It may not always be possible to conduct a real-time test without negatively impacting your workflow of business operations. However, unless you exercise the plan the way you would try to recover from a real outage, you may not be as prepared as you believe you are. It is best to utilize realistic scenarios that match your vulnerabilities as much as possible. Applying this approach will prepare your department/program for an unplanned event. Exercise as much of the plan as you would need to activate during the incident. Oftentimes, many recovery exercise programs are only exercising a portion of the plan on any given mock-test/tabletop, not the entire program.
When a disaster occurs, you should be able to execute all aspects of the plan at the same time. Will you truly have all the resources available simultaneously? Will the resources available be able to perform the full load of work in the same amount of time that they performed a portion of the work during the exercise?
To ensure the recovery time frames can be met, work toward exercising as much of the plan as possible, simultaneously, because that is what you will have to do during a real event. Don’t prepare for the test, start preparing for the real disaster by reducing exercise preparation windows. Chances are you will not see the power outage, hurricane, train derailment or the fire in the adjacent building coming 12 weeks in advance. However, so many organizations take six, ten, twelve weeks or longer to prepare for such an exercise. Every test can’t be completely unannounced, like many business disruptions are. Are you truly preparing for a real event with a two-week notice? Not!
Two other factors in being truly prepared are the training and awareness program and the procedures for updating a plan. There is a direct correlation to the level of awareness among your employees and suppliers of your recovery plan and their responsibilities as part of the plan, and the effectiveness of the recovery effort. Your training plan should include regular reviews of the plan, along with dialogue, to ensure every stakeholder truly understands the processes and their roles and responsibilities for a disruptive event. Also, don’t forget suppliers in the training activities as well. If they are involved in the same disaster as you, they may not be able to assist in your event as quickly as planned, if at all. Keeping the plan current would appear to be an obvious requirement to being prepared for an unplanned event. How prepared would you be if the contact information or procedures to follow were outdated in the plan?
An Effective BC/DR Program Is More Than a Checklist
Contingency Planning/Disaster Preparedness is not just about following a checklist of preparation activities, but also about being on top of things before the impacts occurs. Making sure your company has an effective BC/DR program is more than the framework—it is about truly being prepared for a real event.