DR & BCM: The Universal Truths of Disasters

First of all, my apologies for not posting anything new in the last couple of weeks; it’s been very busy.  Last week the 3rd book was sent to the publisher’s and that took up most of my time.  At least I can now get back to some blog/article writing, which I didn’t have time to do before.  Enjoy…


There are many standards out there that can help corporations build their Business Continuity Management (BCM) programs.
There are many organizations and service providers in existence that can help corporations develop their programs.  There are also many trainers, consultants, contractors, applications and methodologies that can be of use to organizations.

After reading Buddhist texts on the 4 Noble Truths, I recently came to the conclusion that there are 4 Universal Truths when it comes to the BCM disciplines (and disaster planning).  This includes communications, emergency response, disaster planning, disaster recovery, business continuity and any other moniker you wish to add to the list.  No matter where you look these 4 truths hold true for all BCM/DR/ERM disciplines;

1 – 1st Truth: Disasters Happen

2 – 2nd Truth: There is a Cause for Every Disaster

3 – 3rd Truth: A Disaster Does Not Automatically Equate to Suffering

4 – 4th Truth: You Can Prepare for a Disaster

For every discipline, these 4 universal truths hold true.  It holds true in our personal lives and our professional lives.  It holds true for our homes and our offices.  It holds true for small businesses and it holds true for large – or small – corporations.

1st Universal Truth: Disasters Happen

There is no escaping the fact that disasters are out there; they happen.  They will happen all the time.  Sometimes you – or a corporation – is impacted and sometimes it isn’t.  You can be in the middle of a disaster struggling to keep afloat (figuratively, though literally can also be true) or on the sidelines watching a disaster or crisis situation unfold thousands of miles away with no impact you or your organization.

The fact remains, that disasters happen and will continue to happen.  They will happen everywhere around the world and in every industry.  They will be in every foreseeable and unforeseeable format such as natural disasters and man-made disasters, both intentional and unintentional.

A person or a corporation can deny their involvement in a disaster or that they have experienced any sort of disaster but that feeling or misguided belief won’t – and hasn’t – stopped disasters of all sort, from occurring.   If the right conditions – which are usually the wrong conditions – are in place, a disaster is waiting in the wings to suddenly occur.
Even those incidents where corporations have early warning signs are still disasters and can’t be predicted.  You know its coming – or building – but you can only do so much.  When it strikes, it strikes in its own way with its own conditions.  Have you ever heard of a disaster that goes the way you want it too?  I can tell you that when I peel and onion, I know there will be layers upon layers to unfold but I can’t tell you how many; that is an unknown.  I can tell you that a disaster will occur and you will be impacted but I can’t tell you how badly, when it will occur or what the repercussions are going to be.

It’s the fact that disasters will occur.  What’s not known is if you or your organization will be impacted and if you’re prepared for when it occurs.

2nd Universal Truth: Every Disaster Has Cause and Effect

Disasters don’t happen on their own, they all have triggers that set them off; conditions if you will, that lead to the final big bang (‘the disaster’).  What might start off as a small glitch with a server can impact and bring down the core service of a corporation.  Wouldn’t that one little server be considered a major disaster?  I bet it would.

Sure, you can argue that a sudden flood came without warning but did it really just happen on its own?  Were there no reports
of heavy rain storms ahead of time?  In winter or spring, were there no early warm days that caused the snow and ice to melt that would run down river/stream?  Did the people downriver not realize that there is more water, snow and ice up river too and that in winter, spring, summer and fall, all that water and ice head downstream.  Is it really a surprise when the flood occurs?  It shouldn’t, the signs were there but often, no one pays them any heed.   For the record, I’m well aware of ‘flash floods’ and again I point out that there were no doubt reports of coming storms and rains; they don’t just suddenly appear out of thin air.

There are even times when we create and set up our own disasters.  How many times have you heard that people or corporations will delay a process or delivery of a product so that it can benefit from something?  Or a corporation hoping that if they don’t respond to an issue – they keep it quite – it will miraculously disappear?  This is so rarely the case?  And I’m sure these things happen more often that what we might be aware of.

