Business Continuity Planning:  Back-Up Data and Crisis Communications

Business Continuity Planning: Back-Up Data and Crisis Communications

Keeping our data handy and accessible is good for business.  We know that any disruptions to business could cause big losses and frustration with finances, clients, and patients.  When a disaster causes potential data loss, we need to know that appropriate actions have previously been taken, so that the data can be recovered. Back-Up Data is step 5 of the Business Continuity In Depth series that I have been working on the past few months.

This month, I will also be talking about step 6: Crisis Communication Planning.  Crisis Communication Planning is an important component of the preparedness program.  As I have preached in several previous articles, communication is key! It is crucial to get through the disaster.  You have to determine who you need to contact and what your messages will be.  They need to be prompt and accurate because little communication or misinformation can lead to negative impacts on your organization and community.

5.  Back-Up your data. (Ready.Gov)

Any business will gather a large amount of business data and electronic files, but for public health and healthcare facilities, the data is larger due to the simple fact that they work with people.  These types of agencies have to obtain an accurate record of their patients' well-being.  What would happen if that information was lost?  Do you know if your facility and IT department performs a routine back-up of your business data?  In business continuity planning, we have to think about the back-up plans and the triple back-up plans to recover from potential disruptions, such as loss of data.  The most important advice that I can personally give is to work closely with your IT Director and develop a plan together, so you're both on the same page.  Here are some things to consider when developing your plan:

  • Identify what data to backup and on what devices (laptops, USBs, etc).
  • Select and implement hardware and software backup procedures, scheduling and conducting backups.
  • Periodically validate that data has been accurately backed up.
  • Back up hard copy vital records by scanning paper records into digital formats and allowing them to be backed up along with other digital data.
  • Determine the frequency of backups, security of the backups, and secure off-site storage in the plan.
  • Store backups with the same level of security as the original data.
  • Consider using a vendor that offers online data backup services, including storage in the “cloud”.
  • Know that some software installations on the client server or computer is automatically backed up.
  • Data should be backed up as frequently as necessary to ensure that, if data is lost, it is not unacceptable to the business.

6. Create a crisis communication plan. (Ready.Gov)

After the disaster occurs, communication should become a main priority.  Each disaster will have a different level of impact on your community, and your public will need to know the extent of the impact.  Whether the impact is small or large, the disruption of services that your agency provides to the public will need to be shared.  If your organization is involved with the local emergency management teams on a healthcare coalition, your job will also be to notify the public on your response actions, and they will also want to know how the disaster will potentially affect them.  Essentially, the need to communicate is immediate.  If business operations are disrupted, customers will want to know how they will be impacted.  All this information that needs to be shared can be done in an effective way, if you have a plan of action on how to communicate during a disaster.  This is called Crisis Communication.

Ready Business from provides direction for developing a crisis communications plan.  They help you understand and identify potential audiences that ultimately want to know, “How does it affect me?”  Ready Business also provides guidance for scripting messages and explains how to use existing resources to gather and disseminate information during and following an incident.

The following is a list of potential audiences.

  • Customers
  • Survivors impacted by the incident and their families
  • Employees and their families
  • News media
  • Community—especially neighbors living near the facility
  • Company management, directors, and investors
  • Government elected officials, regulators, and other authorities
  • Suppliers

After identifying the audiences, you will need to share the messages that you have pre-developed.  Writing messages during an incident can be challenging due to the pressure caused by “too much to do” and “too little time.”  Therefore, it is best to script message templates in advance, if possible.  Use the information from your risk assessment to pre-script messages.  Once your messages are developed, you will need to get them out effectively and quickly.  Sometimes, this is through a simple press release, and other times, it's a team of people that call each employee, client, patient, government contacts, and the media to get the message out.  It usually depends on circumstances and what you have to work with.  It is best to use a method that has been previously tested through a real world disaster or exercise.

Frequent intervals of information will allow you and your team to work on doing what you do best, while keeping peace within your community.  Also, be prepared to start an information center, so that the community can call in if they have questions.

Communication is crucial folks!  If you can't communicate to your community about the situation at hand, there will be chaos, and there will be confusion.  Disasters can be devastating bringing on a realm of emotions that some have never experienced before.  Giving them information can calm the waves of panic and keep the peace long enough for you to do your job in a response.  Without it, all the emergency planning and back-up planning will get bogged down, and you will receive a bunch of bad press.  Neither of which you want!  Stay tuned next month for Steps 7 & 8, Assemble Emergency Supplies and Know Your Insurance Coverage.


Other bParati Business Continuity Articles:

*Business Continuity Planning In Depth:  Steps 3 & 4, Supply Chain and Emergency Management Planning

*Business Continuity Planning in Depth:  Steps 1 & 2, Assess Risks and Define Critical Business Functions

*Without Continuity of Operations Plan, the Emergency Operations Plan Goes to Bat With 2 Strikes.

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Independent Consultant

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