusion and keep everybody in the loop, making recovery much easier in both the short and long term.

How to Learn More About Disaster Management

It’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect a business to be able to prevent or avoid every potential disaster. Some situations, such as natural disasters, are beyond the scope of human control. However, that doesn’t absolve businesses from the responsibility of attempting to lower their risk levels and appropriately preparing for and reacting to an emergency situation when it does occur. Using a combination of different types of disaster management empowers organizational leaders and administrators to shield their employees and businesses from the physical, financial, and emotional consequences that many disasters present.

This type of task might feel overwhelming, particularly if you work in an industry or location where disasters are especially commonplace. Fortunately, you don’t have to take on the challenge alone. The team at Invenio IT can provide you with more information on how to add data backup and BC/DR to your disaster management planning, reducing the likelihood and effects of downtime and data loss. Schedule a free demo to explore the most advanced disaster recovery solutions on the market, or reach out to the experts at Invenio IT to become more informed about how to achieve business continuity.

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