Monthly newsletter Weekly news roundup Breaking news notification    

Business continuity and disaster recovery: how aware is your organisation?

Get free weekly news by e-mailLynne Miller explains how to develop and manage an awareness raising programme.

How's the business continuity/disaster recovery awareness program at your organisation? Sure, you know it's important. You watch information on the annual Business Continuity Awareness Week come and go. But what are you actually doing? Do you know how to get started? Well, let's start with some basics.


Importance of an awareness programme
An awareness programme is an important element of any ongoing, proactive approach to business continuity planning and implementation, disaster preparedness and recovery, as well as crisis management.

Purpose of an awareness programme
On a fundamental level, the purpose of an awareness programme is to raise the level of awareness of an employee's role before, during and after an event. It is important to emphasise preparation, mitigation and personal safety. By making employees more aware and involving them, you are making employees "lifeguards" of business functions and company assets, as well as their own assets. But that's not all. An awareness programme can also be used to establish a baseline of your organisation's awareness against which to measure the effectiveness of awareness efforts and to garner ongoing management support. We all know that unless we have ongoing management support and commitment, all our best efforts seem to fade away with time.

Benefits of an awareness programme

  • Awareness of the importance for a company-wide business continuity / disaster recovery programme;
  • Awareness of company commitment to business continuity planning and disaster recovery;
  • Appreciation and understanding of what could happen to a business during an event;
  • Awareness and knowledge of procedures to mitigate impacts of events;
  • Awareness of emergency response procedures;
  • Awareness of employee roles and responsibilities - both professional and personal.

Critical success factors of a good awareness programme

  • Provide relevant examples of events that could affect your organization and tailor those to your audience needs;
  • Communicate the value of an on-going business continuity planning / disaster recovery programme;
  • Create a baseline so you can measure the effectiveness of your awareness efforts;
  • Acquire and maintain executive support;
  • Create reusable materials and keep them up-to-date.

Getting started
So now that you know a few basics, how do you get started? You might consider creating a survey to gauge the current level of awareness across your organisation and create a baseline. Questions should be relevant to your organisation and could include:

  • Do you have a workaround for a computer outage?
  • Do you have a workaround when the facility is unavailable?
  • Do you know if there are business continuity or disaster recovery plans?
  • Do you know what to do during an emergency?

When you send your survey out, be sure to take a good sampling of your organisation that includes senior management, middle and line management and members of the general employee population. Information received from the survey will provide a good baseline and will help you determine where the gaps are in communicating important information about your business continuity planning / disaster recovery programme.

After determining what your gaps are, you are ready to begin creating objectives to address the gaps. But first remember to identify your audience and know their needs: What is the composition of the audience? What are their expectations? Are there political hurdles to overcome? Is there any resistance to overcome? These questions need to be answered before you can define a strategy for effectively communicating to your audience. The communication strategy should include the best media for communicating to each audience, as well as the key messages you want to send, and what you want them to understand.

Develop a strategy
Next, develop a campaign strategy: Who will run the campaign? How long will it run? Will you use one or multiple media? Who will you transition the materials to? Will this be a one-time or recurring campaign? A campaign strategy should include:

  • Basic information such as why the programme is being developed (if this is a first for your organisation), the importance of business continuity planning and disaster recovery, and definitions of key terms so everyone in the organisation is speaking the same language.
  • Organisational information that includes who in your organisation is involved in business continuity planning / disaster recovery activities, what your organisation is doing to protect itself from various events, and your organisation's emergency response procedures.
  • Employee information including how an event may affect employees, what to do before/during/after an event, who to contact, where to go, how to deal with the media.
  • Information on external entities such as information about the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Association, local emergency management offices and local fire/police.

Communication plan / materials
Now you are ready to develop your communication plan and materials. As you are developing your communication plan, consider how you could incorporate the materials into your organisation's existing processes. A couple of common areas include new employee orientations and other awareness programmes (safety, security). Another good place to incorporate these materials is in your project methodology. This will help ensure that all projects consider how to protect what they are implementing. Also, you can make it a normal part of employees' jobs by encouraging managers to include a discussion on business continuity / disaster recovery in staff meetings from time to time. This can be further encouraged by making this an expectation and part of manager's (and maybe even the employee's) performance review.

All the materials you create during your campaign should be reusable with updates being made as necessary to keep pace with the dynamics of your organisation. In order to keep the materials up-to-date, you should define maintenance triggers so the materials are reviewed and updated on a regular basis. These triggers could be just prior to tornado or hurricane season, right after you conduct exercises, quarterly, etc. The timing will depend on your organisation's needs.

So how do you organise all this? You can create some reusable spreadsheets to help you manage your campaign:

Communication plan (to plan your campaign and capture maintenance triggers)



Key messages




Senior Mgmt

Explain campaign

Discuss costs, benefits & goals

Ask for commitment


BCP/DR Manager

3 months prior to tornado season

General Employee Population

What to do

Where to go

Who to contact

Emphasise safety



BCP/DR Staff


Sampling of all employees

Send survey to determine level of current understanding


BCP/DR Manager

Key message spreadsheet (to guide you in creating your messages)


What will capture your audience's attention?


What message do you want to convey?

More information

Where can someone go for more information?

Headlines that announce business closings due to not having a continuity plan (50 percent never reopen, 90 percent fail within one year after a severe loss etc).

Understand the importance of business continuity planning and having a current and tested business continuity plan.

Refer to department Intranet site.

Pictorial image of a business about to have a disaster or major disruption.

Are you prepared to continue doing business when the next disaster comes?

Refer to January newsletter or department Intranet site.

Media selection framework (for determining the best media for your communications)


Best application

Worst application

Printed materials

In-depth information; information that includes charts, tables; reinforcing key messages.

If used only to communicate time-sensitive information.


When the communication needs to go out quickly; short communications that are easy to read, FYI's.

In-depth information; information that includes charts, tables.


Communicating messages that are complex and you need to allow for two-way discussion; confidential information.

If the information will be extremely time-consuming that could be better explored at your own pace.


Communications that allow for browsing at your own pace.

If used to replace face-to-face communications.

Finally, you need to have fun. Try creating posters or even holding a contest to enhance awareness in your organisation. Open houses, facility tours, demonstrations, or lunch and learn sessions allow employees to come and go as their schedules allow. Make sure to give each employee a "take-away" i.e., pamphlet or laminated card with important information.

If you are just beginning, the information in this article should prove helpful in getting you started. And if your organisation has a solid business continuity / disaster recovery programme in place, you might want to take an opportunity to showcase what you have in place or demonstrate the need for enhancing your current programme.

Lynne Miller, CBCP, CBM is a consultant with Keane, Inc.
1721 E. Hamilton Bloomington, IL 61704 309-838-7601

Date: 5th March 2004 •Region: Worldwide/N.America •Type: Article •Topic: BC general
Rate this article or make a comment - click here

Copyright 2005 Portal Publishing LtdPrivacy policyContact usSite mapNavigation help