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What Happens If You Are the First Alert Person?

In theory, any employee should be prepared to be a First Alert person and to assume first alert responsibilities. Here's how the process should go:

  1. The First Alert person notifies one of the Initial Disaster Response Personnel listed in the recovery plan. Obviously, your recovery plan should be in an accessible location in order to achieve this goal. It's also prudent to keep critical information in a personal digital assistant device (PDA), BlackBerry, or cell phone, where it will be accessible when needed—and where it will be more likely to stay up to date.
  2. The first person that the First Alert person should contact is sometimes called the Disaster Verifier. The Disaster Verifier refers to a predetermined section of his or her disaster recovery plan, which should include a form for determining the following details about the event. (It's important that the Disaster Verifier obtain this information while still on the telephone with the First Alert person.)
    • Date
    • Time
    • Name of the First Alert person
    • Wireless phone number of the First Alert person
    • Location of the event
    • What happened?
    • Initial estimate of damages and injuries
    • Is the building accessible (yes/no/partially)?
  3. Before hanging up from the initial call, the Disaster Verifier should arrange to meet the First Alert person at a designated location.
  4. Before hanging up from the initial call, the Disaster Verifier should remind the First Alert person not to make any public statements regarding the situation.
  5. Now the Disaster Verifier takes over responsibility, notifying a predefined Recovery Management Team (RMT) that a disaster has occurred. Theoretically, the Disaster Verifier should start by notifying the Recovery Management Team Leader; however, if that individual is unavailable, the Disaster Verifier should go down a prearranged list in order as shown in the following table. Any designated team leader should be prepared to perform in the absence of any other. Remember, an event may occur on a holiday, or when key personnel on vacation—worse yet, some of the Recovery Management Team may themselves have been affected by the disaster. The table offers suggestions on other recovery teams you may want to consider.


    Person Contacted

    Home Phone

    Time Contacted

    Result of Contact

    Recovery Management Team (RMT) Leader

    Affected Site Team Leader

    Offsite Data Storage and Retrieval Team Leader

    Building and Facilities Team Leader

    Equipment Installation Team Leader

    Equipment Recovery Team Leader

    Systems Software Team Leader

  6. The Disaster Verifier and Recovery Management Team contact evaluate all information obtained thus far and decide whether a true disaster situation exists. If all facilities, equipment, and data are unaffected and the problem can be resolved easily by operations personnel as well as vendor systems engineers, the two then cancel the alert. If this is not the case, however, it will be necessary to implement the disaster recovery plan.
  7. If the disaster recovery plan is to be implemented, it's time to alert the boss.

The first thing that will be needed is a media statement to prevent panic and to stay in control of the situation. An example might read as follows:

In addition to statements designed for people outside your organization, think about how you'll communicate with people inside your organization. It's important as a contingency planner to communicate to others involved in the recovery process using terms that they understand. Engineers, for example, like schematic diagrams of a process. Building managers often prefer equipment layout diagrams and floor grid diagrams. Programmers and managers might prefer flowcharts like the one in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Adapted with permission from Leo Wrobel's upcoming book Business Resumption Planning, Second Edition (CRC Press, fall 2008).

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