Superstorm Sandy took no prisoners. Fight back
    with an emergency management plan that protects all your business assets.


    When Superstorm
    Sandy hit the Northeastern United States, more than 7.5 million businesses
    and households in 15 states and the District of Columbia were left without
    power, according to numbers compiled by CNN from local power providers.
    Flooding all along the Eastern seaboard also caused billions of dollars in
    damage to hundreds of thousands of businesses, shutting many of them down.


    How
    many of these businesses were prepared for such a disaster and will be able to survive
    is yet to be known, but chances are that a tremendous number will ultimately
    close their doors.
    Without developing an emergency management plan, many
    companies struggle to get through the immediate emergency, resume
    business and maintain their competitive position and financial stability.


    Being
    prepared for an emergency includes protecting the organization's most critical
    assets. While safeguarding employees, facilities and equipment are at the top
    of the list for most organizations, they may not think about how important it
    is to protect their vital records, which are critical to their ability to
    resume operations. Without access to vital records and information,
    organizations will have difficulty serving customers, securing new business or
    keeping up with the day-to-day activities needed to function in the face of a
    disaster.












    Figure 1: Vital Records (Class 1) Priorities for Access


    There
    are three classes of vital records organizations need to act immediately to
    protect:




    1. Records needed for
      emergency operations
      ,
      such as business continuity plans, emergency management communication lists and
      personnel contact lists.


    2. Records needed for
      resumption and continuation of business
      , such as current customer or client files,
      in-progress accounts payable and accounts receivable and current contracts and
      agreements.


    3. Records needed for
      legal or audit purposes
      ,
      such as accounts payable and accounts receivable files, existing contracts and
      agreements, and unaudited financial records.


    Surviving a disaster goes
    well beyond protecting vital records, though. To ensure that your organization is
    prepared for, can respond to and will recover from a disaster, act now to
    develop a comprehensive emergency management plan. Because personnel and
    monetary resources will be needed, top managers and employees must support the
    concept.


    After
    assembling a team consisting of representatives of various organizational
    functions, including emergency management director, procurement officer,
    financial manager, safety officer, information technology manager or CIO,
    records manager, facility manager, operations manager and human resources
    manager, the next initial step is to prepare a proposal for top-level
    management following these steps:



    • Perform
      a cost-benefit analysis to determine costs and benefits of an emergency management
      plan.

    • Conduct
      a business impact assessment, analyzing all business functions and the effect a
      disaster may have on them.


    Comprehensive
    emergency management planning yields many benefits for the organization's
    records, information and assets if a disaster occurs. Stakeholders can gain
    comfort by knowing that measures have been taken to protect the organization
    from loss. Emergency management planning benefits that should be promoted in a
    proposal include:




    Quick
    resumption of operations:

    When personnel establish a plan, train others, complete preparedness activities
    and test the plan, they are ahead of the game and ready to handle an emergency.
    Even more important, if an emergency occurs, personnel have a good chance of
    controlling it. Quick resumption of operations leads to continued profitability
    or revenue flow and adds value to an organization and the products and services
    it delivers.


    Improved
    safety:
    The courts
    could hold an organization negligent for not having a plan if an event causes
    an injury or takes an employee's life. The US Occupational Safety and Health
    Administration requires all employers to develop and implement an emergency
    action plan that includes protection procedures for personnel during and after
    an emergency. Materials and supplies can be replaced; personnel are not
    recoverable. The emergency management plan should address key activities, such
    as training and risk mitigation, that will help keep people safe.


    Protection of
    vital assets:

    As discussed above, emergency management planning includes plans for protecting
    the organization's vital assets. The plan protects shareholders' investments,
    secures employees' jobs and retirement benefits, safeguards research, protects
    personal information and maintains customer confidence and trust. When the
    benefits of immediate resumption of operations and protection of personnel are
    understood, the benefits of protecting material assets will be recognized as
    well.


    Reduced
    insurance costs.

    An emergency management plan is a close partner of business and security. The
    plan should contain specific information about assets and risks, low-cost
    preventative measures and the cost of each protection program, such as a
    computer hot site, off-site records storage or back-up hardware. Additionally,
    the plan should contain schedules for periodic facility inspections and
    personnel training.


    Improved
    security:
    The
    process of preparing an emergency management or business continuity plan
    includes a review of present security procedures to protect facilities,
    personnel, records and information from theft or acts of vandalism or
    terrorism. The plan should include detailed procedures to monitor and control
    access to the facilities that contain vital records and information. Security
    is an important part of the mitigation phase of emergency management.


    Compliance with
    laws:
    Leaders of
    organizations have the responsibility of taking reasonable measure to protect
    the organization's assets, records and information. Court cases set the legal
    precedent that organizations must have an established emergency management
    plan. In addition, a plan may be required by law, regulation or
    contract/agreement.


    Reduction of
    errors from shock factor:
    Without
    a plan, people will react haphazardly to an emergency by making mistakes or not
    reacting at all, leading to greater damage. Emergency response planning
    exercises or mock drills place people in "what if" situations that increase
    awareness of how to behave in real events. People that know what is expected of
    them in emergency situations will be less fearful and behave more effectively.




    MARILYN BIER is the executive director for ARMA International, a
    not-for-profit professional association and the authority on managing
    records and information, and oversees the development and implementation
    of all headquarter projects. For the full guide, "Emergency
    Management for Records & Information Programs," visit
    www.arma.org.