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Real-time info for recovery planning

Natural disasters can occur anywhere, at any time. Even with technology that can sense an earthquake or predict a severe storm, there is always the chance that a company will be caught off guard and feel the full force of the event. The unpredictability of real-world incidents mean organisations need to develop and have in place disaster recovery and business continuity plans or risk irreparable damage to employees and the business alike, writes Tim Willis, EMEA Corporate Security, at the AI and machine learning data product company Dataminr.

Coupled with the need for recovery planning, businesses must consider how to source and use the most relevant, real-time information to aid in their decision-making processes and their corporate security strategy. From social media analysis to blogs, weather data and a company’s own datasets, connecting and deriving insights from real-time information can have a vital impact on a company’s ability to react in a crisis.

It’s unlikely, however, that situations can be managed by one person or team. During a disaster, operations staff need clearly defined responsibilities in place and the insight to make the right decision at the right time. This will help to deal with the situation at hand to minimise damage and allow business to continue as smoothly as possible. Corporate security teams use timely information to engage recovery and business continuity plans where needed and reestablish normal operations quickly. Even in the midst of a disaster, safety and security must remain a top priority of businesses, to ensure that employees face nothing more than controlled, anticipated risk. It is here that real-time insights from multiple publicly available datasets can play a key role.

Hurricane Maria

Natural disasters can have devastating, long-lasting effects, as seen during and after Hurricane Maria, which devastated the US island territory of Puerto Rico. The Category 5 storm challenged the island’s core infrastructure, as well as its pharmaceutical production, security and operations.

The island of Puerto Rico is home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of pharmaceutical production facilities, and thanks to existing disaster recovery plans and efficient preparation, many companies were able to recover quickly. The companies that operated in Puerto Rico during this tragic storm had strategic crisis management and corporate security plans in place. However, their experience demonstrates the importance of having robust, rehearsed continuity plans to ensure that business is still able to function until normal operating conditions resume. Moreover, they tapped all available resources at their disposal to manage and adapt plans in a crisis to ensure the safety of employees and the survival of the company.

In situations like Hurricane Maria, disaster recovery plans must be put in place to help businesses understand what to do to best protect their people, equipment and infrastructure. Whether it’s a hurricane, volcano or road accident, there is value in enhancing situational analysis and capitalise on real-time insights from a variety of publicly available datasets. Extra insights allow businesses to understand the severity of the event as it breaks and unfolds. And with a more comprehensive view, business leaders can make time-sensitive, critical, and better informed business decisions.

Prioritising

In the days and weeks after Hurricane Maria, the entire island shut down. For businesses to continue, they needed to think long term while implementing a short-term plan to remain open and powered and support workers across the island. Business continuity plans are complemented by real-time situational analysis, where in multiple datasets — from social media posts to public data — are incorporated into the decision making process. This powerful combination allows companies to adapt their recovery plans based on the events and their resulting impact, and establish normal and secure operations as rapidly as possible.

In Puerto Rico, for instance, power grids are expected to fail in severe storms, something which companies were able to prepare for. Organisations invested in generators, fuel and infrastructure for several months of extended operations. This resulted in a significant reduction in downtime during Hurricane Maria.

Businesses can draw insight from Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical companies when developing continuity plans that account for extreme damage. When planning ahead, businesses must consider the critical parts of their company that need to keep running in order to maintain normal operations, and use real-time insights to ensure the necessary resources are available to sustain them. In addition, organisations must use the information at their disposal to look inward when assessing their business impact as much as they look outward. In doing so, they can identify the potential risks and fully understand impact and prevention.

Preparation

Preparing as carefully as possible for a disaster will ultimately determine how successful businesses cope before, during and after the event. By capitalising on information provided by real-time insights, businesses can adapt their processes to the events as they happen, and make the right decisions at the right time to prepare for upcoming dangers. In the case of Puerto Rico, organisations that understood the severity of the storm ran through their plans with employees in advance. Then, using new insights, they were able to send home non-essential staff and streamline operations ahead of the storm’s arrival. When the hurricane struck, thanks to advance preparation, everyone was in the right place to stay safe and damage was minimised. This is a real-life example of how additional training and awareness of an effective disaster recovery plan fostered business continuity.

In times of disaster, a business’s disaster recovery and continuity plans can be its lifeline. Without these, a business can face considerable downtime, loss of valuable data, safety breaches, and more. A thorough plan supported and informed by real-time information can help to limit the consequences and ensure the safety of the organisation and its employees. Be it a hurricane, an earthquake, typhoon or a simple road accident, the events that businesses can’t plan for are by far the most dangerous. However, having the agility to adapt processes based on real-time information can make a crucial difference for a business – ensuring that they can return to normal in the quickest possible time frame and ultimately, protect the lives of their employees or customers.


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