Many U.S. firms unprepared for disaster.

Author:Salierno, D.

THREE YEARS AFTER THE U.S. Sept. 11 attacks and one year after a major blackout in the Northeast, nearly one-fourth of U.S. businesses have not put a disaster plan in place, according to a recent survey. "Disaster Planning in the Private Sector: A Post 9/11 Look at the State of Business Continuity in the U.S." polled 1,000 executives--each of whom had responsibility for their organization's disaster planning--from 10 of the country's major metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Washington, D.C.

The study, conducted by the Partnership for Public Warning, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving U.S. alert and warning capabilities, and telecom giant AT & T, shows that businesses in New York and Washington, D.C., both targets of the Sept. 11 attacks, are among the least prepared for disaster. In both cities, nearly 25 percent of executives surveyed say their company lacks a business continuity plan. Miami was the most prepared, with only 15 percent of businesses indicating they lacked such a plan, whereas Los Angeles ranked last, with more than 30 percent working without a plan. Eighty percent of companies that suffered a disaster have a plan, compared to 70 percent of those that haven't.

Even some businesses that do have continuity plans are failing to test or update them regularly, according to the survey. Nearly 25 percent of participating company officers say their plans haven't been updated in the past 12 months, and more than 40 percent haven't tested their plans in over a year. Eleven percent say their plan has never been tested.

Less than half of the executives surveyed, each of whom works at a business with annual revenues of US $25 million or more, say business continuity has always been a priority for their company. Twenty-six percent say continuity planning is important but not a high...

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