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Survey Identifies Best Practices for Business Continuity and Crisis Communications

Over half of the respondents to a recent survey feel that their business continuity plan could not withstand wide-scale communications failures in the event of a large regional disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina.

But, the news is better for organizations that use an automated emergency notification system. Sixty-eight percent of the survey participants who use an emergency notification system said their organization could withstand wide-spread communications failures, while only 43 percent of those who do not use one thought they could recover effectively following a Katrina-like event.

Overall, fifty-two percent of the 669 business continuity planning (BCP) professionals who participated in the jointly conducted Strohl Systems and CPM-Global Assurance survey said they didn't think their plan would hold up in the event of communications failures, while 48 percent thought their plan would work despite those possible outages.

"Having stable communications is vital to the success of a business continuity plan," said Brian Turley, president of Strohl Systems. "After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, we all saw first-hand how recovery can be hampered by a lack of effective communications. Following each and every disaster, we always hear about that one means of communications that worked all the way through. After 9/11 it was Blackberries and after Katrina and the London subway bombings it was SMS text messaging. The key is to diversify your communications strategy. You can't just rely on one or two means of communications to get your message out. Today, you need five, six, seven or more ways to communicate."

Approximately 25 percent of the survey participants said they use an emergency notification system, 27 percent said they plan to explore purchasing one and 48 percent said they do not use an emergency notification system.

"Clearly, organizations who use an emergency notification system are much more confident in their ability to carry out their business continuity plan if they experience a regional disaster," said Turley.

The survey also revealed other interesting facts about how organizations view BCP and crisis communications post-Katrina. Some of the findings included:

  • 67 percent have reviewed their organization's BCP emergency notification procedures since Hurricane Katrina struck;
  • 84 percent of the BCP professionals said their organization has a planin place to contact employees prior to known disasters (hurricanes, winter storms, etc.);
  • Only 37 percent of the respondents indicated that they have reviewed their communication providers' business continuity plans. Of those who have, 60 percent thought their plan could withstand a regional communications outage. Of the 63 percent who haven't reviewed their communication vendors' plans, only 42 percent thought their plan would work in the event of a wide-scale outage; and
  • 54 percent of the respondents have tested their call tree in the last 6 months - 25 percent in the last month alone. Another 13 percent have tested their call tree some time in the past year, 8 percent last tested their call tree over 1 year ago and 25 percent have never tested their call tree.

"Organizations that take business continuity seriously, plan on a comprehensive basis," said Turley. "Effective business continuity planning programs plan for the possibility that communications may be sporadic at best. These organizations take the time to evaluate and purchase an emergency notification system, review their communications providers' business continuity plans and test their call trees."

The survey was conducted from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3 and included responses from all major industries sectors.

The full results of the survey can be found at

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