Disaster recovery. Blades of green grass sprouting through cracks in grey concrete
Project management

Project management and disaster recovery

Psoda blog author avatar
20 February 2023

As we’ve seen in New Zealand in recent weeks, natural disasters can strike at any moment, and their impact can be devastating. Whether it’s fires, floods, earthquakes or severe storms, they can lead to the loss of life, damage to property and disruption of essential services.

Getting through an event like this is challenging, but organisations can make things go a bit more smoothly by having a disaster recovery plan in place. As a result of the cyclone and earthquake, I’ve been reviewing our own disaster plans and tweaking them where necessary.

One of the things that have stood out for me in all of this is that effective project management is critical to ensuring a smooth and effective disaster recovery process.

In the context of natural disasters, project management involves coordinating resources, personnel, and activities to ensure a timely and effective response.

Disaster management has 3 distinct phases: pre-disaster planning and mitigation, disaster response and disaster recovery. Each of the phases will be expanded upon below.

Pre-disaster planning and mitigation

This is where you scenario plan and come up with mitigation strategies to try and reduce risks as much as possible.

Some key steps that you need to take here are:

Create a Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan is a documented process that outlines the steps and procedures to be followed in the event of a natural disaster. The plan should include a risk assessment, business impact analysis, and a recovery strategy. It is important to involve key stakeholders, such as IT professionals, emergency response teams, and senior management, in developing the plan.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

It is essential to define the roles and responsibilities of team members involved in the disaster recovery process. This includes assigning a project manager to oversee the recovery process, identifying team members responsible for specific tasks, and defining clear lines of communication and reporting.

Identify Critical Business Functions

A key step in disaster recovery planning is identifying the critical business functions that must be restored quickly after a disaster. This includes identifying the systems, applications, and data that are essential to the organisation’s operations. Prioritising the recovery of critical business functions helps to minimise downtime and reduce the impact on revenue and operations.

Establish Communication Protocols

Effective communication is critical to the success of any disaster recovery project. This includes establishing communication protocols that allow team members to communicate effectively during the recovery process. It is important to identify multiple communication channels and establish backup systems in case primary communication channels are unavailable.

Test the Disaster Recovery Plan

Testing the disaster recovery plan is critical to ensure that it is effective and can be implemented in a timely manner. This involves conducting regular tests to identify any gaps or deficiencies in the plan and to ensure that all team members are familiar with their roles and responsibilities.

Disaster response

The worst has happened, and you need to respond. This is the time when an organisation or community responds to the immediate needs of those affected by the disaster.

It’s a critical phase that requires a coordinated effort from all stakeholders. It’s natural to want to panic here, but if you have a plan, use it!

Establish an Emergency Operations Centre

The first step in managing the response phase is establishing an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) or a Command Centre. The EOC is the nerve centre where all the stakeholders can gather and coordinate their efforts. The EOC is responsible for receiving, processing, and disseminating information to all stakeholders involved in the response phase.

Develop an Incident Action Plan (IAP).

The IAP is a plan that outlines the objectives, strategies, and tactics for managing the disaster. It is developed based on the information gathered by the EOC and other stakeholders involved in the response phase. The IAP is critical because it provides a clear direction for all stakeholders and helps ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal.

Activate the Plan

After developing the IAP, the next step is to activate it. This involves mobilising all the necessary resources and personnel to respond to the disaster. This may include deploying personnel, setting up temporary shelters, providing food and water, and establishing communication systems to keep all stakeholders informed of the situation.

Monitor Progress

Throughout the response phase, it is essential to monitor progress and make adjustments to the plan as necessary. This requires constant communication and collaboration among all stakeholders. It is also important to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all activities during the response phase. This information can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the response and to make improvements for future disaster response efforts.

Recovery Phase

The recovery phase of a disaster is just as crucial as the response phase. It involves the restoration of affected areas and the resumption of normal operations. Effective project management is essential during the recovery phase to ensure a timely and efficient recovery process. Depending on the type of disaster, this phase could be anything from a few hours to a few years.

Assess the Damage

Before beginning the recovery process, it is essential to assess the damage caused by the natural disaster. This involves conducting a thorough evaluation of the affected area to determine the extent of the damage and identify areas that require immediate, medium and long-term attention.

Prioritise Recovery Efforts

After assessing the damage, it is important to prioritise recovery efforts based on the criticality of the affected areas. This includes identifying critical infrastructure and key facilities that need to be restored first to minimise the impact on operations.

Develop a Recovery Plan

A recovery plan should outline the steps and procedures to be followed during the recovery process. The plan should identify the resources required, the roles and responsibilities of team members, and the timeline for the recovery process. It is important to involve key stakeholders in the development of the plan to ensure that all critical aspects are considered.

Manage Resources

Effective resource management is critical during the recovery phase. This includes managing personnel, equipment, and supplies to ensure that they are allocated efficiently and effectively. It is essential to ensure that resources are available when needed and that they are used optimally to minimise the recovery time. Keep in mind that external resources are likely to be in high demand. just because something is a high priority for you, it may not be a high priority for other people.

Monitor Progress

To ensure the execution of the recovery plan goes as planned, it is essential to regularly monitor the recovery process. This involves tracking progress against the recovery plan, identifying any issues or delays, and taking corrective action as needed.

Good project management is essential for disaster recovery, both in planning and for managing the response when the inevitable happens.

Organisations can ensure a timely and efficient recovery process by:

  • assessing the damage
  • prioritising recovery efforts
  • developing a recovery plan
  • managing resources
  • monitoring progress

One last thing. It’s vitally important that the people that are involved with the disaster response and recovery are well supported. It is an extremely traumatic thing to go through, and it’s often something that is overlooked.

If you’d like more information on how Psoda can help you manage your projects sign up for a demo or free trial.

Rhona Aylward avatar
Written by Rhona Aylward
Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

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