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Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery

The Critical Differences Between Vendor Pandemic and Disaster Recovery Planning

Jul 15, 2020 by Branan Cooper

When it comes to large-scale events, many tend to think if they have a business continuity plan, they’re golden and adequately prepared for a pandemic. However, if recent experience has shown us anything, it’s that business continuity planning business continuity (BCP), disaster recovery planning (DRP) and pandemic planning (PP) while similar, are not interchangeable.

Disaster recovery and pandemic planning are both separate, vital plans which should be included within a vendor’s overall business continuity management. Why? Let’s look at how disaster and pandemic events differ to better illustrate the reason both are crucial to your organization’s third-party risk management.

What Is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Disaster recovery plans cover business-impacting events that are usually considered a disaster such as natural storms, fires and large-scale accidents including gas leaks or chemical explosions. The disaster recovery focus includes assigning disaster recovery personnel and salvaging operations as much as possible. Typically, these events are short-lived and can be manageable.

With disaster recovery, the focus is on:

  • Gathering of disaster recovery personnel at the command center​
  • Deciding if the incident is a disaster​
  • Salvage operations, recovery operations, communications and restoration to normal operations

What Is a Pandemic Plan?

​Unlike disasters, the duration of a pandemic is difficult to estimate, and it can come in waves. It may last days, weeks, months or even longer. Pandemics are unpredictable in that sense as they’re usually health crisis or a viral outbreak such as the 1918 influenza outbreak and, most recently, the COVID-19 outbreak spreading globally. ​

Pandemic planning is part of your overall business continuity planning. It’s one element within BCP or BCM – business continuity management, which is essentially the umbrella for business continuity, disaster recovery and, therefore, pandemic planning.

Pandemic planning focuses on:

  • ​Strategies and procedures
  • Preventative measures
  • Implementation guidelines in the event of a prolonged health crisis

In this recent crisis, we’ve seen many disruptions in supply chain management and also businesses grappling with the reality of many employees working from home while also having to allow for the realities of their children being out of school, normal flow of business shutdown, etc. It’s been a learning moment for all.

Why Disaster Recovery Planning and Pandemic Planning Are Both Important  

It’s important to create blueprints for both kinds of events, which require very different types of responses. Here are our recommendations:

  1. In a disaster recovery scenario, decisions typically need to be made quickly and without notice. Disasters can happen at any time. Those responsible for acting in these times have to be ready to leave quickly for that data center fire 300 miles away on a Sunday night and quickly assess the situation once on site as well as coordinate and document mitigation and recovery actions through the recovery period. ​It’s also important to consider how your vendors have prepared and tested their own plans and whether you’re comfortable with the results of their testing.

  2. In a pandemic scenario, we expect a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that a pandemic scenario may be approaching. All organizations should be monitoring the WHO and CDC at all times. This of course is the ideal situation. In the case of an infectious disease terror attack, those warnings may come too late depending on the epicenter, contagiousness and death rate of the attack. 

Done right, a good vendor management program creates a real strategic advantage as you’re able to ensure you have proactively addressed any potential concerns – from preventing data breaches, avoiding reputational risk issues, and ensuring both your organization as well as your vendors have a solid business continuity management plan, including both disaster recovery and pandemic planning.

Are you prepared for the aftermath of the pandemic? Download this infographic to help.

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Branan Cooper

Written by Branan Cooper

Branan has nearly 30 years of experience in the financial services industry with a focus on the management of operational and regulatory processes and controls—most notably in the area of third party risk and operational compliance. Branan also serves as an industry thought leader. He's a member of InfraGard and the Professional Risk Management Industry Association (PRMIA). And, he was selected in 2018 as an advisor to the Center for Financial Professionals (CEFPro) and board member for the Global Sourcing Resource Network (GSRN).

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