Earthquakes are a disaster but there are actions that occur before it actually strikes.  Magma rolls about under the tectonic
plates, which when moved enough, causes an earthquake (Yes, that’s the very layman’s way of describing it).  Every disaster has a cause before it happens.   Electrical fires don’t just occur; they occur because of the installation of faulty wires or the bad maintenance of existing wires (worn and stripped over time).

If there was a disaster – the effect – then there has to be a cause, which leads to an impact on something.   Something being loosely described as the oceans, the environment, communities, corporations, operations and the general public.

3rd Universal Truth: A Disaster Does Not Automatically Equate to Suffering

No one and no corporation wantonly desires to feel the impacts of disasters.  I highly doubt that any corporate leader or general employee wants things to go wrong or wants a disaster to occur – in their personal or professional lives – that will cause harm to themselves or those they love.   However, if corporations are naive that a disaster will never harm them, they are delusional.  It’s almost like playing with fire; you’re going to get burned if you do.

So ignoring the fact that disaster happen – certainty #1 – a corporation must change its mindset and know accept that fact that if it hasn’t been affected yet by a disaster, it means that some level of crisis of disaster is out there waiting to pounce.  If so, a  corporation can begin to put measures, mitigation factors and strategies in place to deal with whatever comes it’s way.  It doesn’t have to suffer from a disaster when it strikes.  Granted, it will still suffer on some level, either through lost sales opportunities, lost customers, damaged facilities, reputation or even worse of all, lost employees, it can minimize the impacts these resulting factors have if it decides to do something about it.

There is not rule that says a corporation must suffer when a crisis or disaster strikes.  A corporation will suffer based on its responses to the crisis or disaster; or the lack there of.  Once this is understood and agreed-to by Senior Management / Executives, it can how begin to build a path that will provide it stability when encountering turbulent times; the path that is built leads to the  4th certainty.

4th Universal Truth: Every Corporation Has the Potential to Prepare

Developing a path to mitigate impacts caused by disasters and crises is building a resilient organization with a strong, validated Business Continuity Management (BCM) program.  There are many things that a corporation can do the get a strong BCM program;

    1. Risk Analysis / Assessments
    2. Ensure Proper project management processes (with the capability to turn it over to program manageent when the project comes to a close)
    3. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
    4. Developing Contingency Strategies (both IT and Business focused)
    5. Communication protocols (both internal to employees, board of directors and disaster teams and external to media, public authorities and the general public)
    6. Exercising and testing of developed strategies, ensuring that the size, scope, complexity and the manner of exercise increases over time (meaning, don’t just do table top walkthroughs…)
    7. Incorporating the BCM mindset into the corporate culture; make it a part of the organization rather than a painful department that comes around once a year and asks if there are any changes to a plan
    8. Etc…There are many more but you get the idea…

Ensuring that these processes are in place to develop a BCM program doesn’t automatically mean that a disaster or crisis won’t occur – it still will.  However, having the established program in place better serves the need to the corporation to enable timely restoration & recovery, customer confidence, supply chain disruptions and most importantly, the health, safety and well-being of employees (and the public, depending on the nature of the disaster and the nature of your organization).   It enables the corporation to have the ability to ‘survive’ a disaster and – at some point – come out the out side in decent shape.  I don’t’ think any company exits a disaster unscathed or without some level of impact; if they did exit a disaster with no impact, then they really didn’t have a disaster.

Every disaster a corporation can think of; anything that can impact its operations or any other component that in some way makes a connection to the corporation – no matter how large or small or distant – will hold true to The 4 Universal Truths of Disaster.

The truths hold factual for all kinds of disasters, including those that don’t even involve corporations or those that absolutely don’t touch an organization.  This is why I call them Universal Truths. 



 “Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility” and

“Made Again Volume 1 – Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs”

by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3

Available at www.stone-road.com, www.amazon.com & www.volumesdirect.com



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