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Chapter 4. Business continuity

Chapter 4. Business continuity

A detailed plan for business continuity after an emergency is essential if the organs of the station are to remain functional. These are the support structures upon which the station will depend, especially if the emergency situation extends for a period greater than 24 hours.

WAMU in Washington DC has a detailed plan for business continuity in an emergency. Their plan contains Infrastructure Preparedness Tasks for each department. The tasks for Business Systems illustrate an excellent system for identifying and keeping track of jobs to be done with clearly assigned responsibilities for each:

Table 4.1. Business Continuity Plan

Office shut down Short-term (less than 24) closure
Essential staff report
Non-essential staff stay home
Confirmed Carey Needham Confirmed 1
Invoices and checks Unable to process invoices and checks
If less than 24, no plan
If greater than 24, checks will be processed by AU off-site
Pending Carey Needham Need to confirm 2
Financial Data Backup Unable to access Datatel system Receive support from AU IT Confirmed Carey Needham Confirmed 1
WAMU Payroll Greater than 24 hours
Pay stub available via my.american.edu
Re-route campus mail Courier mail to new location
Partially confirmed Carey Needham Need to finalize plan 1
Phones Greater than 24 hours
Install WAMU emergency line
Supply essential staff with handheld communication devices
John Holt
Carey Needham
Need to finalize plan 1
e-mail No delivery greater than 24 hours Re-route email to personal email addresses Pending
Dick Cassidy
Carey Needham
Pending 1
Mail No delivery greater than 24 hours Re-route mail to new address on or off-campus Pending Carey Needham Pending 2
Supplies Greater than 24 hours
acquireX from computer terminal
provide business continuity kit for all staff in building
AU Safety office
BA Team
Pending 1


Every person who has had to bring a damaged station back onto the air, or keep a station on the air in an emergency, knows that a credit card with a high limit can be your best asset.

[Tip] Hint     Stick with Visa or MasterCard. American Express and Discover cards are not accepted by many of the vendors and rental agencies you will want to deal with.

Make sure the card is in the possession of the person or persons who will have primary responsibility for getting the station back on the air. A card carefully stored somewhere in a flooded or burned or earthquake damaged building will be useless. The finance department may balk at issuing such cards. (That is their job after all!) But it must be carefully explained to them that this is a special need that must be filled.

[Note] Action Point     Secure a high limit Visa or MasterCard credit card for emergency use.

A high limit credit card will ideally be in the possession of critical station staff. If this is not possible then the information about the card - number, PIN, security code - might be kept in a digital file for use for on-line purchases.

If station finances can not support a high limit credit card station staff may be required to fund disaster recovery efforts personally, on a reimbursement basis. In this case it will be critical to document all purchases and to retain all receipts. Management authorization should be obtained in advance if possible to avoid conflicts about repayment later. Alternate methods of payment, such as PayPal, should also be explored and set up in advance of the emergency.


The business records of a station are of primary importance for continued operations in or after an emergency. Data that is taken for granted during normal operations may be difficult or impossible to recreate. An investment of time and money before the emergency will pay big dividends after the event. Off-premises record backup should be considered insurance in the same way that the station carries fire and liability insurance.

[Tip] Hint     When trying to obtain a budget for record backup it is often helpful to consider how much one would be willing to pay after the data is lost to have it miraculously re-appear. A small fraction of that amount will assure that the data does not disappear in the first place.

The data to be held off-premises will vary from station to station. But certain data is likely to be vital to most stations. When trying to decide what station data must be protected, it can help to ask what data would damage station operations most if it became unavailable; what data would be most devastating to lose.

First level candidates for off-premises storage include:

  • Underwriter information
  • Membership lists
  • Financial records
  • Payroll information
  • Accounting and tax records
  • FCC licenses and documents
  • Public file
  • Manuals for primary station equipment

4.2.1. Digital Records

It has become standard procedure to protect the computers holding vital station data with uninterruptable power supplies and regular backups. But this will not suffice in emergencies that may damage computers or make them inaccessible. Backup servers located at secure, off-premises locations are required.

Numerous companies are in the business of providing reliable and highly secure off site backup for digital records at reasonable cost. Arrangements can be made directly with these companies (or via the station or licensee) IT department (if one exists).

4.2.2. Music Library

Many stations now hold their music libraries in digital form. Often these libraries form the backbone of station programming. As such they are vital to station recovery plans. As with the member database or other crucial operations data that is backed up regularly, the digital music library contains files and data that are also extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible, to recreate.

Backups of your digital music library are absolutely necessary and should be done on a regular schedule. A combination of on-site and off-site backups is best, with off-site backups ideally done on a weekly basis.

4.2.3. Paper Records

Many station records may exist on paper, and only on paper. These records too may be essential to continued station operation. The paper records must be protected and made available during and after an emergency. But a special challenge may be that these vital records are stored in several locations with each department having its own files and filing systems. Plus, unlike digital data, physical records often are of significant size and weight.

