ITS 4350 - Disaster Recovery

Chapter 11, Business Continuity Planning


This lesson is about chapter 11. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Key elements
  2. Who to include
  3. Construction of the plan
  4. Elements for effective plans
  5. Activating a BC plan
  6. Maintenance and improvement
Chapter 11

Condition greenThe chapter begins by taking us back in time, nine months before the fire that started at the beginning of the last chapter. All is well, and the business continuity team is inspecting a possible operations site for emergency use.

The text compares this chapter to chapter 9, which was about planning for disaster recovery. It notes that the business continuity plan has common feature, but the two plans have different goals. Disaster recovery is about moving from a temporary site back to our original or new operations site. Business continuity is about resumption of interrupted operations at the temporary site. They are both concerned with continuing operations, but the disaster recovery plan assumes that operations are currently running.

The text spends its usual number of pages recommending who should be on the planning committee, reminding us to include decision makers as well as people who know how the work is actually done. This includes technical work (e.g. hardware, software, maintenance) and the actual work of the organization. The text continues with its templates about creating the plan and testing it, reminding us to include controls to avoid our needing to activate the plan. People charged with creating such a plan may forget that the best approach to dealing with a disaster is to prevent its occurrence. I am reminded of a British car company's commercial from several years ago (no video available, unfortunately) that discussed car crash tests, and observed at the end that "in England, we attempt to miss a wall". Let's follow that model, where we can.

The creation of a business continuity plan is complicated by the necessity of dealing with an outside entity, whether that entity is another office in the same organization or an external space/service provider. The text proposes a list on pate 448 that starts with moving some people out of their usual location into another one that is still within the confines of our owned/managed space. It goes through six levels, concluding with moving everyone in the organization to "an external, distant location". Obviously, the logistical complications become more involved with each increase in the number of people to move and the distance to move them. Each level of complexity requires a separate plan.

Expanding on that idea, the text tells us to make sure we accurately measure the level of damage and the number of people affected by the disaster at hand. When a low complexity plan is engaged, we need to be sure that we have not made a mistake, moving an insufficient number of people and insufficient distance. Likewise, we don't want to overreact to the disaster, moving staff who do not actually need to move. The move will disrupt business if it is not needed, which is the opposite of our intent.

The state of Michigan, for example, often encounters incidents that cause staff to be moved, temporarily, from one location to another. This is often due to a power outage at their usual location. When this occurs, it is necessary to take as many of the measures that the text lays out as the incident calls for. Notify staff, notify the media, notify customers, and continue notification as the situation changes. The state is a large enough organization that staff of most departments can move for a short time to space in other state buildings, usually buildings occupied by the same department. When this is not possible, higher level plans are used.

The text presents a number of considerations that will be encountered by any organization moving a significant percentage of its operations. Space, equipment, and services cover most of the worries. On several pages in the chapter, the text discusses the actions of "the Advance Party". In one respect, the committee that secures that alternate site is the advance party. They make the first inspection, long before an incident occurs, and they arrange for expected services, equipment, and space. In another respect, that inspection and arrangement only sets up an expectation. The reality is what the first people we send to an alternate location find waiting for them. If we know that the location will have equipment that needs to be set up (warm site?), that first group needs to include the technicians who can do that job. The second wave does not need to arrive until some of that set up activity has been done.

As usual, the author stresses testing the plan as a read-through, as a table-top exercise, as a walk-through, and as a live exercise.

A thought to take from the video I have inserted above is that people are always in motion. It is natural to be going somewhere else. What's hard is to move everyone somewhere at once. Maybe we would do better to embrace the idea of working remotely, so that we can continue our operations regardless of where the staff happen to be.

Whatever your plan turns out to be, be flexible and make it work. Improve the plan as you go, if you can, and improve it for next time if you can't.



A large part of the city of Paradise, California was destroyed in wild fires this year (2018). This NPR interview with the mayor of that city details some of what happened.

For our purposes, we need to consider the fact that this city had a plan, and had used it multiple times before. What happened? What should have happened? Check other news sources for images and facts about the situation.


Write a brief paper outlining the following points.

  1. Were there flaws in the evacuation plan the city executed?

  2. What changes would you make if you could?

  3. Write a business continuity (evacuation) plan that will minimize risk, enable continued operation, and allow for the best case continuation of the town and survival of the next disaster.