Human risk is neglected in disaster plans, warns study

Staff are being overlooked in organisations' disaster recovery plans, according to a report published this week.

Staff are being overlooked in organisations' disaster recovery plans, according to a report published this week.

The report, based on interviews with business continuity practitioners, urges business to prioritise human risk when developing recovery and continuity plans.

"Business continuity is not only about IT. There needs to be a human recovery plan, and it should involve human resources and facilities managers," said Peter Thomson, director of the Future Work Forum at Henley Management College. People need to be managed like a resource, but companies tend to assume staff will always be available, he said.

The report, commissioned by SunGard Availability Services, identifies outbreaks of disease, staff kidnapping, fear, confusion, and disruptions to public communication and transport systems as risks that could affect the productivity of an organisation and its supply chain.

According to the latest London Chamber of Commerce research, only 41% of the FTSE 250 are fully prepared for forced relocation from their premises. This raises questions about many companies' ability to deal with moving staff to alternative workplaces, handle home-working, and manage trauma.

The London bombings in July 2005 highlighted the importance of attention to staff in disaster planning.

Colin Davis, deputy operations director at the British Medical Journal, said the company's continuity plan worked well from a technical point of view after the bombings, but staff did not have guidelines on what to do, who to contact, or how to access systems remotely.

Ian Houghton, continuity manager at insurer Royal & SunAlliance, said people were key to business and its continuity, but many recovery plans did not deal with the human aspect.

He said plans should include regular contact with staff, workaround measures to guide staff when IT services are not available, and how to deal with injury or death.

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