What every RIA can learn from Japan's disaster

In the wake of Japan’s debilitating earthquake and tsunami, the world watched in horror as a nation which prides itself on preparedness and stability buckled under the mighty force of nature. We have watched the past two weeks unfold with grief and concern for the stricken Japanese people, and an increased awareness of the potential for disaster in our own backyard. Every country, no matter how advanced and prepared, is susceptible to disaster and great loss. It may be impossible to prevent damage and pain when faced with a disaster as grave as the recent tragedy in Japan, but this does not mean disaster recovery planning should ever take a back seat in our personal and professional lives. Quite the contrary.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, only a few miles from the San Andreas Fault. This fault is one of the world's few plate boundaries which actually crosses land, and heavily populated land at that. A giant earthquake is absolutely imminent – it is only a matter of time before we experience a dangerous and costly quake. Everyone who lives in the Bay Area recognizes the earthquake potential, and yet it is shocking how many people choose not to take disaster recovery planning seriously in their homes and businesses.

Here the center of technology development on planet Earth comes face-to-face with one of the worst earthquake faults Mother Nature has ever produced. Why is there no leadership here for disaster planning? Why do almost no small businesses have disaster recovery plans? For those small businesses forced to maintain plans by regulatory authorities, why are those plans almost always a joke? In my 30 years in the computer service profession, I have seen very few realistic disaster recovery plans for the small business. While a typical plan may be in writing, it is unlikely to do what it is supposed to do, which is minimize downtime in the wake of an event that causes downtime. The few plans that do exist tend to run the gamut from laughable and pleasantly naive to outright pathetic. (See “World’s Worst Disaster Recovery Plan” for one example!)

No matter where you live and work in the US, there are disasters which will affect you. It is time we all began investing a little more energy in disaster planning solutions designed to mitigate the effects of disasters big and small. You never know when you will need it or for what reason, but I guarantee it may be worth its weight in gold when you do.

Are you and your staff ready for a disaster? A small one? A big one? How much downtime could your firm tolerate before you would be forced to shut its doors? These are important questions every Advisor should consider before beginning disaster recovery planning efforts.


For a free PDF copy of my “Disaster Recovery Guide” for RIA firms, please email me at [email protected].

If you haven't already, you can donate to the disaster relief efforts in Japan through the Red Cross here.

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