Business Continuity Disaster Recovery Checklist

Sep 16, 2008


A natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood or earthquake can have a monumental effect on the life of a business.  Statistics reveal that even a time as short as 48 hours of inability to operate can put a company out of business.  This checklist can facilitate the discussion by business owners and managers in planning for continuity and disaster recovery. 

A checklist to help small businesses prepare for both large and small incidents:

1) Develop a business continuity / disaster recovery plan
- Establish a disaster-recovery team of employees who know your business best, and assign responsibilities for specific tasks.
- Identify your risks (kinds of disasters you're most likely to experience).
- Prioritize critical business functions and how quickly these must be recovered.
- Establish a disaster recovery location where employees may work off-site and access critical back-up systems, records and supplies.
- Obtain temporary housing for key employees, their families and pets.
- Update and test your plan at least annually.

2) Alternative operational locations
Determine which alternatives are available. For example:
- A satellite or branch office of your business.
- The office of a business partner or even an employee.
- Home or hotel.

3) Backup site
Equip your backup operations site with critical equipment, data files and supplies:
- Power generators.
- Computers and software.
- Critical computer data files (payroll, accounts payable and receivable, customer orders, and inventory).
- Phones/radios/TVs.
- Equipment and spare parts.
- Vehicles, boats and spare parts.
- Digital cameras.
- Common supplies.
- Supplies unique to your business (order forms, contracts, etc.).
- Basic first aid/sanitary supplies, potable water and food.

4) Safeguard your property
Review your property insurance coverage to insure your contents are properly valued.  .  Is your property prepared to survive a hurricane or other disaster:
- Your building?
- Your equipment?
- Your computer systems?
- Your company vehicles?
- Your company records?
- Other company assets?

5) Contact information
Do you have current and multiple contact information (e.g., home and cell phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses) for:
- Employees?
- Key customers?
- Important vendors, suppliers, business partners?
- Insurance companies?
- Is contact information accessible electronically for fast access by all employees?

6) Communications
Do you have access to multiple and reliable methods of communicating with your employees:
- Emergency toll-free hotline?
- Website?
- Cell phones?
- Satellite phones?
- Pagers?
- BlackBerry(TM)?
- Two-way radios?
- Internet?
- E-mail?

7) Employee preparation
Make sure your employees know:
- Company emergency plan.
- Where they should relocate to work.
- How to use and have access to reliable methods of communication, such as satellite/cell phones, e-mail, voice mail, Internet, text messages, BlackBerry(TM), PDAs.
- How they will be notified to return to work.
- Benefits of direct deposit of payroll and subscribe to direct deposit.
- Emergency company housing options available for them and their family.

8) Customer preparation
Make sure your key customers know:
- Your emergency contact information for sales and service support (publish on your website).
- Your backup business or store locations (publish on your website).
- What to expect from your company in the event of a prolonged disaster displacement.
- Alternate methods for placing orders.
- Alternate methods for sending invoice payments in the event of mail disruption.

9) Evacuation order
When a mandatory evacuation is issued be prepared to grab and leave with critical office records and equipment:
- Company business continuity / disaster recovery plan and checklist.
- Insurance policies and company contracts.
- Company checks, plus a list of all bank accounts, credit cards, ATM cards.
- Employee payroll and contact information.
- Desktop/laptop computers.
- Customer records, including orders in progress.
- Photographs/digital images of your business property.
- Post disaster contact information inside your business to alert emergency workers how to reach you.
- Secure your building and property.

10) Cash management
be prepared to meet emergency cash-flow needs:
- Take your checkbook and credit cards in the event of an evacuation.
- Keep enough cash on hand to handle immediate needs.
- Use Internet banking services to monitor account activity, manage cash flow, initiate wires, pay bills.
- Issue corporate cards to essential personnel to cover emergency business expenses.
- Reduce dependency on paper checks and postal service to send and receive payments (consider using electronic payment and remote deposit banking services).

11) Post-disaster recovery procedures
- Consider how your post-disaster business may differ from today.
- Plan whom you will want to contact and when.
- Assign specific tasks to responsible employees.
- Track progress and effectiveness.
- Document lessons learned and best practices.

More from Jim L. Anderson…

About the Author

Jim is an experienced CFO, expert in developing the interconnection between finance systems and operating strategies, initiatives and goals, facilitating growth, improving operational performance, and increasing profits while building equity value.

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