When Disaster Strikes: Creating a Business Continuity Plan

The pipes in the office on the floor above yours burst and your entire floor is flooded and all the computer equipment is destroyed. There is a weeklong ice storm that shuts down the power in your building and no one can work there until it is restored. There is a flu epidemic in your town and half your staff is unable to work for several days.

These are just a few among many events that could occur that could temporarily shut down your business. What would you do then? Do you have a business continuity plan?

In this two-part series we will cover what should be included in a business continuity plan and how you get started creating one.

You have probably also heard of a disaster recovery plan. That is essentially the same as a business continuity plan but because of our human nature and our “that can’t happen to me” mentality, business owners and CEOs often neglect to get around to creating one so the industry often uses the term business continuity plan instead. While there are some distinctions, the two types of plans are often referred to as BC/DR — business continuity, disaster recovery so that’s the term I’ll use.

I will address three elements that should be included in a BC/DR plan: how will employees communicate, where will they go and how they will continue to do their jobs. Let’s address each of these.

1. How will your business communicate?

Every business should have an emergency communication plan and a person designated to be in charge of declaring a disaster and implementing that communications system. Determine whom your business will need to communicate with: off-site employees, families, vendors, customers, emergency responders. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information for everyone and assess the availability of alternate means of communication, for example using your Facebook and Twitter account to communicate with the public on your situation.

In the old days, groups of people used to communicate with phone trees – a network of people to spread information, set up like a pyramid with one person calling two people, who each call two until everyone is notified. Set up a phone tree for your business as a back up in the event other types of communication are shut down.

2. Where will your employees go?

The most important rule in a BC/DR plan is people first. You must first secure everyone’s safety before moving on to the resumption of business operations. If the offices are not inhabitable the next issue is where the people and operations will go. The BC/DR plan needs to include a designated relocation area.

You will also want to have a teleworking policy in place for employees for whom that is appropriate.

3. How will your employees continue to do their jobs?

This step is obviously the critical one for the continuity of your business. Assuming you have a place to go and all your data backed up and available off-site, how will your employees access it?

The days of lining up desks and phone and getting back to work are over — getting the necessary systems up and working can be much more complicated these days. Your plan needs to include how you can get employees functioning again as soon as possible.

Creating an effective BC/DR plan is time-consuming and complicated. But your business really can’t afford not to have one. Next week we’ll discuss how to go about creating one.

Look for me November 10 at 4:30 at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. I’ll be discussing my book,  ”How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.” The event is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

One thought on “When Disaster Strikes: Creating a Business Continuity Plan

  1. Reblogged this on Ned Morgens and commented:
    We had an ice storm in Atlanta once. We were out for a week. No business, no revenue, and the customers took a while to return fully. Something to think about and implement.

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