Much in the same way that certain companies offer backup, off-premises storage for digital data, other companies provide the same service for physical records. These companies will provide not only secure storage but document indexing services and programs for assuring that important documents are transferred to backup storage in a timely manner.

[Tip] Hint     The station's FCC mandated public file is one of those files that would be very difficult to reconstruct. Most public files are still on paper and some are too large to be conveniently duplicated. If that's the case at your station, consider making a digital copy of the file for storage and backup along with other digital records.

4.2.4. Waivers and STAs

In an emergency you may have to conduct operations from locations other than those specified in your station license (or with equipment or power ratings other than specified). Post-Katrina, the FCC will typically grant waivers of their rules or issue a Special Temporary Authority (STA) to allow you to operate legally in such situations.

Situations in which waivers or STAs are needed include the use of a temporary antenna to replace one that is damaged, transmitting from a site other than that specified in the license or operation at reduced power with an emergency antenna.



Information may be found online at: http://www.fcc.gov/pshs/services/sta.html

FCC staff who can help with the waiver and STA process may be reached at these numbers:

202-418-2700 Monday through Friday, 8:00am - 5:30pm EST/EDT

202-418-1122 After hours

4.2.5. Regular Backups

The funds spent on the best arrangements for safe, off-premises backup of data, music and paper records will be money wasted unless a program mandating the regular transfer of material to these safe locations is established and adhered to. Frequent backups are always better than occasional backups. Many stations find that a weekly transfer of data works best for them. Consider how quickly your data changes when deciding on the frequency of backup for your station.

[Note] Action Point     Obtain backup and storage service for digital and physical data and establish a program to assure that important station information is transferred to backup storage frequently.


The funds needed for emergency operations or recovery may be in the station bank accounts. But without the proper means of access to these accounts these funds will be inaccessible. This information should be part of the data that is secured off premises.

4.3.1. Bank Accounts

Backup information should include the names of the institutions holding station funds, the account numbers of those accounts and the contact persons at the institution who deals with the business of the station.

For funds upon which checks may be drawn, the list of authorized signers should also be maintained.

[Tip] Hint     Will the contact information you use on a normal day still apply in an emergency? Your bank may be affected by the emergency too. Try to obtain a list of their emergency contact phone numbers with the promise that the list will be kept confidential.

4.3.2. Credit, Debit Card PINs

Backup information should include the Personal Identification Numbers associated with station debit and credit cards.

4.3.3. Online Passwords

Backup information for online accounts should include the URLs and online passwords for these accounts.

4.3.4. Keys and Combinations

Information needed: The location of keys and combinations required to access files and documents at the station.

4.3.5. Trusted Information Keepers

Multiple trusted information keepers should be identified as the persons who will keep the information needed to access station records in off-premises secure locations.

4.3.6. High Security Required

Information that provides access to station funds clearly must be protected by a high level of security. As always, security must be balanced against convenience and the need for quick access in an emergency.

[Note] Action Point     Store all information needed for access to station accounts and physical files in a secure, accessible location.

The business continuity plan at WHYY in Philadelphia, PA provides a good example of how to set forth specific responsibilities for specific teams, including a recovery team.

Recovery Team

The principal mission of the Recovery Team is to implement the pre-arranged plan for recovery of operations in the shortest possible time. The Station Manager will chair the Team. Roles and the amount of involvement by each member will depend upon the extent of the problem and the problem's impact upon their area of responsibility. Comprising the Recovery Team will be representatives from each division or major part of a division:

  • Chief Engineer
  • Sr. Manager, M.I.S.
  • Webmaster
  • Manager, Staffing and Corporate Services
  • Manager, Plant Operations
  • Controller
  • Director, Underwriting
  • Director, Underwriting
  • Director, Underwriting
  • Director, Direct Marketing


Team Chair will:

  • Coordinate the efforts of the assigned division point persons.
  • Accumulate information from assigned division representatives.
  • Communicate with the Management Team on a regular basis regarding the status of the recovery and needs that have been identified.
  • Coordinate efforts of the Recovery Team with the Salvage and Security Team to assure quick and safe return to normal. Work closely with the Salvage and Security Team to assess the level of the problem and what steps need to be implement in what order so the station can return to normal.
  • Initiate the notification of staff members regarding work arrangements and other work related matters through the division representatives.


4.4.1. Main points covered in Chapter 4

  • High Limit Credit Card
  • Off-Premises Record Backup
  • Account Numbers and Passwords

4.4.2. Action Checklist

❑ High limit credit card obtained
❑ Off-premises backup and storage for digital and physical records arranged
❑ Account numbers, PINs, passwords, keys and combinations stored for emergency use

Chapter 3. Staying On (or Returning To) the Air  Table of Contents