Many emergency and disaster recovery plans contain
Emergency plans that fail
often have one or more flaws.
Effective emergency plans include accurate directions for quickly
assessing risks, communicating damage, identifying needed resources and dispatching
them to needed locations, minimizing congestion
and cleaning up the mess afterwards. And handling politicians and the media ...
To provide effective emergency plans:
- Regularly re-train employees
- Regularly update contingency plans
- Regularly test employee capabilities
- Regularly re-define the role of emergency operating centers
- Regularly re-examine all aspects of emergency preparedness
- Regularly ensure that emergency drills closely depict real-life crises
Having reviewed and tested many emergency plans, the key flaws
I most often find are:
- Emergency plans are too complex
- Contingency plans are not organized
- Disaster plans are generic or too detailed
- The emergency coordinators are untrained
- Alternates are not identified or not accurate
1. Emergency plans are too complex
Electronic emergency plans can become a problem
in a disaster.
- What knowledge is required to access the emergency planning documents?
- Will computers be accessible to those who need them - in a power failure?
- Will the applications that access and view the plans be running?
- Will current versions of the documents be available?
- Do emergency staff know how to find what they need in documents?
- Have key people exercised and rehearsed the emergency plans?
Store off-site, easily accessible paper copies of
current emergency plans.
2. Contingency plans are not organized
Poorly documented disaster planning may be worse than
useless. In a crisis, people waste valuable time searching for information.
Does your contingency plan provide essential information for each crisis?
Or is it just a binder of jumbled information from many sources?
- Keep information that is used only for planning in a separate binder
- Organize information in a logical flow of how it will be used in a crisis
- Assemble essential information for the right people in the right sequence
The size of your company determines how many documents are needed.
A small organization in one location may only need a single document that contains
all emergency information. A large company with multiple locations needs an executive
document, a company plan, sub-plans and many supportive documents.
Your executive summary should be a concise guide that informs
upper management what to do immediately in a disaster. Executive summaries
can spell out who is responsible for what and should include
removable copies of key information pages that show current telephone numbers and
alternate contact information that may needed in a disaster.
Your emergency plan should provide key policies about
generic disasters. Executives can also use it to plan long-term recovery
efforts. An emergency plan should create clear pictures of how the
organization should respond to generic disasters.
3. Disaster plans are too generic or too detailed
A generic crisis management plan may look good on paper. But a generic
plan based on false or incomplete assumptions will fail in a disaster.
Although a generic plan may be a useful planning tool, have it carefully
scrutinized by all stakeholders and regularly test it to ensure that it works.
- Overly detailed plans can cause delays during a disaster
- The true “worst case” scenario may not have been identified
- Emergency plans document critical functions in too much detail
A real disaster will rarely match an anticipated disaster,
and any plan will likely have serious gaps. Therefore, focus initially on worst
4. Alternates are not accurately identified
Disaster recovery plans can quickly become out of date, with changes
in regulations, personnel, vendors and clients. Part of emergency planning is
continually validating contact information for essential staff and their
alternates, and planning other means for reaching those people should the primary contacting
- Expect telephone networks to be jammed
- List alternate telephone numbers, and those of alternates
- In a crisis, many people will try to contact executives and managers
5. Is the emergency coordinator competent?
What is your evidence of competence? Will you wait for
an emergency to find out? Who arranges and participates in training,
exercises and drills? Knowing what to do and how to do it is only
part of this ... will that person be obeyed? Who is respected? Who has authority to solve problems?
Who has experience and a track record? Who can monitor and coach your
Who could have expected THAT to happen?
Imagine yourself in disaster recovery - depending on emergency plans with even one of these problems. One error
may result in lives being lost, property being damaged and the organization
becoming incapacitated - needlessly. There will be enough unexpected problems
without preventable errors.
Before that happens - check each contingency plan for
errors and help minimize your organization’s risk.
Create, test and adjust effective recovery plans!
Online Crisis Coaching &
Martyn Carruthers was a paramedic and served on nuclear
submarines during the Cold War (Royal Navy). He was a health physics and
safety officer at nuclear power stations, and Radiation Protection
Officer for the Canadian government, where he worked with industry, public
health and emergency measures organizations. Martyn later founded a complete system of individual,
family and team coaching,
including professional training.