Disaster Recovery Plan: 10 Critical Elements

Disaster recovery requires good planning to make the recovery process ordered or efficient and get back to normal as fast as possible at less cost. This article endorses 10 elements of a disaster recovery plan to make this end goal possible.

In an anticipation of what steps to make after the onslaught of a series of disasters we have been, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, the Super Typhoon Rai or Odette, and natural calamities outside of human control, I figured I should prepare disaster recovery steps to reduce or minimize the impact of these recurring but unexpected events.

People forget the repercussions associated with disasters, as if these things will not happen again. However, in some places like Japan, emergency kits good for a few days, that will allow rescuers enough time to save survivors, appears to be the norm. Historical records have also helped guide response in the recent years such as stone markers that previous generations erected to warn future generations of impending disasters.

It takes a little imagination, care, and forward-thinking mindset to successfully overcome the undesirable effects of disasters—natural or even man-made such as oil spills, or nuclear accidents. Pre-emptive measures or adequate planning can enhance resiliency against forecasted and unforecasted events.

Emergency kits and other short-term initiatives will work for a few days. Long-term disaster recovery, however, appears to be a less discussed topic. Hence, this article enumerates 10 important elements of a disaster recovery plan based on existing literature and experience.

5 Advantages of a Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan is a plan of action that individuals, organizations, or even governments can implement after disaster strikes. As disasters such as natural calamities like severe typhoons and pandemic come up usually unanticipated, a disaster recovery plan prevents unwanted, unpondered actions that are costly or ineffective.

Planning is essential in any management activity at any level of organization. The exercise reduces chances of committing errors, avoids wasting valuable resources, and prevents delays which will likewise be costly to individuals and organizations.

Planning, within the context of disaster recovery, has the following advantages:

  1. directs a person’s, family’s, or organization’s actions to remedy the aftermath of disasters,
  2. matches objectives and outcomes thus motivates people to produce desirable or planned results,
  3. integrates the efforts of like-minded individuals and organizations in disaster recovery situations,
  4. foresees problems in the disaster recovery process thus help mitigate the problems before they get worse,
  5. aids in the decision-making process.

10 Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan

Unusual waves foretell tsunamis.

1. State the goals and objectives of the disaster recovery plan clearly

Clear goals and objectives of the disaster recovery plan guide course of action of everyone involved. Achieving the objectives quickly at less cost justifies the preparation of the plan.

2. Involve everyone in planning courses of action

More heads is always better than one. If you’re preparing a disaster recovery plan for your family, it pays to involve your spouse and even children. There will be items of consideration that you might overlook.

For organizations, involving the different departments or units, particularly those critical in the organization’s operation, in plotting out a disaster recovery plan makes sense. Essentially, the team or disaster recovery committee shall comprise someone with decision-making function, one at the mid-level management, and a representative from the operational level. Think tanks in the organization must be harnessed.

3. Clarify roles and functions

At family level, the man of the house typically leads everyone unless incapacitated. Anyone with good decision-making skills and capacity to lead would suffice if the head of the family is not around.

In organizations, the roles and functions of each of the members of the disaster recovery committee must be clear to avoid duplication of functions and misunderstanding that could cause delay. The leader of the team or committee must have the authority to declare a disaster and act accordingly in a timely manner. Quick response means a lot to disaster-stricken areas.

4. Establish communication

Communication among members of the disaster recovery committee or team is paramount for harmony. Thus, the disaster recovery plan should include strategies to maintain communication.

According to Yonatan (2020), to ensure continued communication among families, the following guidelines will be helpful:

  1. agree on a rendezvous point and time to meet there;
  2. each member of the family should know what they will do in case of emergency;
  3. list the number of someone outside of the disaster zone to inform them of your status (e.g. police station, relative, friends);
  4. establish contact following a hierarchy of medium of communication such as using a mobile phone first followed by email then a phone booth, and finally a walkie-talkie or a hand-held transceiver if all else fails;
  5. have handy backup charging options like power banks, car chargers, and solar chargers.

The following video gives additional tips on making a family emergency plan.

Example of a family’s emergency plan for earthquakes.
A belfry can effectively warn people of impending disasters and save lives.

Having these things in mind, this means that there are things you need to purchase and include in your backpack as part of your survival kit.

After the Super Typhoon Rai, electrical power has been out for almost two weeks because portions of the power grid fell because of the strong winds. Luckily, I have several old power banks that could still power cellphones. However, all the mobile telecommunication services are also down.

In reality, when disaster comes unexpectedly, other means of communication aside from what I have mentioned is necessary. Recalling one of my readings, one way to bring people together in a safe place is by using a bell in an elevated place that serves both as a warning and a beacon to bring people to a safe evacuation site. This approach works when earthquakes occur followed by tsunamis.

5. Integrate disaster education in the disaster recovery plan

Through the internet and other media, information on disaster and disaster preparedness would increase the family’s awareness and foster understanding necessary for proper response whenever the situation warrants it. Hence, the disaster recovery plan must include information on disasters, whether natural or man-made.

Ten-year-old Tilly Smith’s tsunami knowledge in school is a case in point. Her knowledge and insistence helped her save her family and a hundred others during their visit in Thailand. Receptivity of the information on the nature of tsunami would have been better had the members of the family also had prior information about such a disaster.

While natural disaster probability is small, the impact is severe and life-changing. Thus, disaster preparedness should be integrated in school’s curriculum to institutionalize knowledge about their occurrence.

6. Estimate the number of resources needed for a disaster recovery plan

Plans require resources to implement. Training and knowledge transfer ensures sustainability of resource utilization for successful disaster recovery to take place.

7. Lay out procedures for both minor and major disasters

Define what characterizes minor and major disasters. Lay out procedures on what steps to take when faced with such situations.

Lawinsider.com classifies a disaster minor if it is likely to be within the response capabilities of local government. A major disaster, on the other hand, causes extensive damage thus requires aid from the national level and other disaster relief organizations. The latter one usually needs the President’s declaration that indeed it is a major incident.

8. Prioritize restoration of essential functions

The disaster recovery plan must specify which functions are essential and in what order those functions will be restored. Essential functions would vary between individuals, type of organizations, or locations thus is context-related.

9. List items needed in the disaster salvage kit

The items needed (equipment and supplies) for disaster recovery should be listed and sourced out from existing resources or purchased when not available. A detailed list would be desirable to achieve certain objectives laid out in the disaster recovery plan.

10. Ensure restoration of basic services

Water and electricity are primary concerns for disaster recovery. Restoration of these services will jumpstart all other functions that will restore all activities back to normal.


A well-laid out disaster recovery plan unified by clear-cut goals and objectives can reduce cost associated with delays due to lack of planning. Addressing the expected effects of a disaster and mitigating them in advance in the plan enables successful recovery. Thus, normal operations post-disaster can be resumed more efficiently and effectively saving time, money, resources, and unnecessary loss of lives.


Disasterrecovery.org (n.d.). What is Disaster Recovery? Retrieved 15 April 2022, from https://www.disasterrecovery.org/what-is-disaster-recovery/

University of Missouri System (2019). How to Prepare and Implement a Disaster Recovery Plan. Retrieved 16 April 2022, from https://www.umsystem.edu/ums/fa/management/records/disaster-prepare

Yonatan, R. (2020). How to Communicate During a Disaster. Retrieved 15 April 2022, from https://getvoip.com/blog/2017/08/28/communicate-during-disaster/