Despite the widespread use and availability of social media tools, only one-fourth of businesses incorporated the use of these applications into their disaster recovery and business continuity plans, a new study has found.
When it reviewed 215 DR and BC plans, management-consulting firm Janco Associates determined that only 53 included social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as a means of dispersing information to employees and partners displaced because of a man-made or natural disaster, Janco CEO Victor Janulaitis said in a statement.
"Janco believes that DRPs and BCPs need to include blogs, video, Facebook, and Twitter to rapidly spread information during the recovery process from earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and civil unrest both here and abroad," he said.
Depending on the scope of the disaster -- a national horror such as September 11 or Hurricane Katrina -- the use of social media can ease some of the communication burden for government and businesses. Australian government agencies extensively used social media during the country's recent regional flooding. In the United Kingdom, the Resilient Nation project recommends that government set forth initiatives to leverage citizens' ready access to social networks.
"Local councils, emergency planning officers, and the emergency services should use social media like Twitter as part of their engagement strategies," the organization said in a statement. "Local authorities and the emergency services should develop live exercises and training for the public."
In the U.S., the Federal Emergency Management Agency in January announced it would use social media and smartphones to communicate with the public during disasters. "The public is putting out better situational awareness than many of our own agencies can," FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said last month.
On Aug. 16, the United States Small Business Administration is scheduled to host a free webinar, called “Social media and disaster recovery," presented by Agility, as part of the SBA's year-long business preparedness series. In one recent study, U.S. small business ranked 10th out of 13 in their ability to recuperate from an IT disaster.
"A vital part of growing a small business is guarding the company's infrastructure," said SBA administrator Karen Mills, in a statement. "These free disaster preparedness webinars are an opportunity for business owners to learn how to become proactive and practical about analyzing risks and making a plan to recover. This is about not only protecting the business before disaster strikes, but having a plan in place so the business rebuilds quickly and thrives."
In the private sector, companies can use Facebook and Twitter to communicate en masse with employee, said Jaulaitis. Janco Associates develops and sells templates that organizations can customize in order to develop their own BC/DR plan. After studying the 215 BC/DR plans and discovering a dearth of social media usage, Janco on Wednesday released version 6.1 of its Disaster Recovery Business Continuity Template, which includes tools to aid in the inclusion of social networks in the recovery process.
In addition, the template includes an incident and media communication plan. More than 3,000 companies in 65-plus countries use the template, said Janulaitis.
"We continue to review efforts of companies around the globe as they recover from various types of disasters and add components to our template that can be used by enterprises of all sizes," he said.
Not planning for disaster or continuity is costly, according to many reports. Yet the odds of being struck by some form of disruption are not a long-shot, with about 30% of all small businesses impacted by a natural disaster, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses , as cited by Cisco.