Building a Disaster Recovery Team
Emergency Management Mar 28, 2024

Building a Disaster Recovery Team

When the dust settles after an emergency, the work starts for your disaster recovery team. This specialized team will navigate your business back to normal—all it takes are the right plans and people in place.

Emergency Response Plan Template
Use this template to build a comprehensive emergency response plan to keep your employees safe.

Navigating a disaster, whether it’s a cyberattack or a tornado, takes planning, precision, and a trained team of responders. But what happens after that? How will your business return to normal operations once the immediate danger has passed?

Dr. Steve Goldman, Director of Advanced Business Resiliency at MIT, spoke on The Employee Safety Podcast about how disaster recovery planning and training is critical to an effective recovery. “We did a drill with one company where a data center went down. And the response team did a good job. They set up the backup data center and recovered within the recovery time objective.”

But Dr. Goldman explained that when the company had actual users log in, they couldn’t access the data drive. Nobody told the recovery team to recover the data as well as the systems. “Technically, they did the job they were assigned. They got the apps back, but they did not bring the data back. So, what was the point? This is why you do drills. This is why you do exercises. These are the major pitfalls of not digging deep enough and looking at the ramifications of what happens when a failure occurs.”

An emergency isn’t over when the alarm stops ringing. The disruptions caused by a disaster can have lingering effects and require days, weeks, or even months to recover from. But with a robust disaster recovery team, your organization will be equipped to navigate the complexities of recovery from any emergency, even as today’s threat landscape creates a growing potential for dangerous disturbance.

What Is a Disaster Recovery Team and What Do They Do?

A disaster recovery team is a group within an organization that develops and implements plans for the recovery of the business after an emergency or disaster. This team is responsible for assessing risks, identifying critical business functions, and establishing procedures for responding to and recovering from various types of emergencies, such as extreme weather, natural disasters, cyberattacks, infrastructure failures, or any other events that could disrupt business operations. The disaster recovery team also plays a crucial role in business continuity planning and often works with business continuity and crisis management teams.

Use this template to build a comprehensive emergency response plan.
“Today, we want disaster recovery, business continuity, and crisis management that’s all seamless. It needs to be one voice and be able to communicate.”
Southern Glazer's Logo
John Liuzzi National Director, Business Continuity at Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits

Disaster recovery team responsibilities

The disaster recovery team works as the strike force before and after a disaster event to mitigate any impact on the organization, ensuring critical services can be maintained or rapidly restored. Their responsibilities include:

  • Creating and implementing disaster recovery plans to mitigate the impact of the disaster
  • Conducting risk assessments to identify threats to the organization as a whole and the recovery efforts themselves
  • Performing regular drills and tabletop exercises to train the team and other staff members as needed
  • Managing communication following a disaster with internal staff and external stakeholders
  • Allocating resources, both human and material, to address immediate needs and support ongoing operations
  • Coordinating with key stakeholders, vendors, and service providers, as well as other emergency response and continuity teams
  • Continuously evaluating the situation, identifying evolving threats or challenges, and adapting strategies accordingly
  • Setting recovery point objectives and determining which recovery strategy will be most effective
  • Monitoring progress toward recovery goals, identifying bottlenecks, and implementing corrective measures

Tips for your disaster recovery plan

The key to your disaster recovery team’s success is a thorough disaster recovery plan. Whether you are building your plan from the ground up or using a template, here are three tips to help you out:

  1. Conduct a business impact analysis: You’ll want to understand which business functions are critical to your organization’s survival. A business impact analysis helps prioritize these functions and the resources required to support them during a disaster.
  2. Ensure legal and regulatory compliance: There are often legal requirements around disaster recovery plans, so check that yours complies with all relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. This is particularly important for data protection and privacy.
  3. Document everything: Keep detailed records of the plan, including contact lists, procedures, and locations of backups. Keep this documentation easily accessible to all team members, even if your primary facility is compromised.

