According to Mary Carrido, president of MLC & Associates of Port Orchard, Wash., an international disaster recovery consulting firm, it is not enough just to have a crisis plan for operating your business from an offsite location.

"Recovery is no longer an option in the 21st century. High availability is essential, with zero downtime for any vital business processes, technology and, most importantly, its people," said Carrido.

Carrido recommends businesses:

1) Designate ahead of time an emergency operations center, and a crisis management team.

2) Devise detailed plans that include: how to evacuate the building, the extent of light search and rescue efforts, address needs such as transportation, housing, food and water, phone calling trees and notification procedures for contacting relatives.

3) Compile a disaster recovery facilities checklist that can assess office damage, salvageable equipment, security, relocation areas, and what to do if vital services--water, electricity, sewage--are out of commission.

4) Update business resumption plans to include vital processes and vendors to be contacted should critical business systems fail and need to be recovered.

5) Have an information technology recovery strategy that spells out all existing systems, applications, networks, data security, and external providers.

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