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Study: Most Companies Unprepared for Disasters

By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 2006-12-05 Print this article Print

According to the World Health Organization, the number of cases of avian flu has nearly tripled since 2005, and with the flu season's peak edging closer, many organizations are playing the "what if" game this time of year.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of cases of avian flu have nearly tripled since 2005 and with February's flu season peak edging closer, many organizations are playing the "what if" game this time of year. Yet a new survey finds that most organizations have few contingency plans in the event that large numbers of their employees cannot come to work.

The vast majority of senior IT and business professionals at large U.S. companies felt their companies were insufficiently prepared for a disaster, according to a study published by Forsythe technology, a Skokie, Ill.-based technology and infrastructure solutions provider. Only 12 percent felt that their companies were adequately prepared to handle a major health crisis such as the Avian flu. Fifty-eight percent said their organizations were not, and nearly one-fifth (19 percent) said they were unsure.

A large number of organizations had done little to upgrade their IT infrastructure for the event of an emergency. While 60 percent of responding professionals said that their organization had upgraded its infrastructure technology to support employee telecommuting and/or remote customer access in the even of a disaster or crisis, 18 percent said they were only in the process of doing so and 22 percent were either unsure or had not.

Only 9 percent of respondents said that their IT budgets had been increased in preparation for the potential of a crisis, with 86 percent responding that they were not sure, hadn't or were currently evaluating it.

The majority of organizations said they comprehended the plausibility of a major emergency disrupting their day-to-day functioning, with 79 percent of respondents saying that there was some likelihood that a disaster or crisis would interrupt their business workflow over the next two years.

Click here to read more about IT pros' preparations for a possible pandemic.

Yet, most disaster plans did not reach beyond IT and business process recovery. Allotting for multiple responses, 94 percent indicated that their disaster recovery plans included IT system continuity and recovery, 55 percent indicated business process continuity and recovery, and 42 percent indicated employee work relocation.

Many companies seemed unprepared to instruct employees in the event of a crisis. Sixty percent said that in the event of a health crisis, they would encourage employees to work from either home or another remote location. Thirty-five percent said they'd require phone and video conference usage, 30 percent said they'd close office locations, 29 percent said they'd screen visitors before allowing them to enter the office, and 21 percent said they'd enforce a quarantine for symptomatic employees and visitors.

Despite the lack of overall planning, companies had a grasp on the bare minimum of workers they'd need in-house to function. In order to maintain adequate business operations, 40 percent responded that they would need at least 50 percent of their employees in the present in their primary workplace, and 21 percent said they would need at least 10 percent.

Thirty percent of responding managers said that they were prepared to deploy 50 or more percent of their employees remotely in the event of a disaster, 11 percent said they could deploy 25 to 50 percent of their workers, and 30 percent said they could deploy less than one-quarter.

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