Decide What You’re Protecting
This step involves a preliminary identification of mission-critical business systems, without which the organization could not survive for an extended period. For example, what would your business lose if the physical facility, LAN, or telephone services were unavailable? The best way to measure the impact of such a potential loss is to look at it the same way big companies do. Historically, potential loss is measured in six ways:
- Lost employee productivity
- Lost revenue
- Lost market share
- Lost customer confidence
- Potential legal liability
- Cleanup costs
Let’s consider each of these areas in a bit more detail.
Lost Employee Productivity
Loss of employee productivity is less in smaller companies than larger ones because smaller companies generally just lay people off until they have a place to work again. If you work for such a company, potential layoffs ought to be an inducement for having a plan in place.
Every business should know its "pain threshold"—the point where the inability to do business sets the enterprise on a slippery slope to bankruptcy filing. This category of loss also relates directly to how quickly your company can set up shop elsewhere.
Lost Market Share
Lost market share is a big deal for any company, large or small. For example, suppose you own an air conditioning and heating repair company with 75 employees. If a disaster puts you temporarily out of business, there are a lot of other, similar companies in the Yellow Pages for your customers to call. Your customers might decide they like your competitors better.
On the other hand, many or even most of your 75 employees are probably field service personnel who work out of trucks and vans, rather than your corporate location. In this type of business, if you take even the most rudimentary precautions beforehand, your business could still go on. For example:
- Setting up a meeting place in advance in case your main place of business is inaccessible.
- Assure employees that they’re still going to be paid. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step when 75 people see your building burned to the ground.
- Make sure that your inbound telephone numbers still work and are answered at a new location so your customers can reach your business. This is probably the most important issue, and we’ll address it again shortly.
Lost Customer Confidence
When customers can’t reach you, that problem eventually equals lost customer confidence. Suppose you went to an ATM for cash three days in a row and found it out of service each time. On the fourth day, you’d find another machine or make alternate financial arrangements; you would no longer have any confidence in that provider. If your business is unreachable or you can’t resume service within a reasonable amount of time, your customers may look to your competitors.
Potential Legal Liability
You may not even have considered that loss of business capabilities could put your business at risk for legal liability. What if your business is a law office or doctors’ office and you can’t serve your clients? What if a client is injured (financially, physically, emotionally, etc.) as a result? What if an employee is injured or killed when a disaster occurs on the job? Are you prepared for lawsuits?
Any disaster has the inevitable cleanup costs. Companies such as SERVPRO and BMS Catastrophe specialize in helping businesses to deal with fire and water damage to facilities, documents, electronic equipment, and so on. These firms can be called in immediately after a disaster—assuming that the damage is not too widespread and that the provider is available and not occupied elsewhere.
Don’t forget the virtual side of your business! Computer viruses, hacking, and so on can damage your data, your web presence, and even your reputation. Your disaster plan needs to prepare for protecting and recovering your electronic information as well as restoring your physical properties. Remember that offsite backups are a crucial part of protecting your electronic info.