Tag Archives: disaster planning

Mechanical Contractors Advice on Documenting Disaster Procedures

documenting-disaster-procedures“Expect the worst, hope for the best” is not a plan for dealing with disasters. In the event of a calamity, it’s essential to know the best practices for protecting your business, no matter where you are or what industry you’re in. It’s also critical that you have a written, well-documented disaster plan.

Disaster Planning and Mechanical Contracting

While it’s impossible to fully plan for the unplanned, there are some steps you can do in advance that will help you recover from a disaster faster. One is to vet a mechanical contracting firm, like TMS, in advance so that you just need to make a call when a crisis occurs. The other absolutely necessary step is to create a disaster recovery plan in writing, that’s easily readable with simple and detailed instructions. Here’s some of what it should include:

Accessible Information – When disaster strikes, time is of the essence so the plan document must contain a table of contents for fast reference and sections should be kept to a minimum. Key ownership or management contact details, revision history and other details such as the confidential status and audience for the document should also be included.

Purpose of the Plan – To avoid confusion when swift action is required, it’s imperative to state the purpose of the disaster recovery plan by clearly defining objectives in the document’s introduction.

Scope of Services – This section conveys the circumstances under which the plan is invoked, from conditions that warrant a reconstitution phase to the length of time the defined procedures are in effect. For example, a line that’s down for couple of hours may not require emergency action while a daylong outage would.

Dependency Details – Any assumptions of the document should be clearly stated by listing all dependencies of the plan. In other words, don’t assume a certain number of personnel will be available at the disaster recovery facility. Have backup people in mind too. Such dependencies should be accompanied with appropriate contact details.

Exclusions Explained – The document should state any related disaster activities that the plan does not cover by mentioning any known references. For example, the plan may not cover a power restoration plan, instead referring to the appropriate contacts at the power company or related external documents.

Roles and Responsibilities – In the case of emergencies, key mechanical services roles should have primary and alternate personnel assigned. In addition to providing an organizational diagram that depicts the reporting relationships, roles and responsibilities of those involved should be clearly listed for the activation, execution and reconstitution phases.

Contacts – The document’s appendix should include full contact information for the managerial and operational staff involved in the planning, activation, execution, and reconstitution phases. This should include external contacts like your mechanical contractor.

Activation Procedures – The procedures for notification, damage assessment, and activation of the plan should be clearly outlined, while any topic that needs to be covered in great detail may be added as an appendix.

Execution Procedures – To offer the best possible outcome, the recovery procedure for each of the plan’s components should be explained in detail. Whenever there are parallel tasks, it’s beneficial to provide flow charts to visualize each one. The evaluation criteria to determine the success and failure of each procedure should be covered as well as instructions on further actions.

Avoid Disasters with Mechanical Services Disaster Planning

The future comes with highs and lows. To make sure your business can weather the worst situation, contact a mechanical services company with disaster recovery experience. TMS has the know-how to plan for unforeseen problems which will get you back running during a calamity and give you peace of mind the rest of the time. To learn more, contact TMS.

When Disaster Strikes: Best Practices for Protecting Your Business

disaster-protectionSummertime means a lot of things to a lot of people. Vacations, cookouts, outdoor activities … but in our world of mechanical services, one thing must be top of mind: disaster preparedness. A sudden, severe storm or other calamity can easily shut down a business site, impacting staffers and clients alike. Once a year, consider it a best practice to review and implement a disaster plan to prepare for the worst. Below are some considerations to get you started.

Take Stock of Your Company

In order of importance, make a list of all critical company assets. Ask yourself or your team leaders, “What equipment and/or systems are essential to keep the business up and running?” In the event of a power loss, you need to understand the full impact this will have on your computer systems, equipment for transporting hazardous materials, communications operations, etc.  All critical systems will need to be powered as soon as possible, so you’ll need to have quick access to backup generators or else the option of an alternate site. If certain materials on site require heating or refrigeration and power is not available, you’ll also need to have an option for immediate transport.

Be sure to develop a timeline in the event production processes are halted. Determine at what point you will need to bring in outside resources and vendors in order to avoid loss of product. Perhaps your company has a facility nearby that can assist, but you’ll need to coordinate your plan with those team leaders now.

Backup Teams, Plans, and Systems for Disaster Planning

Maintain an updated list of all key personnel, their roles, and their contact information. In an emergency, the last thing you want is to waste precious time trying to track down your support crew. Off-site computer backups are strongly recommended, too, for protection in the event that your building is hit.

