A Checklist for Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

By Michael DiTaranto | Originally posted on Supply Chain Brain (supplychainbrain.com)

Plan for the worst and hope for the best: We’ve all heard it at some point or another. But what can you do when the worst is something you can’t plan for?

Power outages, unpredictable weather and the side effects of aging buildings are all increasing in frequency, volatility and impact.

Most of the time, disaster recovery is reactive in nature, based on things that are out of our control. There are scenarios, however, where the right preparations can help you avoid problems before they occur, or at least keep them more manageable. They include things like:

  • HVAC leaks.Make sure your HVAC vendor is doing quarterly preventive maintenance to ensure your system is working properly and avoid leaks. 
  • Pipe bursts.Especially in the winter, take preparatory steps to avoid freezing pipes. Ensure your thermostats are set properly and have a gauge to make sure everything is monitored. Don’t neglect the colder parts of your building, or those that may shut off automatically.
  • Storm damages.When you know severe weather is coming your way, make the necessary preparations. On a regular basis, make sure your gutters and storm drains are clean and clear of obstructions. 
  • Mold growth.It’s tempting to keep the doors open on a sunny day, but if you’re running air conditioning at the same time, you’re creating condensation. At such times, your AC unit is fighting itself all day, creating a moist environment that’s conducive to mold growth. Make sure your system is properly maintained and keep the relative humidity to a moderate level.

Taking the time to prevent future issues is always the best strategy when it comes to keeping the business operational, but in many cases things just happen. An understanding of the proper steps and details can spell the difference between quickly returning to business as usual or spending extra time, money and stress trying to pick up the pieces. 

No one is prepared to fix disasters like floods, storm damage or major mold growth on their own. An experienced and trustworthy partner can assist with recovery. Have a team and checklist in place for what you’ll do, and whom you’ll turn to, when disaster strikes. Here are some things you’ll need to consider:

Plan for who’s in charge. When the inevitable occurs, you need to have an internal team in place that will oversee recovery efforts. Its makeup should be predetermined long before it’s time to put it into action. This team will manage supply chain, facility and employee safety, so that you can spring your “war room” into action in the first moments of a disaster.

Understand pricing, and get it quickly. In an ideal situation, the external partner you bring on should be able to provide you with a solid pricing estimate by the end of the day on which it’s called into service. This number might not be the exact price you’ll pay in the end, but it will give you a strong estimate. Having extra time to prepare for the expense can help to make you feel more confident and in control of the situation. There’s nothing worse than sticker shock after the fact.

Understand when the crew will be onsite, and stress the urgency. Time is precious in the event of a disaster, and your partner should be able to reflect and respect your time. Within minutes of calling or emailing, you should be talking to someone directly and they should be able to give you a quick estimated time of arrival for its crews. Your partner’s goal should be to get you operational as quickly as possible, and mitigate any downtime.

Gather photos of the damage. A detailed assessment is the first step in getting things fixed. Both you and your partner should take numerous, detailed photos of the damage, and use them to create a proper plan of action.

Get on the same page as your partner. Communication is the most important part of choosing a partner, because transparency and clear expectations mean no surprises later on. Define success as you get started, and make clear notes on the timeframe, avoiding secondary damages, and plan for demolition if your situation calls for it. Make sure your partner clearly explains the work it will be doing to get you back in business, the time each step should take, and the cost of each solution it will be using.

No one wants to think about all of the things that out of their control that can derail the businesses. But even with the events we can’t plan for, knowing what to expect from the next steps can make the process easier, and help get things back on track swiftly. Make sure the people you’re working with can align with your goals, and treat your business disruption as the emergency it is.

Michael DiTaranto is senior director of disaster recovery services at TrueSource.