Disaster scenarios are documented hypothetical situations that may threaten the operation, or potentially even the survival, of a business. As part of a complete disaster plan, disaster scenarios and the accompanying steps to recovery provide the means for a business to recover normal operations after a major problem. This complete disaster kit constitutes a very important document in the business continuity process, which is also sometimes called crisis management.
Most businesses could in theory encounter any number of specific disaster scenarios. It is often impossible to plan for every single eventuality, so it may be necessary to perform an analysis of both large scale and smaller potential disasters. A key activity in disaster preparedness is the selection of which particular scenarios should be fully documented and prepared for with an emergency plan that can be carried out if and when required. Often the business continuity planning starts with an extensive list of possible threats to the business.
While a complete list of potential disaster situations may be very long, representatives of the business may then select a subset from this "threat list." The subset of threats may be chosen partly on the basis of how likely they are to occur. Another important consideration may be whether the business is willing and able to assign resources to mitigate the risk of the threat, and to invest in recovery should it occur. The final chosen subset of threats may then be used to document detailed disaster scenarios for each selected threat.
A fully documented disaster scenario usually provides the details of what the impact would be on the business should the disaster occur. Business functions may be listed together with an assessment of the impact that this particular disaster is likely to have in each area. In addition, the business continuity team may document a list showing which business functions should be recovered first, where possible, in order to minimize the effect of the disaster on key business functions.
Disaster scenarios may be used to construct tests that can be used to prepare the business and its staff for potential disasters. Such a test, also known as a disaster drill, may be carried out by the business continuity team or by other individuals in the organization, either as a periodic or a one off exercise. In addition to testing, regular audits of the business continuity plan and each individual disaster scenario may be considered important.