Who Should Be Included in Your Disaster Recovery Team?

A well-structured disaster recovery (DR) team is essential for effective emergency response and business continuity. Who you include on your team will vary based on the size and needs of your business, but you will generally want to include representatives from a wide range of departments to ensure a comprehensive approach to recovery. Here are some of the key roles you may establish:

  • Recovery Team Leader: Oversees the disaster recovery efforts, makes strategic decisions, and ensures the team works cohesively. This person is typically a senior-level manager with the authority to make critical decisions rapidly.
  • IT Coordinator: Restores IT operations after an emergency, secures data protection, and manages the technical aspects of the recovery. They ensure IT systems, networks, and critical data are protected and quickly back to normal.
  • Communications Coordinator: Handles all internal and external communication, ensuring employees, stakeholders, and the public are informed. This role is crucial for maintaining trust and clarity in the wake of a disaster.
  • HR Representative: Manages aspects related to staffing and employee well-being, including coordinating remote work if necessary and addressing any personnel concerns that arise.
  • Facilities Coordinator: Assesses and manages any physical damage to the workplace, coordinating repairs and ensuring the safety of the premises for the return to work.
  • Finance and Legal Advisors: Handle financial implications, insurance claims, and legal considerations arising from the disaster. They also moderate compliance with regulations during the recovery process.
  • Operations/Business Continuity Coordinator: Ensures critical business operations continue with minimal disruption and oversees the adjustment of operational procedures as needed during the recovery phase.

While they are not part of your core disaster recovery team organizational chart, business continuity experts and crisis management coordinators are critical partners in the initiatives involved in every part of disaster recovery. Having a diverse set of skilled disaster recovery team members from across the organization will streamline decision-making and optimize the recovery procedures so you can be back to normal faster.

Best Practices for Building an Effective Disaster Recovery Team

With a robust disaster recovery team, your organization will be prepared to navigate many different types of disasters and return to normal operations quickly. Here are some best practices you can follow that will help you build your team and set it up for success.

Risk assessment and planning

To build a team that can manage the recovery needs of your organization, you need to understand those needs. Conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities specific to your organization. This will let you know exactly who should be on your team, and it will help those team members develop tailored disaster recovery plans for relevant scenarios. For example, you should know if your business has IT infrastructure vulnerabilities that elevate the risk of data loss in the event of a cyberattack or if your business has a high chance of disruption due to a power outage.

Regular reviews and updates

Like all other risk management frameworks, the disaster recovery process should never be static. Periodically review and update your disaster recovery plan to reflect evolving risks, organizational changes, new business needs, and lessons learned from past incidents. For example, the healthcare industry has seen a rise in ransomware attacks in the last few years. A disaster recovery team for a hospital would work closely with their IT department to ensure that the IT disaster recovery plan was up to date and prepared to handle data recovery in the case of a cybersecurity disaster.

Cross-functional collaboration

The disaster recovery team cannot do its job without maintaining connectivity with other departments. Fostering a culture of collaboration and information-sharing across departments encourages active participation and input from all stakeholders. For example, when your DR team can reference a business impact analysis the business continuity team created, the DR team will be able to create a better disaster recovery plan because they understand the full scope of the event’s impact.

Empowerment and autonomy

Emergency situations change and shift rapidly, and your disaster recovery team needs to be able to adapt just as quickly without having to work through overcomplicated approval processes and red tape. Empower your team members with the authority and autonomy to make critical decisions in real time. This can be achieved by picking the right team members and through extensive training and tabletop exercises to prepare your team for the shifting nature of disaster recovery.

A Team You Can Rely on During and After a Disaster

Building a robust disaster recovery team has become not just a precaution but also a critical component of strategic planning for businesses aiming to safeguard their operations, data, and assets against any threat. By investing in the development, training, and empowerment of this vital team, organizations can enhance their overall business resilience and minimize disruptions, no matter what disaster comes next.

Emergency Response Plan Template

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