Magazine article Risk Management

TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE: Organizations Are Turning to a Growing Range of Technology Products to Aid in Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Magazine article Risk Management

TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE: Organizations Are Turning to a Growing Range of Technology Products to Aid in Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Article excerpt

The trio of powerful hurricanes that impacted Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean in 2017 left large swaths of destruction in their wake and much work to be done to restore business and infrastructure operations. To assist in the response and recovery processes, many organizations turned to technology, such as drones, digital imagery and remote sensors, cloud computing, business intelligence software, social media and smartphone apps.

There is no shortage of technology that can be used to help keep people in touch today, and that is particularly instrumental in weathering disaster for businesses and individuals alike. Al Berman, former president of the Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) and current president of the Disaster Recovery Foundation, believes the most important aspect of disaster recovery efforts is "communication, communication and more communication that can advance search and rescue efforts."

Indeed, amid natural catastrophes, the most valuable technology tools are those that can help guide and inform people before, during and after disaster, Berman said. Technology can offer critical insight to first responders, helping them survey the full scope of damage, identify precisely who needs help and where, and establish whether travel to execute these efforts is possible and safe. Such tools are also critical to businesses as they try to stay in touch with staff and stakeholders and work to restore and maintain operations.

In preparing for disaster, companies must navigate the ever-growing market of emergency technology products to identify which will be most appropriate, relevant and affordable for their specific disaster recovery needs. To that end, every enterprise needs to assess their business continuity and recovery requirements. According to Ali Asgary, associate professor of disaster and emergency management at York University in Ontario, Canada, there are seven key business continuity considerations that an organization must assess:

1. What is the situation for your employees pre- and post-disaster? How will they be able to communicate with management and each other after such an event? Will you have disaster-proof facilities and technology in place to allow them to continue to either work from a safe, centralized location or work remotely?

2. Do you have a business continuity plan that employees and management can easily access in a reliable and, possibly, disaster-proof format?

3. How will you protect your enterprise's critical data? What sort of technology or technological redundancy can help you protect and retain access to this data during and after a crisis?

4. How can you best manage postdisaster communications with stakeholders, including customers, suppliers and distributors?

5. Can technology assist in protecting your business facilities and equipment from disaster-related damage?

6. Can technology assist in assessing and managing your supply chain and distribution routes post-disaster?

7. If the use of technology is critical to your business, to what degree can this technology operate with alternate or redundant power sources? Do you have such a backup power source in place?

It is also critical to assess to what degree the technology used for everyday business can double to assist in the event of a weather-related disaster.

"For business, it's very important that any technology you select be transferrable to everyday business life so that there is no learning curve and you and your employees already know how to use it," said Desi Matel-Anderson, former chief innovation advisor at FEMA and current chief wrangler at the Field Innovation Team, a nonprofit that creates disaster solutions for organizations.

Several technologies have become increasingly common and essential tools for government agencies, rescue groups and business entities in their disaster recovery efforts, including in the wake of this year's hurricanes:


Social media tools are "democratizing" disaster response efforts, allowing people to communicate more easily with first responders, said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. …

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