Question: How do I develop a Disaster Recovery Plan?
Answer: Last month’s column laid the groundwork for developing a functional Disaster Recovery Plan. We reviewed key components of a disaster recovery plan and critical planning, discovery, and organizational steps one must take to develop a plan that functions beyond becoming a dust magnet on your bookshelf.
A question has arisen about terminology. Whether called a “disaster recovery plan” or a “crisis plan” or a “business continuity plan,” the end game is the same. Your goal is to resume manufacturing operations and fiscal stability, as quickly as possible, after a disruptive event. Some facilities and operations professionals believe that abandoning the term “disaster recovery plan” in favor of “business continuity plan” is more effective in procuring funding and support from senior management, and more palatable to the investment community. While the substance remains the same, the impression created by an undertaking titled “business continuity plan” is a focus on the future, generating product and profits. There is also a move afoot in some sectors to use the label BC/DR (business continuity / disaster recovery), suggesting the dual purpose of the process. You’ll need to decide what’s best for your organization, and facilitating your end goals.
This month in Round 2, I’ll guide you through some of the specifics of producing a disaster recovery plan tailored to the requirements of your manufacturing needs, including content. Pour that cup of Joe and settle in—those of us in facilities like nothing better than to write a plan, or read about writing one. But the pain you’ll feel today is miniscule compared to the pain of being unprepared for an unexpected disaster that impairs your manufacturing.
You’ve completed the spadework: management is on board and has funded the effort; risk assessments are completed and prioritized regarding both probability of occurrence and damage potential; key team members are identified and recruited. Now what?
Before drafting the plan, make sure that all key departments of the organization are surveyed to a level appropriate to both their risk exposure and the potential financial impact a business disruption would produce. Rank and prioritize the information you glean and build it into your plan.
Following are some key components of the plan that will ensure its functionality. Consider using graphs, flow charts, and bold/bulleted text to convey the information as concisely as possible.
• Executive summary: not a bad place to outline the plan’s objectives, assumptions used in the process, and the scope of the plan.
• Statement of purpose: Make sure everyone reading the document understands what it is, and what it is not.
o Outline the conditions under which the plan will be implemented and clear chains of responsibility to make the call declaring an emergency and invoking the plan.
o Clearly outline notification triggers, processes/procedures, and recording requirements.
• Clearly delineate the names, contact information, and roles of the disaster recovery team members. Make sure each person has one, if not two, designated backups— depending upon your company’s travel schedules. Back-ups must be qualified individuals who are fully trained and can command the role for which they’re designated. It’s critical that this section of the plan be scrupulously updated.
o For companies with multiple locations, consider developing both a corporate team and site specific teams at each of your locations. Work hard to develop a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
o Depending on the risks contemplated by the plan and your company’s organization structure, you will likely have several or all of the following teams: Emergency Management Team (including management, finance, logistics, procurement etc.), Crisis Communications Team, Incident Response Team and/or Emergency Response Team, Technical Services Team, Services Restoration Team. Some plans roll each of these groups under the Disaster Recovery Team mantle, with sub-groups with specific responsibilities selected from the list above.
o Make sure applicable outside emergency response and governmental agencies are listed, including a lead contact and their back-up. It’s critical that the emergency management team develop strong relationships, and undertake joint training, with local government officials and emergency response personnel.
• Keep a clear record of revisions chart near the front of the document. Make sure the plan is reviewed frequently, updated, and the new information is distributed to all team members. Do NOT wait for a scheduled review to update business changes, new personnel, or new risks. Ensure that any revisions are integrated in all copies of the plan.
• Extended team member roles, responsibilities, and authority: the heat of a crisis is no place for turf wars or lack of clarity in execution.
• Communications authority guidelines: Clearly designate who has the authority to speak with the press or other outside parties or governmental agencies, your investors (if applicable), customers, suppliers, and employees.
o Develop a strong communications protocol guide. Remember, in worse case scenarios, loose lips sink ships; in even the best cases they create confusion, conflicting information, and reputation damage.
• Emergency management standards and procedures: this is the heart of your plan. Many companies categorize potential disasters and develop specific protocol for each type, or for individual scenarios within these categories. Some broad categories include: natural disasters, workplace violence, key employee deaths or resignations, IT systems crises, chemical spills and release issues, supply chain disruption, fire, strikes, accidents, acts of terrorism, and criminal investigations.
o For each scenario, outline trigger thresholds for invoking the plan, escalation factors, notification requirements, and procedures.
• Checklists: Develop checklists that your teams can use to ensure a complete response and to organize actions during a crisis.
Focus on developing a draft document—don’t get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. Once you’ve developed a draft, make sure it’s thoroughly vetted— preferably in workshop forums set up with operations groups and members of the team. Encourage an open, constructive review format—your goal is not to collect kudos but to be sure everything is covered, clear, and structured in a way that will be most efficient in a crisis.
Scrupulously record the comments and suggestions and resolve any edits. Go back for a rewrite and then distribute the second draft for individual review and comment with a firm deadline for replies. Integrate any corrections into the final draft—the emphasis here is on the word “draft.” Business recovery plans are organic documents that must be constantly updated and amended to align with changing information and business conditions.
In the next issue of Controlled Environments Magazine, we’ll look at how to roll out the plan, ensure management and employee support, train to the plan, and execute the plan in times of crisis.
Richard Bilodeau, PE, is director of engineering at SMRT, architects and engineers (www.smrtinc.com). His 30 year career includes plant engineering positions in clean manufacturing. Richard has designed, operated, and supervised the construction of advanced technology facilities, numerous industrial projects, healthcare facilities, and corporate offices. He’s engineered clean manufacturing facilities for lithium-ion batteries, medical devices, electronics, and pharmaceutical clients. Richard can be reached at: TheFacilitiesGuy@smrtinc.com.