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Disaster Planning - Some thoughts and a checklist

​'It'll never happen to us' is something I often hear said by managers of voluntary sector organisations when I mention disaster recovery procedures and business continuity policies.


Services For Independent Living

Services For Independent Living (Photo: SIL)

Fortunately most will have adequate buildings & contents insurance so their computers will be covered and the buildings can be repaired, but what about data and personal records? Worryingly I meet organisations who don't back up personnel information or keep offsite secure copies of files and who would have no way of accessing client or service user records should they need to restart their service elsewhere.

Back in the summer I set off early, (and got back late due to an incident where there was no Crew for the train at Crewe!) to visit Services for Independent Living in Leominster, one of the 25 organisations we are working with on the Lasa Connecting Care project. SIL work in partnership with local health services and local authorities to provide services that enable disabled and older people to live independent lives in their own homes within their own community.

Services for Independent Living see data security and well planned business contingency as central to their service delivery. They treat with equal respect both the people they are supporting to live independently and that person's information and electronic personal data. SIL have invested in a comprehensive IT support contract that will ensure their services would be up and running again on a replacement server in days not weeks or months. They have also been proactive in considering the many scenarios for continuing their operations should the building be inaccessible, staff be unavailable or any other emergency situation arise. This information is well documented and very importantly is well tested too.

It was a pleasure to meet SIL staff and i'd really like to see more social care organisations thinking like this.

In reality i've met organisations that 

  • back up data to USB memory sticks and then leave them sticking out of their computer or lying around on a desk,
  • don't even back up any data at all,
  • have never tested if data backed up to a tape or disk can actually be restored,
  • admit if their was a major disaster such as a fire or flood which resulted in loss of their computers, that they would simply have to close down! 

There is a Business Continuity & Disaster Checklist (125KB - PDF) that we use which may be helpful to start conversations in organisations. It offers prompts to some of the things that managers and trustees should consider when thinking about their plans for business continuity and provides space to record thoughts and actions. Lasa have also written an 'ICT Security Guide and Checklist' which can be downloaded from the 'ICT Guides and Toolkits' section of the website.

I'd want to be reassured by any organisation providing care and support for my loved one that they have a disaster recovery plan in place and that their data security procedures were robust and responsible. Wouldn't you?

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