Getting prepared for hurricane season 2010

In readiness for hurricane season, which is just a couple of months away, TeleCayman is this month presenting experts from SunGard Availability Services for a hurricane readiness workshop, described as a mock disaster/incident management exercise. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull speaks with SunGuard’s Director of Crisis Management, Robert DiLossi to find out more about how we should all be preparing for the possibility of a hit this year.

Please tell me broadly the most important elements of effective disaster preparedness.
Planning: Plans have always been at the heart of traditional business continuity.  In the past, efforts have been focused on creating hard-copy output to satisfy audit requirements and provide reference documents and recovery procedures at time of disaster. But at the end of the day, many plans have ended up in storage, offering little value when an incident occurs.
With an information availability programme, plans remain important, but rather than generating volumes of static paper documents, the focus is on creating and maintaining a usable set of information. Plans should be response-based and checklist-oriented, providing clear, straightforward instructions that can literally fit into a pocket.

Testing:  Simply creating plans is not enough. Organisations must test plans in order to identify and correct problems before an actual business interruption occurs. Tests must be conducted regularly and under realistic conditions.

What are the key elements that are most overlooked?
Notification: Critical during any potential interruption, notification should be an integral part of crisis management capabilities. An organisation should be able to get in touch with key personnel, as well as prioritize methods of communication and track which employees have received messages.

Understand system interdependencies: Planning for information availability requires an organisation to understand how all infrastructure components work together and depend on each other. Not only does an organisation need to know IT systems, but also which businesses rely on which applications and platforms, and which locations depend on each other.

Impact analysis: For many organisations, business impact analysis has traditionally been a one-time exercise that is completed and then left untouched for a long time. Today, organisations recognise that their business environments are changing rapidly and the time to update impact analysis is now, before the first hurricane warning appears.

How do you simulate a crisis?
Situation/crisis management capabilities should be fully integrated into an organisation’s information availability program. The primary objectives for these capabilities include tracking, communicating and assisting in the oversight, facilitation and management of any event. A logical extension of planning and testing efforts, crisis management is easier to establish once relationships and impacts have been identified.

How does SunGard simulate a crisis?
We run a crisis test each quarter, simulating 100+ calls incoming to our hotline, sending out mass notifications to necessary departments and employees assigning those tasks that need to be executed to bring the crisis management center to full activation. Running the operation from Philadelphia, all centres report in as tasks are completed and employees report in.

And how do you teach people to effectively deal with the crisis? Is this an easy process?   
There are a few ways, we run our quarterly tests, mock disasters, role playing simulations, certifications and recertification tests.   

Why is disaster preparedness so important to a business today?
Businesses can have a disaster at any moment, without a planned, tested and scrubbed plan it may suffer. Keeping employees engaged and involved in the planning and execution process is key for keep a business running.

Tell us about your upcoming disaster preparedness workshop
Ahead of hurricane season and in light of the recent earthquake, TeleCayman is hosting an interactive Disaster Planning and Recovery Seminar with international incident specialists SunGard Availability, on Wednesday, 24 March, at the Marriott Hotel.
Anyone interested in attending should contact [email protected]


Robert DiLossi