The emergence of the H1N1 virus and several severe weather-related events have shifted disaster recovery planning emphasis away from IT and data security threats toward pandemic planning and disaster recovery efforts, according to an annual study conducted by Varolii Corporation.
This change comes despite evidence that most companies believe they do not have adequate plans in place to deal with cyber attacks, data breaches or data center failures. For the fifth year, corporate executives and business continuity professionals nationwide participated in the 2009-2010 Preparedness, Security and Crisis Communications.
The survey was co-sponsored by Honeywell.
Respondents ranked pandemic as the top threat to organizations in 2009, with 55 percent saying it's either a serious or extreme threat. Threats focused on data security and telecom failure/power outage (the top threats in 2008) still ranked high in 2009 (35 and 45 percent, respectively), but not as high as a natural disaster threat, which jumped from 39 percent in 2008 to 52 percent in 2009.
For the first time since the survey was held, IT and data threats were not highest ranked. While the majority of companies now have plans in place to deal with pandemics and natural disasters (73 and 82 percent, respectively), the number of companies prepared to combat cyber attacks, data breaches and data center disruptions is notably lower. Only 60 percent of companies have a plan to deal with data center disruptions, and only 53 percent say they are prepared for data breaches. Less than half (46 percent) say they are prepared for cyber attacks.
Other key findings from the study include:
  • Emergency communication across multiple channels-including text messaging-is becoming more pervasive. Signaling that emergency notification systems are becoming more sophisticated, the vast majority of respondents (ranging between 80 and 90 percent) say their critical communications systems can contact recipients via landline, mobile phone, or email in a crisis.
  • Fifty-three percent reported using text messaging to communicate during emergencies.More companies are targeting all employees for crisis communications, rather than just first responders or company executives.
  • Eighty-one percent of companies now have communication plans to reach all employees, a dramatic increase from the 2008-2009 survey, when 57 percent reported having such a plan. This increase may reflect further evolution and maturity of crisis communication planning, as well as increased sensitivity and attention paid to emergencies that impact large groups of employees, such as pandemics and natural disasters.
  • Despite the economic crisis, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness are an emerging priority for corporate executives. The percentage of companies in which executives are highly involved and responsible for overall preparedness planning and execution climbed significantly from 35 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2009.
  • And for the first time, executive management was the most prevalent group on emergency preparedness planning teams, rising to 65 percent, while the percentage of IT representatives decreased from 70 percent in 2008 to 55 percent in 2009.