Planning for a disaster; it is best to be prepared

Monday, October 15, 2001

On Sept. 11, our country was dealt a severe tragedy. The loss of lives and injuries far outweigh the effect of any material losses. We continue to mourn for those who have lost loved ones in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The terrorists handed us a blow to our infrastructure, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We will not forget, nor forgive for this act of violence.

Be Prepared

No one can be completely ready for a disaster of this type and for the effect and cost related to its recovery. Have you given thought to the effect that a disaster could have upon the continued operation of your business environment?

Think, if you will, of the potential emergencies that face us on a regular basis: fire, in many areas flooding, hazardous waste accidents, tornadoes, problems created by disgruntled employees, lawsuits, damaging publicity about your organization, or the loss of an owner or key employee in an accident.

These are just some of the potential hazards and disasters that could face your business on a regular basis. How many of us have planned for the effect that this could have on our day-to-day operation?

Planning for a disaster is much more, however, than a computer backup or thinking about the Y-2K problems we talked about a year or so ago. This disaster could be a sudden event which brings great damage, loss and destruction.

Objectives of a disaster recovery plan

1. A method to provide a sense of security

2. An attempt to reduce a risk of delay

3. A guarantee of reliability of your standby operating systems

4. An attempt to provide a standard for testing the plan

5. A reduction of the decision making process during a disaster

We suggest that a disaster plan be put in writing and be communicated through your organization to your employees and staff. From a personal standpoint, as a manager-owned business, have you communicated these plans and ideals to your family? Have you gone through the process of testing and updating this plan as you move forward with your operations? And even worse, think back, have you ever had to use this plan?

Most of us are comfortable in thinking that horrible things are not going to happen to us. They are supposed to happen to someone else. Well, there's nothing we can do about it anyway, so why worry. Oh, if something happens somebody else will take care of those issues. We feel that our insurance is designed to cover and take care of all issues such as this. However, it is wise to regularly review your insurance coverage and discuss the coverage available for disaster situations.

Steps in disaster planning

Establish a planning team

1. Form a team

2. Establish authority

3. Issue a mission statement

4. Establish a schedule and budget

Analyze capabilities and hazards

1. Determine your resources

2. Review internal plans and policies

3. Meet with outside groups

4. Identify codes and regulations

Develop the plan

1. Plan components

2. Executive summary

3. Emergency management elements

4. Emergency response procedures

5. Support documents

Implement the plan

1. Integrate the plan into company operations

2. Conduct training

3. Evaluate and modify the plan

Once you have established and completed the planning process for your disaster team, you also need to be aware of the outside agencies you have the potential to deal with, in the event there is a disaster. There are many safety consultants, insurance companies, fire departments, and federal agencies who will come into play at some time during the settlement of an issue of a disaster. Continue to monitor and plan on a regular basis to determine that it is adequate and doesn't require changes.

Disaster brings about emotional stress. Proper planning helps reduce that stress and gives the business operator freedom to act and resolve these issues and to restore the business to some degree of normalcy.

As we've seen in the clean-up process of the tragedy in New York and Washington, this country is a country of strong people who mourn, clean up and rebuild in a manner that unique to America.

Melvin J. Van de Ven, CPA, CVA, is a partner in the certified public accounting firm of Schott & Van de Ven in Cape Girardeau. He can be reached by email at mvandeven@schottvandeven.com.

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