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Several hundred protestors took over Commerical Drive in Vancouver in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 16th, 2010. The protestors held a large block party to demonstrate against a proposal by a group called The Friends of Grandview Park, comprised of local homeowners and businesses to redevelop Grandview Park.

Simon Hayter/HAYTER 2010

Fire, flood, power failure, computer crash, theft, pandemic, terrorism — the list of disasters that can strike your small business is long and frightening.

While having a disaster recovery plan is a must, how you implement it can mean the difference between a minor hiccup in operations and a major failure that could be permanent.

Here are some tips on implementing a disaster recovery plan:

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Establish a disaster recovery team

You should have a team of people identified and trained to execute the plan if disaster strikes. If one person in your organization has the primary responsibility for implementation, make sure he or she has a backup and that the primary and backup individuals are never away or on vacation at the same time.

Communicate with your staff

Effective implementation of your plan will occur only if everyone knows what to do in the event of a disaster. Document your disaster recovery procedures in your office manual, share them with staff and back them up in a secure location off-site. You should also have some way of communicating with staff members if disaster strikes outside of regular business hours.

Test the plan in advance

Small businesses should be pro-active in testing their disaster recovery plans on a regular basis. It is a good idea to make sure the plan works in practice, as well as in theory. A crucial part of implementation is testing the plan in various worst-case scenarios. Test the process, the people and the infrastructure involved.

Update the plan regularly

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New threats, such as computer viruses and spyware, are created every day. Some organizations spend time and money developing a disaster recovery plan that fails on implementation because they neglected to maintain their recovery capability. New disasters can occur and regular updates to procedures are key to effective implementation.

Decide what parts of your plan to implement first

If disaster strikes, first secure your financial records, inventory and customer lists if they have been lost or compromised. With this information, your company can still continue to operate, even if it may still be significantly compromised. Then determine how long it will take you to get back on track and identify what information or resources have been lost. Other implementation priorities include letting staff, clients and suppliers know what has happened and what you are doing about it – the most important thing is letting everyone know that the business is still operating. Get the expert help you need to fix the most urgent problems.

Survive

Your goal is to implement a plan that will ensure continuity and allow your business to run seamlessly while going through the restoration process. A well-implemented plan will help you recover quickly and effectively from an unforeseen disaster and emergency, avoiding significant business interruption and loss.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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Marc Belaiche is the president of TorontoJobs.ca in Mississauga, Ont. This article is courtesy of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario.

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