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Accinctus - “Is Our Organization Prepared for Disasters?”

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Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

“Is Our Organization Prepared for Disasters?” Featured

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Has anyone ever asked this question in your company?  Do you know if your church or non-profit organization is prepared for disruptions?  This is a difficult question that I’ve discussed with business continuity professionals, business owners, and managers many times.  How do you honestly know you are ready for the most likely disasters and disruptions?  How do you know if your business continuity, disaster recovery, or risk mitigation plans will be effective during those critical moments during and after an incident that threaten your employees, operations, profitability, or reputation?

I’d like to start by stating that it is not possible to be 100% prepared for all disasters and disruptions you may face.  There is no such thing as a perfect plan or perfect training that provides all the answers to every situation your team members and employees need to know.  So before we move on, you have to accept that no matter what you do the real world will challenge your organization with unique circumstances and factors that you did not anticipate.  In essence, what we are actually striving for is the appropriate level of “prepared enough” versus the impossible “perfectly prepared.”

There are three steps that must be completed to reach the answer to the question.  First, you need to define what is “prepared enough” for your organization.  This must be a decision by leadership identifying the organization’s risk tolerance and preparedness strategy based on knowledge of potential threats (natural, man-made, and technological), the impact of those threats on the organization, and when the impact on your operations moves from acceptable to unacceptable.

The second step is taking action by planning for those disruptions and then training your staff.  Unless your perspective is “I don’t know and I don’t care” (which I highly recommend against) you need to plan how your organization will respond to incidents when they happen. The second and more important part of this step is to train your response staff, managers, employees, and volunteers on the processes and actions you want them to take.

 

 

After determining your preparedness goals and strategy, developing plans, and training everyone in your organization on those processes, it is time to test those processes and see if your people can respond correctly.  This is accomplished by conducting various types of drills, exercises, and system tests in a safe, non-threatening environment to confirm if your people can execute those actions you want them to do when incidents happen.  Your exercises and tests should be varied and challenging to identify areas needing improvement.  The more realistic and less classroom oriented they are, the more value these exercises will provide.  As a reminder of my first point for leaders and managers, perfect preparedness is not possible.  You should expect and accept failures during exercises and tests, otherwise you’ve learned nothing and have no idea how to get better.  In my opinion, if you get an A+ grade or didn’t break something, you didn’t have a good exercise! 

 

After you’ve completed these steps, conducted multiple exercises, and used your lessons learned to improve your plans and training, you will reach a point where it “starts to click” within your organization.  When you reach that point you may start thinking your answer to “Are we prepared enough?” is “Yes, we’re absolutely prepared enough!”  If that’s the case, let me suggest you go back to step 3 and conduct a few more good exercises and break something.  If your answer is more like “We’ve certainly come a long way and are much stronger than before, but we realize we have more to improve” – great job, now you’re getting somewhere!  In my experience, it just isn’t possible in the first cycles of this process to go from unprepared to meeting your strategy and goals.  And as you continue to learn and improve your program, you will inevitably adjust your strategy and your acceptable definition of “prepared enough.”  This is where continual process improvement comes into line with business continuity practices.  Later on as you continue to improve your program you will reach a point where your answer will be a positive “We are prepared enough for today, but let’s improve something else tomorrow.”  That’s the kind of preparedness or business continuity program I am passionate about building for businesses and other organizations. 

 

If you’d like to know more about how to prepare your organization and create a proactive preparedness program, please go to www.accinctus.com for more information or to contact me. 

 

Be Aware – Be Prepared – Be Safe. 

 


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