Disasters highlight the importance of business continuity plans

So far this year we’ve seen numerous natural disasters both at home and abroad. In March, a tsunami caused by a massive earthquake struck the coastline of Japan, killing thousands or people and displacing hundreds of thousands more. The crisis worsened in the following days after it was discovered that the tsunami destroyed fuel rod cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Over the past several weeks, tornados have wreaked devastation over portions of the South and Midwest. According to Reuters, more than 500 people have been killed by tornados so far this year in the U.S.

Last month, I spoke with healthcare security expert Steve Wilder about the role of hospital security managers in the aftermath of disasters like the twister that destroyed St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo. According to Wilder, while many hospitals focus their emergency preparedness drills on planning, response and mitigation strategies, the concept of business continuity and recovery after the event is often overlooked.

"The other thing we’re finding at Joplin is the importance of that final leg of the rectangle of emergency preparedness and that is continuity and recovery," he said. "In these types of events, like the folks in Joplin are finding, it’s not like at the end of the drill when we say 'everybody go back to your departments and we will evaluate (the drill) next week.' We have to think about the recovery process and we have to drill for that as well."

Whether you’re the security director of a hospital somewhere in Middle America or at a Fortune 500 company, the importance of having a business continuity plan in place and reviewing it on a regular basis cannot be understated. I’ve spoken with many security consultants and corporate security directors across all industries in my time here at SIW and one of the first things they always tell me, regardless of the issue being discussed, is about the need for organizations to conduct vulnerability assessments, develop business continuity plans and prepare for worst case scenarios. Of course, what you have to prepare for depends on many things including type of industry, geography and a myriad of other factors.

I think the disasters we’ve seen through the first five months of 2011 are evidence of the importance of developing comprehensive business continuity plans.