Disaster planning guide available
ABA President Stephen N. Zack has made disaster preparedness one of the association’s key priorities. As a profession, we must prepare for unexpected disasters, and preparedness is key to mitigating and responding to them.
The Special Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness has worked since its inception in 2006 to promote and enhance business continuity both internally at the association and externally with members and others in the legal profession. Most recently, the committee created the Guide to Developing and Conducting Business Continuity Exercises that was first presented to bar leaders at the Midyear Meeting in Atlanta. For readers who have not yet seen the guide, here are some suggestions for planning and eventually conducting continuity tests and exercises.
Remember that your business continuity management plan is a living document that should be reviewed and updated at least once a year.
Business continuity exercises can range from the simple to the complex. The guide discusses five exercise types, listed here in order of increasing complexity: orientation; test or functional drill; tabletop exercise; functional exercise; and full-scale exercise.
If you have not yet planned or executed a business continuity exercise, an incremental approach is recommended, starting with an orientation and working up — through regularly scheduled training sessions — to the level of a functional exercise or full-scale exercise.
The key characteristics of an orientation type of exercise include:
- Low-stress, informal setting with little or no disaster simulation; panel discussion, slide/video presentation, briefing or guest lecturer
- To introduce newly assigned principals or staff to emergency plans, contents of a business continuity management (BCM) plan, and roles and responsibilities. An annual refresher of the BCM plan
- Led by a facilitator who presents information and guides discussion. Facilitator should have knowledge of the subject and objectives of the orientation.
On the other end of the spectrum is the full-scale exercise, which will require considerably more resources and time, plus actual mobilization of personnel if there is a designated alternate emergency facility.
For comparison, here are the key characteristics of a full-scale exercise:
- Complex and comprehensive; the ultimate exercise type
- Places participants in circumstances resembling an actual emergency
- Players respond in real time; with on-the-spot decisions and actions that generate real responses from other players and consequences
- Difficult to design; messages must be carefully scripted and sequenced
- To evaluate the operational capabilities of an organization’s entire emergency management program and all elements of the BCM plan
- Controllers manage and direct the flow of the exercise
- Simulators assume external roles and deliver planned messages to players
- Evaluators act as observers who assess performance and effectiveness
- Facilitator/exercise director has overall responsibility for keeping the exercise on track
- Data collectors record the exercise events and observations for later analysis.
At whichever level you start, remember that your BCM plan is a living document that should be reviewed and updated at least once a year. Urgent needed changes that arise from an exercise should be incorporated as soon as possible.
More disaster preparedness resources are available on the Special Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness webpage.
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