When Disaster Strikes, Don’t Let Fight-or-Flight Interfere with Your Recovery.
It is axiomatic that every organization with an online presence needs a solid Disaster Recovery Plan. This blueprint shows you what to do and how to do it when hacker assaults, weather events, or other catastrophes threaten your data and systems.
Effective planning incorporates system-wide protection, thorough backup capabilities, and timely data recovery procedures. Human factors are equally important. These include:
- Clearly established rules regarding day-to-day handling and management of data
- Well-rehearsed action assignments for protection and recovery
- Ongoing training for everyone who has any role in those processes
- Periodic drills and testing to keep everyone on their toes and for tools and procedures to be deployment-ready always
- Rapid responses to constant changes in IT environments, requiring equivalent changes in protection, backup, and recovery methods, as well as training components
Other important though often-overlooked elements are the psychological reactions of the team members who must deal with disasters. When emergencies arise, people are thrust into fight-or-flight mode. At these times the speed, accuracy, and thoroughness of the team’s responses can mean the difference between a company’s survival and its destruction.
By their very nature, disasters strike when they are unexpected, so no matter how well-prepared your people are from a technical perspective, they will inevitably experience acute stress, which triggers the fight-or-flight response. This is completely natural and instinctive, so we can expect it to kick in whenever a threat appears. The fight-or-flight motivation is so deeply programmed in all of us that we sometimes experience it even when there is no danger at all. In cases where the menace is real and urgent, it can be overwhelming.
Choosing to fight or flee makes sense when lions are after us, but not when challenges demand informed, cool-headed, and rapid action. The best plans in the world will fail if the people who are charged with implementing them are emotional basket cases.
Fight-or-flight is essentially an automatic reaction of the sympathetic nervous system that prepares us to deal with extreme peril. We instinctively focus on our own survival, which can distract us from dealing with a disaster.
Nerves of steel and strong self-discipline certainly help, but when the heat is on, the fight-or-flight compulsion is inescapable. None of us is immune, nor do we know exactly how some will react, yet for any organization’s response to disaster to be effective, every team member must be a fully functioning participant.
Overcoming fight-or-flight reactions must be part of your Disaster Recovery Plan.
- Throughout the training process, remind all team members that disasters usually come as shocking surprises, and that there will not be time to contend with the emotional jolt.
- Everyone must understand that the moment a disaster is known to have occurred, the fight-or-flight impulse will interfere with problem-solving abilities, so remaining focused and on-task may be difficult.
- Let everyone know that the only way to overcome fight-or-flight is to follow established procedures to the letter.
- It is absolutely imperative that all team members be so well-practiced in disaster-recovery procedures that they can perform their assigned tasks even under intense stress.
- Disaster-response duties should be presented in clearly defined steps so that people see their responsibilities as a checklist rather than an amorphous collection of goals.
- Set up regular DR drills so that team members not only know what they have to do but, through practice, develop the automatic muscle memory needed to make each step easier and quicker.
- Make tabletop exercises part of the drill program. These are meetings in which team members discuss and analyze simulated disaster situations to spot potential flaws in the DR Plan. These exercises serve to sharpen participants’ understanding of their responsibilities.
Remember that effectively countering fight-or-flight responses is as essential as any element in your DR Plan.