detech-disasterBy: R. Curtis Thompson, CPA.CITP, CISA

Last winter I wrote an article about my experiences with the big snow storm. My experience with disaster preparedness was similar to that of a business ‘disaster’ scenario. Summer is now here and I got to enact my personal disaster plan once again.

Over the last few weeks it seems Richmond has been hit with big storms and lots of power outages. Several weeks ago our office in Richmond was without power for several days. Luckily our building has generators and we never missed a thing. Last week another big storm rolled through and lightning took the power out at my house so I had to roll out the Thompson Household Disaster Plan.

I have a generator for my house. It is not an automatic whole-house generator but I can power most things in my house. We can power the living room, kitchen, and bedroom. We have power to the microwave, refrigerator, freezer, and the well. The heat pump is not powered though. So am I completely prepared? Do I need everything running in an emergency?

Like any business decision you have to look at all factors. Sure, it would be nice to have the generator come on automatically, run the A/C, and live like nothing is going on. But there is a cost to that. We lost power for about 4 or 5 hours. The power went out at 10PM so most of the time the power was out, I was asleep. Would I have seen a return on the investment in a whole-house generator?

This is why we talk about doing a Business Impact Analysis. You need to look at your business and see how long you can go in a disaster and what systems are critical to be restored. At our house, we need to have the well and a way to cook our dinner. Is A/C critical? If it the power had been out longer, it would. However, there is always alternatives. We have a portable A/C in the garage that we can move in the house and keep part of it to a reasonable temperature so while possibly critical, we have a backup plan for that. You need to look at alternatives as well. If you need to enter information in the computer system, could you do this manually while power is out? Make sure when you are planning you are willing to think ‘outside the box’ in ways to get through the emergency. After all, you are planning for an emergency and not a new way of doing business long-term.

As for my DRP, I realized that I need to make sure all the power cords I need are easy to find in the dark. I also need to make sure all the required systems are on the generator powered circuits. Luckily, I discovered the freezer was not on the generator in time to move the plug. These discoveries taught me that I need to test all systems thoroughly during our annual DR test and doing a recap of the events is always helpful in planning for future disasters.

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Throughout his time at YHB Curtis has provided IT audit and consulting to clients, even while holding the position of the firm’s IT director for several years. Now, as head of the YHB Risk Advisory Services Team, Curtis focuses on assisting organizations in a variety of industries with internal audits and IT-related audit and consulting services. Also, he frequently speaks and gives presentations on SOX compliance, internal controls, and data security.

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