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The CPSR Introduction
To Disaster Recovery Planning

If some unforeseeable disaster befalls your business and there was nothing you can do about it then it is an act of God and not your fault. On the other hand, if the disaster was foreseeablebut fully or partially avoidable, then you may be fairly criticized for not fulfilling your responsibilities. In the past, many of us were able to fulfill our planning responsibilities with a two level approach. Misfortunes that happen every day, or frequently, are the things we learn to handle. If you handle them well, you can prosper despite adversity. Misfortunes that occur only rarely, we could insureagainst. Fire, flood, major theft and the like. Y2K seems to be an uncommonly rare event, occurring only once in history. Yet there is nothing uncertain about it coming. Nevertheless, most of the bad things that could happen to you around the year 2000 could also happen any time. We might as well get some benefit from this awful event and use it to build up disaster plans that need not have anything at all to do with the year 2000.

In today's world, the standards for business managers have been raised. Insurance companies are rejecting coverage of risks that they accepted in the past. Investors are also less forgiving and not so ready to take an act of God as an excuse. The modern manager must do a more thorough job of planning than his/her predecessors. "But", you say, "it sounds like an impossibly hard job to think of every eventuality and to make a plan for each. I would never finish." That would be true, except for two things. First, you can use a ready made checklist of common risks. CPSR is prepared to help you by publishing our own small business risk checklist as part of this survival guide. Secondly, we apply the technique of triage.

tri·age (trê-äzh¹, trê¹äzh´) noun 1.) A process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from immediate medical treatment. Triage is used on the battlefield, at disaster sites, and in hospital emergency rooms when limited medical resources must be allocated. 2.) A system used to allocate a scarce commodity, such as food, only to those capable of deriving the greatest benefit from it.

The way we will use triage here is to identify those things on the checklist which could happen to you and which could endanger your business' survival should they occur. In corporate speak, these are the so-called mission critical items. If you loose a mission critical item, your organization looses its capability to perform its mission.   Applying triage to the ready made checklist should leave you with a manageably small list of mission critical items which you must add to your own business' plan. The rest is up to you.

A simple example might help.  United Parcel Service (UPS) is the major provider of parcel delivery services in the USA.  Suppose UPS were to go out on strike for one month?  Is that event mission critical to your business?  Your answer depends on the nature of your business.  Perhaps you don't use package delivery services very much and the event would only be an annoyance.  Perhaps you run a mail order catalog and package delivery is essential to your core function, then package delivery is critical to you.  A two day strike may not be so bad, but if the strike continued for a month, then your customers might find new catalog suppliers who are not dependent on UPS and be lost to you forever.  If the event is critical to your mission you must make a backup plant to allow your business to survive it if possible.  There really is no choice.   It would be awful to be asked, "If UPS goes on strike, will we go bankrupt?", if you have not thought it through yourself in advance. 

One final point. Once you have a disaster recovery plan for your business, be sure to share it with your employees, and be sure to review it and update it once in a while. Make it earn a return on your investment, by becoming the instrument to use to focus attention on, "What makes my business tick", from time to time.


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