Pandemic Disaster Recovery
Author: Ruth Kibble, Features Writer
January 17, 2022
After the pandemic shutdowns of 2020, 2021 presented us with Brexit-induced food, fuel and CO2 shortages, lingering supply chain issues and shortages of everything from truck drivers to Christmas turkeys. Whether we like it or not, everyday life often seems to come to a standstill.
As responsible business owners, when should we stop mitigating “disasters” when you can’t plan for every possible eventuality? COVID-19 has taught us that if a company’s head office is closed in an emergency – flooded or targeted by thugs, for example – staff can of course find the agility and flexibility to “keep their calm and carry on” in the short term. But with wave after wave of national difficulties to be resolved in the national sphere, it may be time for bosses to take business continuity planning (BCP) to another level.
Let’s take an example from the United States. As grim as the thought may be, prior to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, it would have been unthinkable to consider that an active shooter situation might need to be covered by a school’s emergency drill procedures. Twenty years later, thanks to the proliferation of extremism on all sides, a culture of accessibility to firearms that is at odds with the rest of the Western world and, above all, an exponential increase in attacks on gun, the sad reality is that now every school in the country has a plan and a drill in case a gunman shows up. Fortunately, the possibility of armed intruders in an American school is still not likely, but it is statistically possible that the smart thing to do is to prepare for it. Such preparation has been a part of American school life for a generation in the hope that the worst will never happen, but that people will know what to do if it does.
Find the right balance
New stories of unusual events becoming possible or even probable raise the question of how far strategy and governance must now go to protect businesses from disaster. A balance must undoubtedly be found, but it is worth asking how long work could – or should – continue normally if the fuel or the electricity supply were badly affected. What are the most important aspects of your business, how can you ensure their continuous delivery no matter what, and is there a scenario where this will no longer be possible? And it’s not just the details of the plan that are important to consider; it is crucial to win the hearts and minds of the staff who provide this service when they could also face significant difficulties outside of their work if the worst comes to the worst.
In the current political and socio-economic landscape, it may be time to revisit this line and tackle planning head-on. When the pandemic first hit, it was businesses without a plan that panicked and had staff overstretched, trying to navigate lockdowns and stay safe while coping with their jobs as best they could. .
When the pandemic first hit, it was businesses without a plan that panicked and had staff overstretched
Of course, a contract is a contract and we can all be flexible and adapt, change our lives in the short term to overcome trade obstacles, but what if the country is heading towards food shortages or cuts current that last for months? Disaster recovery and business continuity are related, but they are not the same. I’d wager that if things got really bad, few people would place their employer’s strategic or financial goals above basic household survival.
Most conference rooms can be roughly divided into “hawks” and “doves”; those who take risks with a pinch of salt, and those who are more cautious. But like gas masks carried in World War II, earthquake and tsunami drills in Pacific countries, or fire drills around the world, with any insurance policy, you you prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Office workers receiving laptops rather than desktops as standard to enable working from home in any scenario doesn’t seem like a stretch in comparison.
Back on British soil, it certainly feels like the needle is moving in the most extreme direction all the time. In a time of COVID-19, Brexit and climate catastrophe, perhaps upgrading from what we consider the worst-case scenario isn’t as paranoid as it sounds. It’s one thing to have your server backed up and work-from-home policies sorted, but what good is that BCP if someone is just turning off the nation’s lights?