Since September 11th, no one needs to be reminded that anything can happen – to anyone – at any time.
ARE YOU PREPARED??
Most of us are not! We are in the PROTECTION business, yet we are grossly unprepared to take action should a disaster occur to ourselves and to our own businesses. Sort of reminds you of the story of the shoemaker and his children, doesn’t it?
However, it is never too late to prepare. Disaster Planning and Recovery is a topic that needs to be addressed by every agency RIGHT NOW!! As the year draws to a close, you should identify what could happen in your agency, and what you can do to resolve the disaster. This plan should be done in writing and kept off premises. The plan should be shared with at least all managers and, in smaller agencies, with all employees. The plan should address any disaster that would interrupt your service to clients.
Some of the issues that should be addressed are:
1. Weather and natural disasters
c. Windstorm or flood
2. Human related disasters
a. Accident (i.e. loss of facility, electric, telephone or key owner, manager, employee)
b. Terrorism and law-breaking (including computer viruses, theft, arson, or fraud)
3. System Breakdowns
a. Computer crashes
b. Failure of service provider (i.e. system vendor, telephone carrier)
These are some of the common issues addressed in Disaster Recovery Plans. Others may be particular to a given geographic territory or to personal issues, but the key to the Plan is to identify what COULD go wrong and to write out how you expect to manage through the disaster.
Our recovery programs follow an acronym, RESTORE
R – regain control and manage the crisis. If you noticed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, everyone wandered in a daze. Only the preparedness and bravery of the police and fire crews permitted any semblance of control. That preparedness was proceduralized and practiced countless times until the “managers” (crew chiefs) knew what steps to take to regain control.
E – Ease the fears and reactions to the crisis. People always come before “things”. Contacting employees, customers, and suppliers will reassure that you do have control and, although certainly not yet in full control, you are actively working on normalizing the situation.
S – Secure needed physical assets. Your staff will need surfaces to work upon, pens and paper, computers, telephones, photocopiers, etc. This part of the plan determines how, from whom, and how fast you can get your physical assets together
T – The Technological systems (regaining telephones/back-ups). Reinstalling systems, getting telephones, call forwarding, and going “live”
O – Open a business location. Pre-planning sometimes permits you to identify and open in an alternative location in a matter of hours or days.
R – Restore customer service capabilities. Just being there to take service calls will temper the crisis atmosphere, even if there is little you can do beyond answering the phones.
E – Establish normal communications with customers and carriers. Clean up and restoration of normal business conditions.
You must address four specific issues within each of these activities:
· Activities – the logical sequence of jobs that need to be performed following a crisis
· Needs – physical needs to re-establish operations (i.e. computers, photocopiers, telephones, etc.)
· People – A list of who will do what in an emergency
· Communications – To whom, what, and how to communicate in an emergency
This is a sample of the guide we use when we create Disaster Recovery Plans for insurance agencies. It requires a disciplined, logical sequence of events committed to writing in order to assure that you and your business are prepared in the event of a crisis.
This Plan will cause most agents to re-think (or consider for the first time) back-up systems, locations, alternate and emergency telephone numbers and a communications system to keep employees, clients and suppliers informed as the recovery progresses.
Agency Consulting Group, Inc. has helped to create Disaster Recovery Plans for agents and is available to do so for PIPELINE readers (call us at 800-779-2430). The process is not overly complicated – but it does have to be managed to conclusion and updated as conditions in the agency change (review annually).