RE: Business Continuity Plan

Subject: RE: Business Continuity Plan
From: mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 10:34:00 -0400

You'd write a Business Continuity Plan for a small company.
For a larger company, you'd get the various departments and
business units to prepare their own, under guidance, and
then you'd compile the results into the "global" plan.

I was part of the effort at Ericsson, in Montreal, in the
mid-nineties. Each major department or group was broken
down into sub-groups and, based on business and customer
requirements, we evaluated what we/they would need in order
to provide service during/after a disaster. My area to
plan and document was TAC, the Technical Assistance Center
that served our customers worldwide. Since we dealt with
communications systems, notably cellular, that meant
about half the North American cellular system at the time,
including aspects of 911 and emergency services communications.

The plan excluded many areas as not being critical, including
some functions performed by groups that were themselves
deemed critical. The TAC stuff was uniformly highest priority.
We, the company, decided that we could always delay our
development and marketing and training and other functions,
but we could not tolerate the unavailability of customer
support. So, IT department had equally high priority in
the short term.

The plan detailed how we should react to a disaster, with
alternate "command" structures (based on who'd been killed...),
including a multi-week plan to get back to full function.
We had to specify different scenarios and sub-scenarios
depending upon localized disasters (fire, explosion, etc.)
and widespread disasters (floods, earthquakes, war, etc.)
and personnel disasters (basically epidemics).

We had to specify what we could and should attempt to
protect/recover/reclaim on-site versus what functions
should be offloaded to remote offices. Based on those
choices, we had to make reciprocal agreements with those
remote offices and, in several cases, arrange for those
offices to have additional, surplus capability, so that
they could realistically handle what they'd be asked to do.

Interestingly, this meant that *we* had to plan for
how we'd re-allocate our own personnel and resources
if we had to take on the functions of other offices
that suffered disasters.

What was critical was to reduce decision-making to as
simple and straight-forward a process as possible...
we also had to store the checklists (for helping make
those decisions) offsite, in case the building wasn't
there for our managers to walk in and pick up the
clipboards... :-)

We went so far as to go through some "talking"
exercises and even one major walk-through, based upon
scenarios. We picked our major physical disaster scenario
when a couple of us noticed that large propane trucks
drove past our front window every day and entered the
expressway just in front of our building. That was an
expressway that suffered frequent accidents. We calculated
how much of the building was likely to be destroyed when
the propane truck exploded against another vehicle and
concrete. We picked a time of day for the event, and
worked out, from there, which personnel would likely be
on-site and thus killed or injured. Whole departments
were told that they were dead and could not work. Other
groups had to pick up their functions, if deemed necessary,
and carry on.

Ericsson already had a lot of information and functions
on mainframes that were mirrored around the world, so
that lessened our requirements for "leasing" serverspace
at our alternate locations.

Even the HR department had important duties. Initially,
there was the task of identifying the living and the
dead, having contact info available for personnel, as
well as next-of-kin info where necessary. In the longer
term, they were tasked with making grief counselling
and other psych services available to staff who remained,
so that they could carry on effectively.

Based on our talk-throughs and the big walk-through, we
adjusted the draft plan at several levels. The last of
that finished in mid-late 1997. Some of you may recall
Ice-Storm '98 (tm) that devastated a big chunk of Quebec,
Eastern Ontario and parts of northeastern States.

The Biz-Cont Plan was put to the test only a few months
after it was signed off. It immediately revealed a number
of flaws, including the fact that we hadn't thought to
anticipate a slow-motion disaster. The ice storm started
on a weekend, but we didn't finally declare disaster until
the following Thursday, by which time it had become
impossible to ship key personnel out to Toronto, Richardson,
and other buddy sites. Airports were closed. Trains were
shut down. Bus lines were not running. Many roads were
closed. We actually managed to sneak a few people out
to the US using 4x4 vehicles, but we should have recognized
the seriousness of the situation and made the call about
four days earlier.

At the time, hundreds of our own personnel and their
families were living at the office because we had a
generator system, heat, running water (even showers!).
There were cots all over the place, whole families
and multiple familes living in conference rooms, for many
many days after the weather cleared (and the temperatures
plummeted...), because there was no power or phone service
to their homes (and thus no heat in most cases... electric
heating is big in Quebec). No heat or power meant no water
as pipes froze or wells were inaccessible.

After it all cleared up, we adjusted the Biz-Cont Plan
yet again, to put more emphasis on the criteria for
actually declaring a disaster. We had to take into
account the kind of incremental disaster that sorta
sneaks up on you while you cope with incremental aspects
that keep you from seeing the forest for the trees.
We also thought that that revised emphasis would be
important in a health/epidemic scenario, where everybody
wouldn't sicken and/or die at once (unless, as we remarked,
we all got e-coli at the company picnic...), but the
numbers of the incapacitated would ramp up over days or

We wrote in some more triggering criteria that would get
the disaster/Biz-Cont plan launched, and we filled in a
lot of other holes that we'd discovered. Still, we were
very glad to have the overall plan in place. It really
helped to focus minds and to ease decisions at every
step, and to get people back on track when they were
frazzled and exhausted.

Kevin (in Ottawa and away from Montreal and Ericsson more
than six years now)


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