Without a doubt, 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone.
Since many organizations have had to scramble to revamp their ways of operation to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it wouldn't be unusual for them to discover they've neglected incorporating virus spread prevention into their natural disaster response plan. Yet meshing their response to the pandemic, with their natural disaster plan, is precisely what they must address.
An outdated natural disaster plan that does not factor in COVID-19 has the potential to hurt valued employees at a critical point in a company's operations. Whether a natural disaster should occur from fire, flood, an extended power outage, or the 2020 hurricane season that is expected to produce an above-average activity level, organizations must rally to include their pandemic response into their disaster recovery plan as quickly as possible.
Evaluating Your Current Natural Disaster Plan
While focusing on accommodating the pandemic in recent months, many changes in how a business conducts its daily operations have likely occurred.
Even if a company had a wholly updated natural disaster plan in 2019, it probably did not account for many more employees working remotely from home, perhaps a staff reduced in numbers by illness, or how to keep employees safe and virus-free while working on recovery efforts from a natural disaster.
If they haven't done so already, companies need to re-evaluate their current disaster recovery plan through the lens of also keeping everyone healthy and virus-free.
Physical Plant Operations
Many companies are working remotely to help keep their employees safe and to ensure social distancing is in place. With that, many companies are remotely connecting to their workstations or servers located at their office. But what happens when a disaster occurs, and there is no power or internet to the physical office?
The ability to remote into these workstations and servers will not be available until utility crews can make repairs. History has proven that this can take days, if not weeks. Businesses need to account for this downtime. By migrating 100% to the cloud, this downtime can possibly become nonexistent.
A pre-COVID-19 disaster recovery plan likely assumed a certain level of response from outside emergency response teams at the local, state, and federal levels. During a natural disaster, these resources may not be as available since they will meet the extra demands of a pandemic at the same time.
In recent months, some companies have increased their remote workforce significantly. Since essential equipment and people are now dispersed throughout a more extensive geographical location, it may increase the risk of damage or destruction of vital physical resources.
Supply Chain Interruptions
As part of their disaster recovery plan, a company may have planned for supplier B to be available if supplier A is unable to provide support during a natural disaster. However, due to recent restrictions brought on by COVID-19, companies should not assume that supplier B is still available. Companies should verify the accessibility of all their alternate supply chains and address any other additional challenges to maintaining reliable supply chains during both a pandemic and a natural disaster.
Customers should recognize that just as they are likely employing more indirect communication methods such as audio and video conferencing, i.e., Microsoft Teams, other companies are doing the same thing. This means these communication channels are already supporting a higher rate of traffic than in previous years.
Companies need to include a thorough test of all their communication channels to ensure they can accommodate a dispersed workforce and the challenges typically associated with a natural disaster.
Organizations should ensure they have a reliable method for mass emergency notifications, which may include establishing a toll-free number for employees and other interested parties to use.
Companies should also keep employee emergency contact information up-to-date and readily available. Employees must be trained on who, how, and where to safely reconnect with their place of employment in the event of an emergency.
Insurance Claims Challenges
Companies may be operating out of different physical locations due to local restrictions brought on by the pandemic and/or their staff may be spread across a wider geographical region. Both of these can affect the process of completing insurance claims after a natural disaster. In order to keep employees as healthy as possible, companies may want to consider having a select team of people to survey any damage to physical property when filing claims, while still being socially distant. Organizations should also ensure they have easy access to accurate documentation of all their physical assets, so they can file an insurance claim if the property becomes lost or destroyed.
The People Involved
Last but not least, employers need to consider that one of their most valuable assets, their employees, will face additional challenges during a natural disaster, primarily because of the pandemic's effect on almost every aspect of a person's life.
Experiencing only a natural disaster may mean a home loss to an employee and/or changes in daycare or schooling. On top of that, they will also likely experience a reduction in available recovery services due to already strained resources affected by COVID-19.
Employers are wise to consider adding additional employee resources to their disaster recovery plan to ensure that employees have the help they need to get back on their feet and productive again as quickly as possible.
When disaster strikes, the best way not to feel overwhelmed is to have a solid plan to follow. If you know you need a disaster recovery plan that accommodates COVID-19 but don't know where to start, we can help. Please contact us today for more information on how to prepare your business for all of life's challenges.