June 18, 2009, 5:25 PM — It's not often that I recommend that any company, anywhere emulate the Federal government at any time, but let's give credit where it's due. The Department of Homeland Security conducted its Continuity of Operations plans yesterday. In their proclivity to assign all such operations mysterious sounding names, the disaster continuity exercise was called "Eagle Horizon 2009".
The mandatory exercise is held each year for all executive branch departments, and is coordinated by DHS through FEMA and the National Continuity Programs Directorate. The exercise is meant not only to test out the government's continuity of operations procedures, but also to ensure coordination between agencies in the event of an emergency. The coordination testing is an important part of any preparedness exercise, and one that private corporations should also consider. Recovering from a disaster is more than just getting systems back up and running, it also calls for a tremendous amount of coordination between areas of the enterprise that typically don't talk to one another. Recovery is, I venture to say, 50 percent procedural, and 50 percent just getting everybody to work together under unusual and stressful circumstances.
Among other things, "Eagle Horizon" simulates a situation where agencies have to relocate to alternate sites, again something that a private company would have to face as well in event of something like a hurricane or earthquake, where facilities may become suddenly unavailable. (Do you have a backup facility lined up?)
Another part of Eagle Horizon is to "test interagency continuity communications." This too is worthy of consideration and emulation. We tend to take for granted the ability to communicate between departments, branch offices, and client or partner sites, but that could easily dissolve under adverse condition. How will you communicate when disaster strikes? Test out your lines of communication as well.
And lastly, don't forget to give your preparedness exercise a cool name.