Why your Thai business needs a disaster recovery plan

disaster recovery plan

Image courtesy of Sukree Sukplang / Reuters

There seems to be an increase in natural disasters in the world lately, and every business needs a disaster recovery plan. This may be correct or it may just be a result of faster and wider spread communications. It could be due to global warming. What is true is that the belief is that natural disasters are increasing, and what is certain is that the cost of natural disasters is going up, with aid agencies and donors (some governments and some private) bearing the cost of responding.

The emergency response is normally very effective. Less lives lost, and less injuries has been the result. Christchurch 2011 was an example of a response resulting in fewer deaths and long term injuries than would previously been expected. There are still many events that occur in remote and unprepared countries, and despite best efforts many more die than should. The SEAsian Tsunami of 2004 and the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 are examples.

Emergency Response is the term experts use for the period immediately following the event. The aim is to minimize damage, and aid the injured. Many groups are involved in these activities such as Fire Departments, Ambulance Services, and Police. In some cases governments use the Military, or divert services from other locations. In large events international assistance may be called in, and groups such as the Red Cross or other NGO’s may become involved. The focus is on ER.

Once ER is complete, we enter a period that can be called the Contingency Plan or Plan B stage. This is where those that have been affected attempt to continue life using an alternative method or system, and using alternative assets and resources. Simple examples are where people live out of tents or emergency shelters (Hurricane Katrina and Christchurch 2011). Electricity may be available. Water is delivered by bottle rather than pipelines. Food and Medical services are provided without payment for a period of time. Affected companies divert their operations to other locations. Customers purchase products shipped in from other areas (and from alternative suppliers).

It is undesirable for this period to operate for a long time, and can be very inefficient (imagine the cost of running generators). Plan B needs to become the new normal, or some restoration of the damaged assets is required. This is known as the Recovery period. Houses are rebuilt. Utilities services are restored. Companies move back into renovated factories. Schools are reopened.

The recovery process is often inadequate and targeted at the wrong activities, despite the best efforts. ER is rapidly improving. The provision of Plan B systems and resources are adequate in all but the most extreme cases. Unfortunately, the Recovery Process is often the most difficult but least resourced.

ER Providers, by their charters, focus on the individuals and sometimes the infrastructure. Across the board, they do very little to assist companies that are affected. They focus on providing food, clothing, shelter and health care during ER, and then on the same areas (less health care) during Plan B period. The Recovery period then focusses only on government or individual needs. Your Thai business needs a disaster recovery plan if you hope to make it through the crisis.

In 2011 in Thailand, massive flooding occurred. Some 14000 factories were flooded at the same time by up to 3 metres of water which remained for long periods. Houses, schools and community facilities were also damaged. It was the later areas on which the Governments and Aid Agencies focused during the Plan B and Recovery periods.

It was thought that factories would have insurance and plans in place to deal with such events. In the next article we will explore why this is not the case, and what should be done to improve this situation.