Disaster-proofing your business.
A lot of grit and determination is needed to keep a business thriving year over year, and it’s important to protect that hard work in the event a disaster were to strike. Any number of threats, including flood, fire, weather, data breaches, theft and fraud issues, could jeopardize your business operations. And while it may be easier to bury your head in the sand and never think about the what-ifs, a better approach is to get ahead of any potential situation by creating a business continuity plan (BCP).
Scenarios to consider
Knowing what you are up against is half the battle when mapping out a BCP. The list of events with the potential to derail your business operations is limited only by your imagination, but for planning purposes, let’s create some structure around the types of threats that are possible:
Class 1 scenario
A class 1 scenario will force you to immediately pivot your entire business to a remote work situation. The most serious type of disruption, this may be the result of:
- A building closure caused by flood, fire or explosion.
- A major power failure affecting your community, lasting days.
- An onsite technology malfunction such as damage to your server room or loss of the internet connection to your building.
- A government-issued long-term stay-at-home order due to a pandemic or another disaster-related event.
Class 2 scenario
In a class 2 scenario, your physical business location is still operational, but at a reduced capacity. This could be due to:
- Extreme weather, such as a blizzard, that makes it difficult or dangerous for staff to travel to the office.
- A pandemic in which your office is still allowed to be open, but with a greatly reduced capacity for staff.
- You are prevented from entering your office temporarily by a building closure.
Class 3 scenario
In a class 3 scenario, your office is open for business, but you’re confronted with unexpected challenges. These could include:
- Technical issues disrupting internet connectivity or phone service.
- Break-in or insider theft of key equipment or office documents.
- A digital breach resulting in unauthorized access to confidential business records or funds.
- Strike action affecting mail delivery or other typical day-to-day activity.
With the scenarios outlined above as a guide, disaster planning for your office begins with assigning the right people to take on this important task. You will want someone with the appropriate organizational skills, work ethic and level of authority to lead an emergency preparedness team. There are several practices to consider when it comes to emergency preparedness and disaster recovery.
- Maintain a contact list for all employees, which includes multiple ways to reach them (email, home phone and cellphone).
- Develop a contact list for customers, suppliers, building maintenance staff and vendors. Go a step further and create a separate list of key customers whom you may wish to contact directly in the event of a service disruption.
- Designate a person of authority to have access to company legal and banking documentation, payroll information, building and equipment leases, passwords, etc.
- Outline a detailed process for backing up company files, which should be managed by your company IT team or vendor. The data should be securely stored at another location, away from any potential threat or disruption at the office.
- Document all office equipment and furniture, including software, tools and office supplies. This essential list will likely be required for any insurance claims, if you suffer losses as a result of an event.
Roles and responsibilities
A business owner will have a lot of tasks to juggle if a disaster or emergency occurs, so preparing a clear guide for handling a situation well in advance just makes sense. Be sure that it covers the following key points:
- A defined chain of command for activating an emergency plan. The business owner needs to be able to identify the emergency and the level of risk and then activate the plan with the office manager. A prepared, accessible checklist that summarizes important tasks will be useful.
- A list of each employee’s responsibilities identifying any crucial business functions that may be time sensitive.
- A documented plan for how tasks can be done remotely.
- A schedule of essential functions that assigns additional responsibilities to the appropriate employees.
Good planning includes good communication. Know how to update the company voicemail, website and social media accounts with any critical messaging, especially if hours of operation or service availability is limited. If phone connectivity is down, sign up for a temporary softphone service or voice over internet (VOIP) service. This can be a 1-800 number and can be activated immediately.
Make the effort to educate your staff well in advance about the potential scenarios for business disruptions and their roles and responsibilities in case the emergency plan is activated.
Practise the plan
You’ve written the plan, made your lists and feel prepared. Now it’s time to practise! It’s important to use a real-life scenario to test your plan and have all workplace staff involved in carrying out their assigned duties. Afterwards, document what went well and what needs more attention. Have a follow-up meeting to discuss necessary adjustments, and then schedule regular practice sessions on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.
Emergency preparedness might feel like a job unto itself, but the time and effort will be well worth it if disaster strikes. At the very least, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your company’s ability to get through, and recover from, any business disruption has well-documented, defined processes and procedures.
For more BCP information check out: