IT Fire Drills: Why We Need Them—As an IT consultant, my main goal is to help businesses improve their relationship with technology. Most of my clients don’t have any full-time technology staff, but some are large enough to justify an in-house resource. I find that those small IT departments—with only one or two souls tasked with supporting the rest of the organization—are most prone to catastrophic disasters.

That’s why I wholeheartedly recommend running IT fire drills. It keeps your organization nimble and prepared.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve written about the need for disaster planning in businesses, both from an IT standpoint and for business continuity. Having a plan is great. Testing it is even better. The best form of planning in my experience is a real-world test—where the consequences are visible and the clock is ticking. There’s little value in being able to bring a network back up in seven hours when upper management expects something closer to two.

Planning a fire drill is tricky. I don’t recommend you destroy your network in the middle of a critical time or power off your primary server while the accounting department is in the middle of payroll. I do expect that a proper IT fire drill will deal with some uncomfortable situations, sometimes during regular work hours. How else will you truly test the effectiveness of your plans?

Here’s the format I recommend for preparing an IT fire drill.

  • Plan
  • Test
  • Review
  • Revise
  • Communicate
  • Drill
  • Review
  • Revise


If this seems familiar, this is the same disaster plan that I referenced in my other article.

The test is a controlled-environment scenario that implements the plan. There should be no consequences here.

Next, review the outcome of the controlled test, revising the plan if necessary. Discuss elements with users and management. Document everything.

Repeat this process until the plan is flawless.

At this point, determine the parameters for the fire drill and communicate clearly to those who might be affected.

Run the drill.

Review the outcome of the fire drill and revise the plan, if necessary. As you fine tune this process, be sensitive to your users. I wouldn’t recommend performing a fire drill that affects any individual more than once per quarter. Feedback from the users is critical, and if they’re drilling to death, they’ll start to resent this process.

As an IT pro, your job will often seem thankless. After all, the better you are, the less you and your work are noticed. IT fire drills are critical, though, to keep your organization running in times of need, which in turn helps keep you employed.

Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at and founder of Vermont Computing, Inc. and Follow him @jlesniak or email him


Jeremy Lesniak
Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at and founder of Vermont Computing, Inc. and Email him [email protected]
Jeremy Lesniak
Jeremy Lesniak
Tags: Cloud Computing,IT Security,Technology