Disaster Recovery Templates

What does “disaster” mean to you, in the context of a disaster recovery template? Explosion, storm, power outage? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an interesting take on this in its “Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry”.  Not only does it also list “loss of key supplier or customer” in its sample list of emergencies, but it also deliberately avoids using the word “disaster”.  In other words a key part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security advocates planning and preparing using a template for disaster recovery, but without using the “D” word.

There’s a reason for this, as FEMA explains. In a disaster recovery template, the word “disaster” tends to inspire a preconceived idea of a large-scale event, often along the lines of floods, hurricanes, fires and similar. Yet in reality, each event must be considered in relation to its impact on an organization and the environment and community around that organization. A “disaster” for a small, local business might be simply an annoyance to a large, national organization.  That’s one reason for the FEMA to subtitle its guide as “a step-by-step approach to emergency planning, response and recovery for companies of all sizes”.

Currently, many of the disaster recovery templates available focus on IT or IT-related disruptions, limiting their outlook to “natural disasters”. While IT is often a central part of an organisation’s operations, it is by no means the only part. One way to get more out of pre-defined plans or templates that are limited to certain areas of organisational activity is to review them in the light of a higher-level set of guidelines such as the FEMA Emergency Management Guide. That way, you can see if there are areas relating to your business that a particular template does not cover, and you can also get examples of detailed application of principles that a high-level planning document may not address.