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Volume 30, Issue 3

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reparedness is the hot topic in the 90s. Nationwide, there is a growing interest in both public policy and the private sector to put into effect the tools needed to assure readiness when disaster strikes.

Public policies are being written to mandate a working plan be in place at all levels of government. Corporations are realizing that a plan must move beyond the traditional approach to center on far more than the data processing areas.

Our reliance on electronics forces us to be realistic about what can go wrong. A major catastrophic event can cause many companies to suffer long-term recovery problems in the absence of a well developed and executed plan.


I offer a simple definition by Susan Bulgawicz and Charles Nolan. They define a disaster as; “An event whose timing is unexpected and whose consequences are seriously destructive or simply an unfortunate event.”

The key elements are:

  • Suddenness
  • Unexpectedness
  • Significant destruction

And lastly sometimes it involves a lack of foresight or planning. Since no one knows when an event will occur we must be ready.


In the last few years disaster recovery planning, crisis management, contingency planning, risk analysis and business resumption activities have grown steady and are at an all time high.

Basically everyone is trying to develop or refine a plan that has been approved by management, implemented, and periodically tested and understood by all the key players involved in the plan.

Once the top priority of safeguarding human life has been achieved the focus of attention becomes the mitigation of damage to property and the immediate resumption of business operations.


While these plans are complete with many layers of concerns, we can now focus on the role of the restoration industry and how key vendors through pre-planning can become instrumental in assisting you in a rapid return to business as usual.

As an overview, the types of services available are as varied as the types of dilemmas you may face. These range from simple broken pipes to major hi-rise fires to massive earthquakes and major hurricanes.

There are contractors and vendors ready to retrieve vital data from heavily damaged electronic data processing centers. There are hot site vendors, high tech electronic cleaning experts, book and document drying, cleaning experts and odor control specialists. There is a general contractor that offers “Hyper-Speed Reconstruction” that can rebuild a vital structure in 1/4 to 1/3 the normal time. You must know your needs to know your resources.


There are usually a very good group of skilled and capable vendors for most small to medium sized occurrences in your immediate area. These vendors are very responsive in terms of a cost effective solution to most problems. Likewise your own in-house facilities personnel may be able to handle most minor events unaided.

Regional contractors can provide the next logical layer of services in larger single events - that is events that effect only your operations - such as fires, or water damage situations.

However, when the event is on a larger scale or regional in nature such as a large flood, an earthquake or hurricane, the local and eventually regional resources will become tapped, committed and unavailable.

Local and regional contractors will become short staffed, over-booked and under equipped to respond to your immediate needs. At this point the large national vendors become the most reliable resource.

Larger situations require experience that local and regional vendors may not have. In short, knowing the capabilities of your resources, knowing when to call and knowing what kind of a response is realistic and available is key to your early recovery.


Pre-qualification is the buzz-word of the 90s in the restoration industry. While the concept is not new the need to be ready has pushed it to the front burner for planners.

There is a growing movement to include key vendors and contractors in the development and testing of a recovery plan.

In a confidential format, vendors and corporations are meeting to stage mock disasters that allow each player to understand the priorities and capabilities of each other.

Agreements are being made to exchange names, phone numbers and key procedures in order to assure a minimum amount of delay and confusion when an event occurs. The reduction in response times allows for a reduction in down-time. These industries are generally not listed in the yellow pages, so doing your homework pays big dividends.

A good example of how pre-planning can work at the time of a major disaster occurred October 17, 1989 in San Francisco, Calif. My home phone was ringing almost immediately. The first three calls were from established relationships needing immediate help. Our first 10 responses were with pre-qualified relationships.

Companies with major problems had a commitment to be served quickly. Consequently they were among the first companies to be on the road to recovery.


1. Reduce down-time and gross loss.
2. Speed return to business recovery.
3. Save equipment and information vital to organization.
4. Demonstrate care and concern for employees and customers by pre-planning.
5. Streamline insurance concerns and cost factors by controlling how decisions are made in advance of a confusing situation.
6. Simplify coordination of key players.


Now that we have discussed what our goals are and have investigated an overview of what is needed and available, how do you finalize who will be your resource in the event of an emergency?

Lets look at some important considerations when selecting a restoration company.
1.Commitment to be available 24 hours a day for emergency response. What good is a resource that you cannot get in touch with?
2.Response time - Within hours a representative should be in route or at the site to meet with key people.
3.Capabilities - What resources can they bring to bear and in what force.
4.Strength (financially), age, experience in the industry in dealing with similar situations.
5.Track record - References.Research the background of the company. The strongest recommendation is when someone who has been through a situation says they would call the company again and again.
6.Testing through meetings, exchanges of information and mock emergencies. Results of this procedure could allow you to become familiar with a company in a pre-loss environment.


Risk Managers, controllers, financial officers or the president of your company will act to contact the agent or broker at the time of a loss setting into motion a chain of events.

The broker or agent will call a claim center for the carrier of the insurance. The claims center will assign a company adjuster or an independent adjuster to report to the loss site as soon as possible.

Meanwhile at the loss site you should move ahead with documentation and mitigation of damages.

Most insurance policies read “you, the insured, are responsible to mitigate damage pending the arrival of a representative of the insurance company.” When the insurance people arrive, they will work with your staff and your vendors/contractors to develop a scope of services to address the damages.

This scope will take into consideration such things as priority needs, and cost to replace. Other factors to review include the age of the equipment, down time awaiting replacement and availability of replacement.

Other insurance issues to be aware of:

Deductibles - When it is high, it transfers the weight of the decisions onto the insureds. When damage is great and beyond the deductible. The insurance industry has a greater role to play in how to accomplish the restoration/repair concerns.

Final decisions are the insureds to make. The insurance companies will guide you, but not make the decisions on your behalf.

In a regional disaster you may be on your own for 72 hours or more. The insurance industry will set up offices to respond as quickly as possible, but you may have to make some important decisions on your own.


In a planning environment we all have the opportunity to research the resources that are available. The efforts that we expend before a loss occurs are always rewarded at the time of a catastrophe event. There is a wealth of information and an army of professionals ready to assist you when you need it most.

Getting ready for a disaster is a job that cannot be put off for any reason.

Jim McGovern is regional manager of marketing and sales for M.F. Bank Restoration Company. He has more than 15 yars of experience in both construction and restoration.

This article adapted from Vol. 4 #4.