A Home Away From Home: Crafting a Site Recovery Plan

If a disaster strikes one of your organization’s critical sites, you might need to temporarily shift its operations to a home away from home. To be ready for this eventuality, your organization should have a site recovery plan. 

 

Why Your Company Needs a Site Recovery Plan 

Floods, fires, and storms are only a few of the disasters that can strike a facility with sufficient severity as to make it unusable for a period of time.   

If the facility that is shut down happens to be one of your organization’s critical sites—whether it’s your headquarters, a call center, a manufacturing site, laboratory, or whatever—simply doing without that site’s contribution for an extended period is not an option.  

Instead, you will need to reestablish the site’s operations in one or more alternate facilities while the damage is being repaired and the facility made usable again. 

You already know how much of a hassle it is to move your residence. Moving house could be the poster child for things that are easier said than done. No matter how well prepared you might be, it is always stressful and there are almost always unforeseen problems and unpleasant surprises. 

Now imagine having to move the contents of an entire industrial or business facility, and requiring hundreds of people to shift their workplace, often by a significant distance—on a moment’s notice and when you are not prepared.  

I’ve seen it happen, and it’s the nightmare of nightmares. 

Obviously, this is not a situation any organization wants to be in, especially if that facility is one where operations critical to its core mission take place. 

To make sure your organization won’t find itself in this position, your business continuity management (BCM) office should create, in cooperation with your security, facilities, IT departments, and other stakeholders, a site recovery plan. 

What a Site Recovery Plan Is and Does 

A site recovery plan is a plan written for a specific critical site of your organization that sets forth how you would go about reestablishing that site’s operations elsewhere if the main site was rendered temporarily unusable.  

It’s a logistics plan that explains how you will shift the people, processes, and technology associated with the damaged site to a new location and get everything operational quickly. 

The site recovery plan is the bible for the emergency relocation of the operations of a given critical facility. 

New Trends = New Challenges 

The site recovery plan is one of those things that was simple when I started out twenty-five years ago and has now grown complicated.  

In the old days, everyone had a car, and computer technology was basic. Nowadays, many employees don’t use cars, many people work from home, the need to take workers’ health and family-care needs into account is recognized, and technology has become much more complex. 

All of these changes have made crafting a site recovery plan just a little bit tougher. 

People, Processes, and Technology 

As alluded to previously, a site recovery plan needs to address the transfer of three aspects of a critical site’s operations: 

People

If the employees can’t or won’t travel to the new site, then good luck reestablishing operations there. This can be a real challenge for human resources. It’s not unusual for a new site to be 30 miles or more from an old one. Will people be able to get to it? How about those who depend on public transportation? Will some people quit rather than commute the extra distance? Sorting out everyone’s transportation and family issues can be a challenge to say the least. Should you set up “go teams” of critical people who have already agreed to work at the new site, if necessary? Can you leverage your Covid return to work plan in devising your site recovery plan? Should you move people to the new site all at once or in waves, starting with the most mission-critical workers? The site recovery plan needs to address all of these issues.  

Processes

A key issue in relocating business processes from the damaged site to the new, temporary one is deciding which processes actually need to be moved. Some might not be critical enough to warrant their being temporarily established at the new site. The BIA can be helpful in making these determinations. It’s also important to think ahead of time about wherein the new site the various business units will be situated and in which order they need to arrive and be set up. If two units that work closely together and were in close proximity in the old site end up far away from each other in the new one, efficiency might be seriously impacted. 

Technology

It’s essential that those working at the new site have access to all the technology equipment, systems, and applications they need to do their jobs. This includes cloud technology.    

A site recovery plan that sets forth, in a clear, well-thought-out manner, how the organization will transfer the three key aspects of people, processes, and technology from the damaged old site to the temporary new one has almost everything necessary to be a good and valuable plan. 

Heading Home  

One aspect remains to make the site recovery plan complete: a plan for returning home.  

Once the home site is ready to be reoccupied, the organization can move the displaced business units and operations back to their permanent home. Simply running everything in reverse order is rarely a viable solution. Nor is telling everyone, “Just show up Monday at our old location.” 

The process of moving back should be considered as a challenge all its own. What will the order of restoration be? Should critical units move first? What happens if the renovated facility has wiring problems or other bugs? These are some of the matters that should be addressed in the part of the plan devoted to returning home. 

Additional Considerations  

The following are some additional matters that should be considered in creating a site recovery plan: 

Accessibility

How accessible is the temporary site to the people who will be expected to work there?   

Infrastructure

The alternate site should be on a different power grid and water supply from the original one. 

Duration

People tend to be overly optimistic in estimating how long they will need to remain at the alternate site. It is commonly assumed that 30 days will be enough time to clean up, repair, and move back to the original site. In my experience, the process usually takes at least 60 to 90 days. 

Security

The temporary site should have the same level of security as the permanent one. Issues regarding employee badges should be anticipated and sorted out ahead of time. 

A Good Site Recovery Plan 

If a disaster were to strike one of your organization’s critical sites, the organization would need to shift the site’s operations to a home away from home while the old site was being made usable again. To ensure this could be done successfully, the organization should prepare a site recovery plan for each of its critical facilities.  

A good site recovery plan spells out how to transfer the people, processes, and technology of the damaged old site to the temporary new one. It also sets forth how to move back to the permanent site once that has been cleaned up, fixed up, and made ready for reoccupation. 

Further Reading 

For more information on recovery planning and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting: 

About
Richard Long
Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.
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