US ATTACK: Gartner: What companies should do now

Companies that do not have a plan in place for disaster recovery should begin immediately to prepare, and those that do have plans in place should reevaluate them in light of last week's terrorist attacks on U.S. targets, including New York's World Trade Center, which had been a bustling site of IT activity. Such is the advice being given by Gartner Inc. analysts involved in disaster recovery and security issues in a series of teleconferences for clients.

In a teleconference Monday, analysts advised that companies take these steps:

-- Immediately assign business continuity issues to someone and begin an examination of what plans need to be in place to ensure a company continues to operate after a disaster of any kind.

-- Obtain alternative e-mail addresses for all employees so that an address other than their company e-mail is on file.

-- Consider giving out "wallet cards" that explain to employees emergency procedures, including what to do after an evacuation. "You want to make sure you can account for all of your personnel," said Gartner analyst Roberta Witty.

-- Designate a place where employees who have evacuated an office will go to assemble. "You don't want people going home necessarily," Witty said of the time immediately after a disaster. "You want to be sure you can assemble your people and lead them back into production." Whether all or some employees will resume working immediately after a disaster depends on the type of disaster.

-- If offices are damaged or destroyed, an alternative site will be needed and plans for such a site should be established as part of disaster planning.

-- Establish a toll-free number immediately after a disaster so that employees and their loved ones can call for information and also to find out the status of operations, so they know if they are expected to work.

-- Plan for what happens if entire staffs of IT workers are lost, as has been the case for some companies affected by the attacks. Likewise, other companies are coping with the loss of many executives, analysts noted, and so companies worldwide need to ponder the implications of having all executives located on the same floor in the same building. Although a grim task, companies need to establish a management succession plan.

-- Local, state, federal and emergency agencies should be included in planning.

"The companies that did the best job of planning, testing and rehearsing are in the best shape and many are actively doing business today," said analyst Donna Scott.

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