It’s third-and-goal from the seven. There’s the snap! The quarterback fades to his right. Yavorsky is in pursuit. White throws to the end zone … and it’s intercepted and downed in the end zone. Great defensive play!
Sound familiar? The defense comes through with a great play. But will a great defense win the game? Possibly, but the defensive unit is only one part of the football team. Your offensive unit and special teams must also perform well if you are to have a winning team. And winning is everything, right?
A coach wouldn’t seriously consider taking over a team if the owner said he wanted the coach to take the team to the championship with only a defensive unit. Sorry, but there’s just not enough budget for an offensive unit, and just forget about having a special teams unit. Doesn’t look like a championship is in that coach’s future.
Another team requires great performances from all its units to make a winning team, and that is your business continuity team. To win, you need these units to perform well:
- Emergency management team
- Disaster recovery team
- Business resumption team
Just like a football team, you need participation from all three units. Why, then, does management think that a business continuity planner can “get the team to the championship” with only a disaster recovery team? Yes, disaster recovery is an important part of the BC team, but like the football coach, you can’t win championships with two-thirds of your team missing.
Business continuity requires people to manage and recover a company. Having your data recovered and your communications network back in place is a great start, but what good will that do if you don’t have the personnel to carry out the recovery. Let’s take a look at your champion BC team.
Emergency Management Team
This is your special teams unit. You need them to come in and give you great field position. They can do this by making sure that your employees are prepared for a disaster. Those who are prepared for a disaster are more likely to be able to recover themselves and help your business recover.
Let’s look at this scenario:
Your employee’s house has suffered damage from a severe storm. His family is scattered. His wife’s at work. His three children are at their three schools. Which type of employee do you think will be more likely to come into work following a disaster?
Employee A hasn’t made any disaster preparations:
- No phone number for an out-of-state relative to use as a contact
- No designated meeting place
- No copies of important insurance policies/bank account numbers
- No supplies of food or water for family or pets
- No disaster preparedness kit
Employee B has made disaster preparations:
- A designated phone number for members of his family to call in case they are separated
- A designated meeting place known by all family members
- A copy of his insurance policy numbers and phone numbers for his agents
- A copy of his bank account numbers
- A three-day supply of food and water for all family members
- A disaster preparedness kit with first aid supplies, camping equipment, and supplies for his pets
This might be a wild guess, but I think Employee B will probably have things in control more quickly and not be as worried about the welfare of his family. Employee B might be your savior and one of the first to start the recovery effort at your company.
Does this scenario sound far-fetched? Your emergency management team can take steps now to educate your employees about disaster preparedness. Your employees should each have a family continuity plan in place, just as your company should have a business continuity plan in place.
How can you make this happen?
- Prepare a short handout of suggested emergency supplies to have on hand. This must include supplies for four-legged family members as well as the two-legged variety,
- Include in the handout a “financial first-aid kit” that includes a list of all important account numbers needed following a disaster.
- Express the importance of having a preparedness plan for their families.
- Offer your employees classes in first aid and CPR. If a regional disaster strikes during business hours, you may have to rely on your own staff to perform life-saving steps because your community’s first responders are busy racing to other locations: schools, hospitals, etc.
- Encourage your employees to get involved with your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT training is available in most communities, often at little or no cost. Contact your local fire department or office of emergency services to find out if training is offered in your community. (You can even form your own business emergency response team.) The training received through CERT will give you the upper hand in being prepared. It’s like Employee B on steroids.
Disaster Recovery Team
This is your defensive unit. Most companies are well prepared to have their computer and communication networks restored. However, you will have to rely on your special teams unit to make it possible for your DR team to get your data safely and quickly restored. It’s going to require employees to carry out much of this recovery.
Again, you’re going to have to rely on Employee B. How many of your technicians are going to be available to help with your recovery effort if they are worried about the safety of their families? If they have to scramble to try to find all those insurance numbers and call their insurance agents, they aren’t going to have time to help with your problems. And what if your employees haven’t taken a look at their insurance policies in awhile and don’t have nearly enough coverage? That’s going to delay their recovery at home, which in turn, will delay their ability to return to work. When they do return to work, their minds will still be dwelling on all the problems they’re going to face with their insurance companies, etc.
This is where your defensive unit is really going to need some assistance from the special teams.
Business Resumption Team
This is your offensive unit, the team that is going to score your points. It’s also going to require that your defensive unit limit the number of points scored by your opponent, and you hope for some good field position from your special teams unit as well.
Again, you will rely on Employee B. You need personnel to get your call center operational. You need personnel to get operations back on track at your alternate business site. If your employees are facing personal crises at home, they won’t do you much good. Mentally they aren’t at work. That’s why it’s important for your emergency management team to prepare your employees for their own recovery.
Like the plays drawn up by the coach to move the football down the field, you’ll need plans from your business units for how they are going to execute their recovery. Which plays will work with limited resources? Which plays will work without some key employees (your starting quarterback or wide receiver)? If you have a playbook (business resumption plan) compiled and up-to-date, it makes it much easier to call the plays that will get you to the end zone.
Your team doesn’t win the championship without practice. Each of your units assembles their personnel and runs through the different plays. The offense executes the plays for a first and ten, as well as a third and fifteen. The special teams practice punts and field goal attempts. The defensive unit prepares to stop the opposing team’s offensive unit depending on the down and the yardage needed to gain a first down. Every circumstance is examined, and the units prepare for every scenario. Practice, practice, and more practice will help you win the game (it’s also how you get to Carnegie Hall).
Your team must also practice. If you try to implement your recovery without ever testing your plan, you are never going to win a game, let alone the championship. Whenever a football team tries a new play and fails, they go over the play to find out what went wrong and make adjustments. You have to continue to make adjustments to your BC plans as well. But you won’t have a clue what works and what doesn’t until you run through your plays. Exercise, exercise, and more exercise will help you win your recovery game (I don’t think there’s a Carnegie Hall in any business continuity planner’s future, though).
Continue to maintain your BC plan. A football coach needs to know who’s on the roster to make the necessary substitutions. You must know who’s on your roster and what skills those employees have, and you must have reliable contact information to be able to call them into the game.
A Business Continuity Solution?
Many vendors advertise a “total business continuity solution.” Be careful with these claims because most are just offering data backup solutions. This is far from providing the complete team. However, many managers buy into these claims and truly believe they have a full continuity package, expecting their business continuity planners to use this “total package” as the entire BC team.
So, when your management tells you to be prepared to recover the company with only your disaster recovery team, explain how you can’t win the championship without a full business continuity team. Now, assemble your cheerleaders and get out onto the field!
Ron Fauset, CBCP, is an active member of the San Diego Chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners (ACP) and of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). He is also a member of InfraGard and the California Emergency Services Association. He has conducted mock disaster drills at financial institution seminars for clients