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How Personnel Recovery Fits into Your Business Continuity Plan

Written by: 
Tracy L. Hall, MBCP

Business continuity plans are created to ensure products and services provided to clients can continue during and after a business interruption. In our experience assisting organizations with the creation or optimization of their business continuity plan, there is often a strong emphasis on the recovery of systems. Much of the conversation is dedicated to how organizations will recover their technologies in an outage. Personnel recovery is mistakenly either not well thought out, or omitted entirely, from the plan.

Planning for personnel

It is not enough to simply mention personnel; you must consider personnel recovery comprehensively. Some organizations’ personnel recovery plan is to have everyone working at a different office location. At first this seems reasonable, until a more thorough investigation proves that the secondary location’s infrastructure can’t handle the added headcount. A simple question like “are there enough plugs in the building for everyone to power their computers?” can dismantle what would have otherwise been a reasonable plan.

It’s important to consider what an employee needs to complete their work while determining recovery solutions. If alternate office locations are part of the plan, it must be well-documented which departments will relocate and to where – with evidence that those locations can adequately support the additional employees.  

Work from home

Working from home is becoming more ubiquitous within the workforce, and can be a simple personnel recovery solution to certain disruptions. However, if the event causing the disruption is regional, this won’t be a viable solution. For back office personnel who may be responsible for processing orders or payroll, working from home due to a fire at the office works just fine, but as a solution to a hurricane knocking out power to a whole city – not so much.

Personnel are people

When thinking about personnel recovery, don’t lose sight of the fact that these are people with personal lives, families, and emotions. They are humans that have to drive cars or take public transit; that need to eat and sleep. In the event of a regional disaster, personal concerns may become the primary focus for your employees. It is important to be sure this is considered in your plan. What if the only person who knows how to perform a specific function can’t be reached, or needs to be home with his or her family? This single point of failure can be more detrimental to a recovery plan than a fire in your server room, and highlights the importance of cross-training employees on critical functions.

What can you do?

Your personnel is the blood of your organization – they ensure all systems are running correctly. The presence and movement of your personnel needs to be documented in your plan. Write in detail what they will need to do, where they will go, and who can back up a process or procedure if the primary person is not available. You can recover your systems, but if you don’t recover your people, you won’t be able to start working again. After all, what use is an empty facility with all the lights on?

Tracy Hall is an IT Assurance Manager for Wolf & Company’s Risk Management Services practice, where she provides guidance in the area of Business Continuity Planning across a multitude of industries. She can be reached at thall@wolfandco.com, or 413-726-6884 with any questions.