One other item you’ll want to consider is business interruption insurance. After a disaster, it could be some time before your systems and personnel are up and running again, which equates to lost revenue at a time when you simply can’t afford it. Pre-planning now can prove to be just the financial buffer you’ll need down the road.

Of course, in conjunction with this, you’ll need to make certain all of your insurance documentation is up to date to avoid any issues when and if you need it.

When Disaster Strikes Others

You might have a solid plan within your own building, but are you prepared when disaster strikes one of your facilities in another state or country? What if one of your suppliers is affected? If you rely on incoming products to keep your business moving, an outside work stoppage could mean a shutdown for you as well.

For example, one of our Midwest clients relies on a supplier located in Tennessee, where severe weather is common. A tornado shut down the supplier’s factory for a time and huge railcar shipments of soda ash were stopped, in effect putting a big crimp on production for the Midwest company. Another supplier was eventually located and smaller units were used, but a backup vendor plan really would have been useful in this situation.

To summarize, the best time to take action is before you need to take action. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. And if something unplanned for does happen (it’s impossible to plan for everything, after all), simply contact TMS. Our team has the disaster recovery experience and know how to solve problems and get you back running again quickly.

When Disaster Strikes Nearby or Far Away

disaster-planningIf disaster strikes, how prepared is your business to weather the storm? You have probably written out a plan of action for use in the event of a crisis, and that’s a good thing. The problem arises when businesses feel secure in their plans, even though they haven’t revisited them to ensure their information is still relevant, up to date and accurate.

When was the last time you audited your disaster plan?

It’s not enough to make a plan and then tuck it away in your files to forget about until it’s needed. Businesses change. Assets change. Your disaster plan has to change with them, or you might be looking at significant losses in the event of a major disaster. At least once a year, it’s important to revisit your plan to determine if it’s still the best course of action.

How do you determine what the best course of action is? The answer may be different for every business, but most will have a few things in common. For one, it’s important for any business to determine what their most critical assets are. That is, if you are blindsided by a disaster, what assets do you need to take care of first to get back on track as quickly as possible? Or at the very least, which ones need to be protected to avoid the biggest losses? Even if you can’t immediately get running again, you can at least try to protect those assets which make running possible.

For instance, a client’s roof was ripped off by a tornado, and their plant lost power. Going into the disaster area, we knew they needed to move substance through their piping before it hardened into concrete. We fired up the generators and connected a small compressor to actuate the valves, to move this substance through. It wasn’t an easy process. But how much harder would things have been if nobody knew which assets to protect first? The substance would have hardened, and piping would have been destroyed. Things could have been a lot worse had there been no plan in place.

Pull out your plan, and make sure it’s updated with your most critical assets and with what processes would need to be taken care of first in the event of disaster.

Go a Little Deeper

Sometimes disaster strikes somewhere seemingly far away but with serious consequences for your own company. In today’s global economy, businesses are using suppliers and manufacturers from around the globe to provide the materials, products and labor they need to get things done. So what happens if there is a disaster which effects one of your suppliers?

This very thing happened to a client in the Midwest who was using a supplier in Tennessee. Their supplier’s factory was shut down after a tornado touched down. Our client was used to receiving a weekly rail car full of soda ash from the supplier, but while the factory was out of commission, there was no way for the materials to be sent. They needed a new supply. Fast. Soda ash could be purchased locally in super sacks, but it took many of those to equal a rail car. The company also had no backup method of feeding the materials into the factory. Eventually, we determined it was necessary to load a rail car with super sacks of the soda ash to keep their production lines going. Without a plan in place to acquire the necessary materials, things still got done, but they could have gone a lot smoother if there had been a clearer plan of action.

Have you even considered what your plan would be in the event of disaster somewhere outside of your general area? If you do business with anyone outside of your own geographic location, it’s time you did. It is not enough to develop a plan of action as a means to protect your business should an earthquake or tornado or other disaster strike in your own area. You need to determine what will happen if something happens to your suppliers, contractors or anyone that provides a product or service crucial to your business, even if they are operating on the other side of the globe.

Where else can you find a product or material? What is the most efficient way of getting a backup supply? Can the backup method provide all the materials you’ll need, or will you need multiple backup suppliers to meet production goals? Can you cut down production temporarily? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you audit your disaster plan.