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Technology Triage

Once your organization has identified what needs to be done and in what order, you can focus on obtaining the resources, funds, advice, and technology you need to begin the recovery process. Under ideal circumstances, your organization documented its recovery priorities before disaster struck. However, when this isn’t the case, it’s still worth taking time to consider carefully the order in which you’ll repair damaged equipment and systems.

Every organization is going to have different technology priorities following a disaster, so a one-size-fits-all prescription is not appropriate; however, there are some general guidelines for developing a good technology triage list:

  1. Communication is king. In most disasters, reestablishing communication with the outside world is the first priority during and immediately after a disaster. In the section below on communication, we’ll discuss the reasons that communication channels are so important and some of the different ways you can send and receive information during an emergency. As soon as possible after a disaster strikes, it’s crucial to inform any stakeholders whose relationship with the organization might have been impacted.

  2. Consider your constituents next. Focus on services, functions, programs, and audiences first, before you consider machines, networks, and applications. Who supports you and who do you support? Who relies on you the most? Who might be suffering as a result of the disaster and in need? Which programs must continue through the time of rebuilding, and which ones can be postponed?

  3. Key data and information. Determine what data and information your organization needs to operate effectively in the short- and medium-term. Use this information to decide which equipment to bring back to life first. Restoring and repairing systems can take a significant amount of time, and focusing your efforts where they will have the most impact is one of the keys to a successful triage.
  4. Backup systems. If you’re lucky, you may have stored backup media in a safe place that you can access. In the event that the backup media and hardware are unusable, you’ll need outside help recovering the data. Determining the state of your backup system may be a priority. If you have a reliable network backup system, you may not need to worry about retrieving the data on individual computers.

  5. Servers. Recovering the server — the core of many networks — may be a high priority for your organization, as it is probably the key to recovering your data and getting the rest of your network up.

To recover mission-critical data from a machine that is physically damaged (and for which you do not have a backup), we strongly recommend hiring a data-recovery professional. (See Data Recovery, below, for additional information on retrieving lost data.)

Quick Disaster Checklist
Guangdong Peizheng College’s three campuses in China have occasionally been impacted by power surges and equipment failures. Ruishen Sunding shared with us these disaster preparation and recovery checklists:
How to prepare

1. List all aspects of disasters so that the IT department can think of appropriate solutions to address any possible disaster.

2. Train employees and volunteers on your disaster plan before a disaster strikes, not after. A disaster rehearsal may be useful.

3. Save instructions for a disaster on every desktop.

4. Necessary toolkits for a disaster should be handy for each employee too.
How to respond

1. Announce the emergency to staff, volunteers, and stakeholders immediately.

2. Ask employees to follow the disaster instructions.

3. Deliver the materials and toolkits for aid.

4. Repair or replace damaged computers and their accessories as soon as possible.

Reestablishing Communication

As we said above, reestablishing communication should be a top priority. This means establishing communication among the staff and volunteers, as well as communication with donors, beneficiaries, and friends of the organization. Reliable communication — both external and internal — will be essential both to rebuilding your infrastructure and to continuing your essential programs.

Telephone Communication

Are your telephones intact? If not, it’s probably a good idea to reestablish telephone communication. If your staff will be working at home and/or using mobile phones, you can contact the telephone provider and have your office numbers temporarily forwarded to the appropriate landline or mobile numbers. Most hosted VoIP services allow you to redirect lines to outside numbers (see Unified Communications, Page 11). If you have Internet access, consider using Skype or a similar softphone service.

Change all of your outgoing voicemail messages to include basic information about your nonprofit’s rebuilding efforts. The message should briefly outline any changes in your organization’s services and instructions for how to stay informed.

If the staff will be using personal mobile phones for work during the recovery effort, find out whether their mobile plans include enough minutes per month to cover the increased usage. If not, temporarily upgrading them to unlimited minutes can be much less expensive than reimbursing hundreds of minutes overage.

Softphone (Wikipedia)

Internet Communication

Even if you don’t have consistent access to the Internet, your web presence is a central way to keep the public informed about your NGO’s recovery efforts and any changes to the services you provide.

Make sure your website has clear instructions for where to find the latest updates, be it on a social networking site, blog, microblog, or other venue. If you have temporary internet access (or a contact or volunteer has internet access), it’s a great idea to adjust your homepage so that the most recent updates are clearly displayed. One option would be to have Twitter updates appear at the top of your homepage automatically (see Your Backup Web Presence, Page 14).

As a last resort, you could even call your web hosting provider and have them redirect your website to your microblog or other page where you can easily post updates. Of course this tactic temporarily sacrifices the look and feel of your own website, but if there’s essential information to communicate to your stakeholders, this is a quick way to do it without Internet access.

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