It goes without saying that disaster recovery plans are crucial to establish, know and keep easily accessible to management and employees. When disaster strikes, those without a recovery plan, or disaster restoration vendor, can be delayed weeks on reopening their businesses or getting things up and running at a normal pace again.
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that businesses either create a recovery plan or take another look at their current plan and update it based on health guidelines.
They may not realize it, but the majority of businesses who have come out of lockdown to reopen have learned a lot from this pandemic that can assist in adjusting recovery plans. As we move into hurricane and flood season, it’s important to apply this new knowledge to your current plan so that you can remain prepared and safe ahead of any further disasters.
To help get started on making smart adjustments, consider what you have learned, as well as the aspects of disaster planning that stand to be the most altered by the pandemic.
What you learned during the COVID-19 lockdown
In business, there are three main categories that we’ve seen deeply affected and changed by COVID-19: technology, communication and operations.
Think for a minute: What did you learn about:
- your supply chain?
- communicating with employees?
- working remotely?
- creating a pandemic planning team?
- hosting virtual meetings?
- maintaining productivity and best practices?
- preparedness and recovery?
If your business made it through the lockdown, chances are you’ve been able to successfully work remotely or maintain some sort of regular business from a distance. These skills are crucial in any disaster recovery situation.
For example, maybe you learned that your employees are able to work out of the office for extended periods of time. Maybe you invested in video conferencing or project management technologies and tools that allow you to operate more efficiently. Perhaps you revamped your chain of communication for employees to disperse information to everyone quickly and efficiently.
All of these new procedures and ways of doing businesses will come in handy if your office becomes flooded, or faces another unexpected disaster requiring you to conduct business outside of your usual space.
What to be prepared for upon return
As a business owner, you need to understand that your business may be facing changes, either temporary or permanent. Something many managers are not considering is that their employees may simply not be ready to hit the ground running after a three-month hiatus. Employees are only human, and being pulled from the couch to a fast-paced business environment is not the easiest adjustment to make.
You may also have new safety and cleaning measures to implement social distancing and keep workers safe with personal protective equipment (PPE). In a similar vein, you will need to schedule ongoing cleanings to ensure your business environment is kept safe and bacteria-free.
Going back to work during a pandemic is more “real” than people think. As a business owner, you must expect this internally, but it also extends to your external relationships and recovery planning.
Recovery plan changes: working with vendors
Oftentimes recovery plans will specify a vendor to come in and handle cleanup and recovery after an unexpected situation like a flood. But with COVID-19 in play, businesses must think through such physical interactions with vendors.
Will you require a limited number of representatives from the vendor in your business at one time? Will they be required to wear PPE and get their temperature checked before entering your facility? Will they get their temperature checked once per day or every time they enter? Will you provide any exceptions to these rules if the disaster is out of control or requires quick containment? Additionally, who within your business will be enforcing these rules for vendors?
One of the best ways to manage vendor relationships is to draw up a contract stipulating COVID-19 precautions any vendor must take. Once the vendor signs this contract, they retain your business and follow agreed-upon protocols to keep the operation running safely.
This option can extend beyond disaster recovery relationships, and into all agency-client relationships. Determining your required precautions and establishing them with other parties beforehand can maintain a sense of order and show your employees that you’re taking the necessary steps to keep their environment safe.
DRP changes: evacuation planning
Aside from vendor relationships, another huge way your recovery plan will be affected is in your evacuation strategy. This is especially important for businesses with residents like apartment complexes, hospitals or assisted living facilities who must plan for tenant relocation. With social distancing measures in place, you can no longer count on putting people on charter buses two to a seat, or sending people to hotels where they stay two in one room. Though it is illegal in many states, some facilities unfortunately opt to shelter in place as recovery plans are carried out, which is extremely unsafe for residents.
For office-type businesses, however, the new skills learned from the coronavirus lockdown can come into play. If your evacuation plan calls for moving employees to another floor that isn’t set up for social distancing, you can now change the plan to indicate that some, or all of the employees can work remotely instead.
Keep in mind evacuation planning can become tricky when you consider disasters like tornadoes. Prior to COVID-19, employees were generally required to huddle together in one safe room in the event of a tornado. Now, with social distancing in place, how will you quickly handle these types of events?
Adjust your recovery plan now to stay prepared
From evacuation woes to supply chain disruptions and civil unrest, there are a multitude of potential ways your recovery plan can be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the best ways to think through them all is with tabletop exercises for disaster planning. Getting relevant stakeholders in one place (whether physically or over the phone) to talk through potential scenarios before they become reality can be key to making important adjustments.
ServiceMaster DSI specializes in these types of exercises and can help you get your thoughts together. Our nationwide network of disaster recovery experts is ready to help.