Communication Best Practices in Disaster Recovery

By CIOReview | Friday, August 19, 2016
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Natural and man-made disasters have considerable impact on the community and economy alike. From tornadoes and hurricanes to workplace violence and industrial accidents, we have all kinds of disasters that hit the news columns each day. The effects of these catastrophic incidents are devastating and challenging to businesses and associated people. The only way to limit the impact of these disasters is though preparedness and it involves efficient planning, response and crisis communication.

Imagine a situation where the enterprise proprietor, in the wake of disaster, calls the recovery specialist of his firm seeking help at an unusual time. But he learns that the person hasn’t returned from workplace and ends up terrifying the responder. This is an example of what not to do in the event of an emergency. In order to communicate effectively with the employees when a disaster strikes, companies should consider the following:

• Defining emergency communication procedures and counseling capabilities
• Securing a hotline to communicate with employees in the hour of need
• Listing out the contacts of disaster recovery team in an organization
• Outlining the roles and responsibilities of employees and disaster management team

A 4CI system for emergency response

To implement what military terms 4CI is essential for disaster recovery and emergency response in an enterprise. The Cs in 4CI denotes Command, Control, Communications and Computers and the ‘I’ stands for Intelligence. The terms command and control signifies the importance of an authority responsible for directing and coordinating the recovery strategies with other members of an organization, in the event of disaster. Mere strategy is will not suffice if an organization fails to mobilize and organize their responders. Therefore, identifying the required personnel and necessary equipment is essential in accomplishing a recovery task. An elaborate disaster response plan should include the following:

• Allocating teams to supervise and accomplish a recovery plan
• Identifying the modes of communication to the first responders
• Teams to support any alternate work locations

Communication has a major role to play in such situations, especially in the initial hours following the event. It should get through the right people without delay and reach the top in hierarchy; in this context a chairperson for the recovery team. Like the military, the purpose of first alert process is to ensure that the management and other concerned persons are informed immediately as and when a disaster is reported. If seen in light of a military combat, the commander in charge of the operation is always provided details pertaining to the insurgent forces, types of weapons they carry, and the severity of attacks that happened. Similarly the person chairing a recovery team should have precise information about the nature of disaster, initial damage assessment and the number of on site responders.

Setting up the disaster management team

Who will be in charge of the disaster assessment? Who will provide the IT support? And who will handle the communications are some of the important questions to be answered before setting up a disaster recovery team. Headed ultimately by the management of an organization, the team under a recovery chairperson can have multiple quick response sub groups such as finance team, legal team and the like. The team will also have a Recovery Headquarter which will handle all the communications to and from the disaster site.

When it comes to handling communications, it is the responsibility of the recovery team to brief all non mission-critical employees to avoid making calls to the company landlines. This will ensure that lines are available for emergency calls during the hours following the catastrophe. Instead, a separate line should be available for these employees in such cases for updates from the site and live instructions.

The role of Information & Communication Technologies in disaster recovery

Disasters cannot be eliminated completely most of the times, but can definitely be managed better. Communication technology can be crucial in the times of planning and reconstruction. Its ability to connect wide networks of individuals prove to be effective in the time of a disaster; to an extent that even without a well documented plan, chances of recovery are high with a well established communication network. The following technologies can be considered to ensure an uninterrupted communication among individuals.

• Wireless Phones
• Satellite Phones
• VoIP phones
• Cell Phones (for SMS/Calls)

The management should take essential steps to modernize Information and Communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure, so as to tackle unreceptive situations. The disaster recovery strategy should accurately spell out the methods to improve ICT governance and develop programs of ICT human capacity development.