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Seconds Away From Disaster… Without A Continuity Plan? How To Prepare Your Team & Clients For The Unexpected (Part II)

  • By Andrea Schlapia
  • |
  • July 11, 2013
Photo courtesy ©iStock/Getty Images/Thinkstock
Photo courtesy ©iStock/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Disasters are inevitable and in the case of a disaster, failing to plan may be planning to fail. In Part I of our series on continuity planning, Seconds Away From Disaster…Without A Continuity Plan, the best strategy is to have a disaster recovery plan in place.

Continuity planning is displaced because most people believe disaster will never happen to them. Review Part I in our series to uncover the critical first steps to create your continuity plan:

  • Business Impact Analysis
  • Data Collection Research
  • Team Assignments
  • Additional Pre-planning

Be Prepared No Matter Where You Live – FEMA Recommendations

Identify ways to mitigate risks likely to happen to you and your firm. You can’t plan for everything but taking a proactive approach to disaster preparedness and following with a disaster recovery plan will make restoration easier for your business.  Keep in mind disasters include natural and man-made hazards. Learn about the types of disasters facing your business. For disaster preparedness-specific content visit


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicates fire is the most common hazard to businesses. FEMA provides a number of relatively simple steps you can take to limit fire risk:

  • Meet with your local fire department to have your facility inspected for fire hazards
  • Verify your business meets all fire codes and regulations
  • Provide safety information on how to prevent and contain fires
  • Conduct evacuation drills


If you are in a geographical area where tornadoes or hurricanes are likely, FEMA recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Talk to local emergency departments about the community warning system
  • Work with a structural engineer to establish a safe shelter facility for personnel in your building
  • Design an effective evacuation plan and communicate it to employees
  • Survey your building, and make plans to protect outside equipment. Make sure you have proper protection for your windows


Flooding can’t be overlooked. Here’s what FEMA recommends;

  • Review the geography of your building. Are you located in a flood plain?
  • What’s the elevation of your facility in relation to the closest river?
  • Is there a history of flash flooding in your area?
  • What’s the fastest way to higher ground?
  • Hire a professional to flood proof your facility. There are a variety of options and costs in doing so; from structural changes like reinforcing walls to resist water pressure and installing permanent pumps to remove water.

These are just a few disasters that top FEMA’s “most-likely” list. Size up the risks most likely to strike your business based on your geographical location. Talk to your insurance carrier about insurance for each risk you identify. You can find additional information from FEMA through the Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry.


Avoid Media Hype

Most disasters are beyond anyone’s control, however preparing is anything but. Comprehensive, detailed continuity planning is essential for any business.


Educating your team by reviewing your disaster plans will ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities before, during and after a disaster. Each team member should know how to prepare for a disaster and what to do if one occurs.

  • Communicate with your team and clients through e-mail announcements and recorded phone messages (if possible) about the status of your business
  • Have contact information of your top clients, so you can personally contact them about the situation and reassure them that you are well on your way to restoring operations
  • Encourage employees to keep important contact information in their personal mobile devices
  • Provide an emergency “hotline” number to your team and clients
  • Arrange for call forwarding from your main business line

Take advantage of these free, online planning resources;

The last thing you want is the media telling your clients what is happening to your business.


Take the services you offer a step beyond the normal by assisting your clients with their personal disaster preparedness plan. Here’s a checklist you can share to help them deal with disaster before it deals with them:

Create a thorough disaster plan – Outline each step necessary to deal with a disaster. For example, who is in charge of evacuation or securing critical documents? Make a list of necessary phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Offer to review your clients’ plans to see if any technical steps or solutions have been overlooked.

Prepare for disaster reaction – Disaster preparedness means being specific about what needs to be done in the event of a serious mishap. Suggest that your clients create timeline benchmarks. For instance, how soon do they want:

  • To be up and running?
  • When do they want to be fully operational?
  • Identify ways you can help them meet their goals.

Back up data off-site Data may be the most critical part of the recovery equation, as it contains the history of your business, your transactions, financial information and more. While it is always critical to back up data on-site, incorporate a solid practice to back up all company data on a site separate from your business as well.

Address employee needs – Disaster recovery isn’t specific to a physical place of business. Make sure your clients’ planning covers personnel issues. Make arrangements for employees to work from another business location or offer telecommuting arrangements where employees can work from home. Address technical solutions in order to prepare for off-site work options.

Be financially preparedClients should set aside a specific emergency fund only to be used in the event of a severe situation. It is also worth considering business interruption insurance, which can keep employees and vendors paid during a stoppage.

Help your clients learn more about business continuity planning by providing additional resources:

 It Doesn’t End Here…..

Effects of man-made and natural disasters have occurred but have also provided us with resources for recovery. The lessons learned from those that have faced disaster include updating plans, testing plans and consideration of all types of threats. Watch for our final blog in the series –  Seconds Away From Disaster… Without A Continuity Plan?  (Part III).  We will review technology recovery and explain how to put your plan into writing and action.

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

Sun Tzu


Military General & Tactician

Question:  Does your firm have a comprehensive continuity plan in place?  Share your knowledge and experiences with us by leaving us a comment here.

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Author Bio

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life. Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.