President & CEO, Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRI)
President, Disaster Recovery Institute Canada (DRI Canada)
The Disaster Recovery Institute International has spent decades training and certifying business continuity professionals. Here are its tips for coming back from a pandemic.
In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear: a worldwide disaster can happen at any time and businesses need to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
While many companies and governments employ risk specialists — those who work to avoid potential crises — on their teams, many also include resiliency experts. These forecasters play important roles in predicting potential disasters that can’t be avoided and in evaluating how to best manage these events. They focus on preparedness, disaster recovery, and business continuity when times are tough.
“Whether managing through COVID-19 or any other type of disaster, resilient organizations need to be prepared to adapt and respond in a complex and changing environment in order to continue to provide products and services and to survive. Business continuity, or continuity of operations, plans are a key component to have in place — particularly as we manage through COVID-19 and move into a new normal,” says John Yamniuk, President of the Disaster Recovery Institute Canada.
The key is planning
The Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRI) is the leading global non-profit organization that trains and certifies resilience professionals around the world in order to help businesses prepare for, and recover from, disasters. DRI Canada is the governing body that delivers training and oversees certification in Canada. Each year, the DRI consults with certified members before publishing its annual predictions report, which incorporates feedback from 15,000 thought leaders in over 100 countries.
“Our members are valuable resources for determining what keeps organizations up at night. The report highlights projected threats organizations could face, allowing them to identify areas of deficiency in preparedness,” says Chloe Demrovsky, President and CEO of DRI.
Although pandemics are difficult to predict, they’re not unprecedented and, by late February of this year, most resilience experts already had a plan in place for the pandemic. “In the early days, we were thinking that this would be like SARS. We expected supply chain disruptions and we were looking at how companies could operate with 35 to 40 percent of their workforces out sick,” says Demrovsky.
As the virus spread, continuity plans had to evolve. As Demrovsky says, “The necessary public health response to controlling COVID-19 has impacted organizations by impeding their ability to operate.”
While some organizations — even entire cities — had good resiliency strategies in place, others are not faring as well. Demrovsky believes that every organization needs to have a business continuity plan in place. “The pandemic is affecting every organization in a different way, but resilience planning means looking at the risks that could affect you and the potential impact on your organizations, and then having a set of tools that you can apply when something happens. It gives you a head start because you’ve been thinking about it in advance. That’s what business continuity planning is all about.”
The pandemic is affecting every organization in a different way, but resilience planning means looking at the risks that could affect you and the potential impact on your organizations, and then having a set of tools that you can apply when something happens.Chloe Demrovsky, President and CEO of DRI
Tips to help companies reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic
As organizations look at reopening, Demrovsky has some advice on crisis recovery. “To get back up and running, organizations need to look at operational components and to figure out what their responsibilities are in terms of health and safety for employees and customers with regards to testing, contact tracing, temperature checks, and personal protective equipment,” she says. “Next, organizations need to think about human resources issues, such as health care, worker anxiety, and childcare, particularly as schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year.”
The final step is to communicate with all stakeholders. “People want to go back out into the world and re-engage, but they’re nervous. Organizations need to actively tell stakeholders the safety measures they’ve put in place to reassure them that safety is a priority,” says Demrovsky. In addition to following requirements of federal, provincial, territorial, and local governing bodies, some safety measures might include shutting common spaces, enforcing social distancing, staggering shifts, limiting numbers of people on the premises, and having staff visibly disinfecting surfaces.
“Ultimately, leaders need to be decisive,” says Demrovsky. “They have to be empathetic and make quick decisions in the beginning of a crisis. And then they have to communicate and over-communicate: ‘We understand. We see what’s happening. This is what we’re doing. This is what we know. This is what we don’t know. And I’m here. I’m here to help. I’m here to listen. Let me know what you need. And let’s talk about it.’”
Demrovsky continues, “The good news is that this can be planned and tested in advance. It’s important to always be planning for uncertainty. And those organizations that respond well will thrive and continue to provide products and services.”
DRI’s 5th Annual Predictions Report 2020: Outlook for a Turbulent World
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of preparedness within organizations. To aid in the process of preparednesss, the DRI Future Vision Committee (FVC) has produced an annual set of predictions since 2015. Drawn from a wide range of subject areas and based on the research and opinions of the highly-experienced professionals that make up the FVC, this report can help ensure your organization is ready for any other surprises that 2020 may bring.
1. Technology risks
Record number of ransomware attacks
State-sponsored attack on a G8 institution
3. Extreme weather
Several extreme weather events
4. Civil unrest
Increasing global civil unrest
Increased tension between US and traditional allies
6. Financial crisis
Financial downturn similar to 2008
7. China’s influence
Increasing Chinese influence in developing world
8. Social media
Increasing social media activism
9. Resource shortages
Electricity and water shortages globally
Legal challenge to safety algorithms in transportation
Being prepared is the key to mitigating the damage of — and recovering from — a crisis. For resources to help your business with disaster recovery planning and continuity management, visit the Disaster Recovery Institute International and Disaster Recovery Institute Canada.