Recovering from a disaster affecting your business: 3 questions you must ask and answer

Recovering from a disaster affecting your business: 3 questions you must ask and answer

When a disaster strikes, mounting an effective emergency response is only a start. The organisation must also be able to recover.

By Willem Olivier, GM: Africa, ContinuitySA

Recent fires in office buildings have grabbed headlines, with their compelling photographs and stories of staff or residents being escorted to safety and acts of bravery by firefighters. Not surprisingly, the focus is inevitably on the quality of the emergency response. But from a business point of view, an effective emergency response is just the first step in a complex process to get the business back onto its feet as quickly as possible.

It’s vital to hone the ability to recover quicker because, as figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the USA show, 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster, and of those, only 29 percent are still operating after two years.

In addition, given that most businesses are integrated into supply chains, the impact of any disaster they suffer—including ultimate failure—will affect the whole chain. As sustainability questions begin to become part of business as usual, we expect companies to insist that their supply chain partners have demonstrable ability to respond to, and recover from, a disaster.

These disasters should thus prompt all organisations in both the public and private sectors, to ask themselves three critical questions relating to their ability to rise triumphant from the ashes of a disaster.

Do we have a proper crisis management response plan and process in place?

When any disaster happens, the first priority is to safeguard one’s people and information. This emergency response is only the beginning though—the organisation must have a proper process and team in place to handle communication with stakeholders, including the media, and initiate the recovery process. “Failure to plan is planning to fail”

Most crisis management plans are extremely lengthy and are likely to be left behind in the office anyway. Crisis management plans must provide members of the crisis team with the essential process flow that they must follow in the heat of a crisis. One solution is to use an app to prompt team members with what to do, essential contact details and so on—ContinuitySA recently piloted its app and will be rolling it out to clients in the near future.

Another important issue, and one that the app can help with, is that teams need to shift from emergency response mode to crisis management mode once the safety of staff and assets is secured. This means getting the essential task of recovery underway as soon as possible. Many teams miss this crucial switch between emergency and crisis management execution.

Read our next blog to explore the second critical question your organisation should be asking.