Survey Finds Many Kansas- and Missouri-Based Companies Lack Adequate Disaster Plans

KANSAS CITY -- A report released today by AT&T and the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) finds that three out of 10 companies based in Kansas and Missouri do not have a business continuity plan in place to prevent potential disruptions to their operations. Despite being located in an area prone to weather-related disasters, nearly 40 percent of these businesses do not view such planning to be a priority.

The report shows that business communities in Kansas and Missouri have room for improvement before they reach sufficient levels of preparedness. Other markets surveyed -- where the potential for natural disasters is less than in these states -- still view business continuity planning as a higher priority.

About 15 percent of the companies surveyed have already suffered a disaster resulting in major financial losses, with 27 percent of those reporting financial losses in excess of $100,000 a day. Fortunately, companies are learning from past mistakes -- 80 percent of companies that have experienced a disaster have since taken steps to prevent future disruptions.

"Companies that have suffered through disasters in the past understand how devastating the consequences can be," says Christine Pierson, AT&T's Sales Center vice president in Kansas City. "These companies are determined to prevent future interruptions by implementing sound business continuity plans. We hope that area businesses will look to them as examples."

While having a business continuity plan in place is vital for any company, continuous testing and updating of the plan must occur to ensure sufficient preparedness. Only 39 percent of the area's businesses have updated their plan in the last six months, and only 31 percent have tested their plans in the same time period.

In today's workplace, the threat of digital disasters can be more critical than natural ones. A disruption in essential network infrastructures can easily lead to the collapse of vital business processes. The report found that a quarter of Kansas- and Missouri-based businesses fail to include cyber security safeguards in their business continuity plans. The potential threat of viruses and worms was cited as the most significant threat by a vast majority of those companies that did include cyber security provisions (71 percent). However, only one-third had contracted an outside service provider to manage network security.

"Companies are only as secure as their networks," says Michael D. Selves, IAEM representative and director, Johnson County Emergency Management and Homeland Security. "Cyber security safeguards are a vital part of any sound business continuity plan. While an increasing number of companies are realizing this, there is still much room for improvement."

Among the preventive measures recommended by the preparers of the report are to establish back-up networks, identify alternative work sites, create protections for vital business processes and develop a program for post- disaster employee and customer communications. These steps, according to the report, taken with the regular testing and updating of a plan, will go a long way toward securing the preparedness of a company.

"Disaster Planning in the Private Sector: A Post 9/11 Look at the State of Business Continuity in the U.S." surveyed 100 senior technology executives with direct business planning responsibilities in Kansas and Missouri. More than 1,200 executives from companies with more than $10 million in annual revenues have been interviewed across the country, representing a broad cross section of industries and markets. National results of the survey will be issued in September.