Recently, I was asked to sit in on a meeting – not participate mind you – and listen to some discussions that were going on regarding a project. The discussions revolved around requirements and were pretty intense and detailed at time. The point is, there was a question asked about Disaster Planning and Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and if they had to include anything in their scope. My ears perked up on this one…and yet, I had to keep quite.
The question asked by one of the attendees was this, “What’s the difference between a disaster and a crisis?” Of course, I wanted to answer this but a quick look and grin from the individual that asked me to attend, told me not to interrupt because she knew I was chomping at the bit to jump into the fray.
What I found interesting was the explanation given by one of the meeting participants, who I found later, had no involvement in Disaster Recovery (DR), Business Continuity Management (BCM) or Emergency Response Management (ERM) for that matter. They weren’t even up to speed on technology; he was a business analyst (BA). But his description was something I thought I’d pass along to others because it really got the message across to people in the room; something many of us have stumbled over in the past when trying to explain our industry terminology to ‘outsiders.’ I’ve paraphrased all the comments by the meeting participants into two descriptions below. Before I forget, I’m not stating one way or another whether he was right or wrong, just conveying some information that might help others when communicating the differences or terms related to DR, BCM and ERM.
A Disaster Is…
- “An event that causes major problems for a company or community…”
- “A disaster is something that happens suddenly and you have to immediately respond to it…”
- “With a disaster you have impacts that are immediately apparent…”
- “…something major that stops us from working.”
- “…something that has gone beyond normal crisis management processes.”
- “Everyone is impacted and involved…”
A Crisis (Management) Is…
- “…is the management of the disaster or emergency situation…”
- “…a group of knowledgeable leaders (Note: “leader’ wasn’t defined) that make decisions to ensure activities start/complete when required…”
- “…a team that coordinates response activities…”
- “…the Single Point of Contact for questions and guidance as to what to do…”
- “Following documented plans and procedures to help respond to the situation…”
- “…managing the situation before it becomes a full-scale disaster.”
- “…not everyone needs to be involved with the management of a crisis.”
I thought it was rather interesting coming from someone not in the industry, especially knowing how much people get these terms (and others) confused. At least not one asked what the difference is between a contingency plan and a recovery plan.
The descriptions are rather simplified and effective. People understood after a minute or two what was being discussed and it helped get the meeting moving. With industry terminology, it can get very confusing because there are so many different variations on what both of these mean; even among industry experts, professionals and practitioners. Corporations that offer DR/BCM/ERM services also end up using their own terminology as well, so that adds to the confusion.
I thought this person didn’t too badly of a job of stating the difference. Of course, I wanted to state a few things but since he got his message across to a large group that had difficulty understanding between the terms.
By the way, when they were completed, they decided they didn’t need to include DR, BCM or ERM in their project (Hope that doesn’t become a jinx on their project…)
“Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility”
“Made Again Volume 1 – Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs”
by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3