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Disaster Recovery planning

May 4th, 2011 | Posted by revdisk in Uncategorized

Ok, let me start off by saying, I’m not a survivalist. I’m not even really a “prep’er” (preparedness, think survivalist lite). Closest I come is hiking and camping. I however have done a lot of Disaster Recovery and Contingency Planning work, primarily for IT and businesses. It’s entirely the business of mitigating risk to the needs and capacity of the customer. Disaster Recovery, whether for a business or for an individual, is pretty straight forward. It’s just like any other project. Figure out your specifications, and then go about meeting them within time/budget.

We’ll skip the business stuff and go for personal. If you’re a business that’d like DR consulting, feel free to drop me a line at revdisk@ this domain. The examples in this blog posting isn’t meant to be taken overly seriously and will be overstated for entertainment value.

Let’s start off with the specifications. Specifications can be anything, and are the core of any DR planning. You need to know what you want to do before you work toward it. Your specifications can be anything from “personally surviving as many bad things as possible”, “getting my family to crazy Uncle Carl’s fortified retreat in Oklahoma”, “minimizing financial damage from bad things” or “Saving my family”. You can have as many as you’d like, but the more you have the more work you’ll have to do. Keep it as simple as possible, and spend a fair amount of time thinking about your real priorities.

Draw up any significant concerns you have that may impact your specifications.

Growing up within half a mile of TMI, possible nuclear disaster wasn’t an idle thought. There were plenty of other localized concerns. Within fifty miles were chemical plants, ethanol plant, plenty of old bridges, natural gas plants, etc. Spend some time going over what your pressing concerns actually are. “zOMG zombie apocalypse”, “Martians invading the US” or “Russian/Cuban soldiers dropping out of the sky” should not be on it. If they are, you need lithium or at least a long vacation more than you need planning.

It should start off with the most realistic options. For me, it’s snow storms. They occur virtually every year and being shut in for a couple days is very likely.

If you live on a fault line, sooner or later, you WILL have an earthquake of note. Same with a flood plain. If you’re on the coast, do a bit of research and figure out previous damage from storms. Go to the library and do some research. Don’t rank them by how theoretically bad they could be. Rank them intelligently, which means impact assessment * frequency at a minimum. You can factor in other things like financial concerns, social/family commitments or whatnot, up to you.

In this case, my example and Impact Analysis methodology. I ranked by impact multiplied by the likelihood of occurring. A snow storm is not likely to be lethal unless you are intentionally stupid or unprepared. So let’s give it a weight of 3 (on a scale of one to ten for impact). We multiple that weight by the likelihood of happening. Which would be rounded to 10 out of 10. So net weight of 30. Another nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island might have an impact of 10, but a likelihood of happening at 0.5 (that’s actually too high, but I’m using simple numbers for demonstration purposes), with a final weighting of 5.

So a snow storm should have six times the priority in preparation. If you’re doing one priority at a time, you just sort the list by the weight. If you’re working toward all of them on a schedule, you should allocate resources toward snow storm preparation at six times the rate of radiation from nuclear meltdown preparation.

So suppose I do my research, run my Impact Analysis and come up with a prioritized list of concerns:

1. Snow storm
2. House on fire
3. Earthquake
4. Wildfire
5. Flood
6. Nuclear disaster
7. Other – Significant, Non-Local
8. Other – Localized

You can break them out discretely in as granular manner as you would like. More granular, more works. You can create subsets for variations, but you only want to do that on your revisions and not on your first project.

Obviously, the last two categories are basically anything else not covered on the list. But basically vague general contingency plans for anything that isn’t on your list. An “Other – Localized” could be anything from a very unlikely accident like a train wreck to a meteor strike. Anything where somewhere else is safer than right here, and it’s contained to a specific geographic area.

“Other – Significant, Non-Local” is your “it’s bad everywhere, and there’s no point in going somewhere else” category.

“Other – Insignificant, Non-Local” means it’s not in your neighborhood and it’s not likely to effect you. You can leave it on, or toss it. But it does sometimes pop up. This category would cover dealing with the secondary effects from someone else’s problems. Katrina refugees would be an example.

Ok, you have your list of priorities. Develop a plan for dealing with each. You want to make your plan as modular as possible. “Stocking extra food in plastic, water resistant containers” would assist in all categories except “House on Fire”. Actually think through the scenario. Walk it out or simulate it as closely as possible.

If your house burned to the ground, what would you actually need? You may have under a minute to get out. An AR15 and a pallet of MREs would be near useless, but copies of your insurance paperwork, birth certificates, medical records, asset documentation, and contact information for friends, relatives, business would be worth their weight in gold. Immediately after a major earthquake, the situation may be reversed.

Start on the highest priorities, and work your way through the list. Make records of your current state, and the state you want to be in when you’re finished. I like a Green-Yellow-Red coded spreadsheet. Gives you a sense of accomplishment as the red and yellow starts to disappear, and more green fills the screen.

So an example:

Plans
1. Snow storm
2. House on fire
3. Earthquake
4. Wildfire
5. Flood
6. Nuclear disaster
7. Other – Significant, Non-Local
8. Other – Localized

Item Plan(s) Status Notes
Extra batteries 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 GREEN
Pallet of MREs 1,3,5,6 RED Swap out on 01/15
Essential Paper Docs 2-6 YELLOW Need X, Y and Z
Digital copies 2-6 RED Encrypt on multiple thumb drives
Waterproof boxes 5 GREEN

Allocate resources in accordance with a schedule, and in direct proportions to your weighted priority list. Leave a margin for targets of opportunity. Once you’re done, draw up a maintenance/inventory schedule. Revisit your Impact Analysis on a set duration (annual, usually).

If you’re working without an overall plan, you’re probably wasting money, time and reducing effectiveness. Go with the right methodology, and you’re more likely to be successful than winging it. The above general “philosophy” is stone cold, tested and true, core disaster recovery management. You can use whatever format you’d like or fits your needs.

 

Some potentially useful templates:

DR Inventory Template

DR Impact Analysis Template

Planning Guide Template

 

 

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