It has been a while since I talked about business continuity planning. Remember that effective contingency planning involves three components: prevention, mitigation, and recovery. Prevention, including preparedness, is critically important. While there are events that you have no control over, there are many that you can prevent (such as investing in redundant computer hardware) or minimize (by anticipating and preparing for obvious scenarios)
We're approaching the peak of the hurricane season, and winter - with its ice storms and blizzards - is not far behind. Severe weather can impact utilities, transportation and other services. Now is the time to assess preparedness at four levels . . . your organization, your employees, your suppliers, and your customers.
Prolonged utility outages can quickly create urgent situations. Your business has to address continuation of services at some minimal level. An important part of that continuation is ensuring that staff is available. When your employees are prepared, and thus less concerned about the basic needs of their families, they are more likely to be available for work. Depending on the extent to which your business may be affected, you may choose to invest in generators to be able to operate at least some of your facilities "off the grid." Other key areas include identifying the minimal level of service you expect to offer, as well as which locations might be the most important to reopen.
Preparation for retail customers and employees is similar. Basic needs, including plenty of non-perishable foods, lots of drinking water, and other key supplies should be stockpiled before a disaster, as they will be hard to find once something has happened. I'm a firm believer that your business can shine in the eyes of customers and employees by encouraging and facilitating this level of preparation through education and cooperation with local emergency preparedness agencies. www.ready.gov remains a great source of information.
When customers of your business are also businesses, you must consider, in your continuation and recovery efforts, how to help them continue. Again, education and preparation are key. Many non-regulated businesses have no plans at all for recovery from a disaster. Anything you can do to improve their chances of survival will pay dividends later.
Suppliers, much like commercial customers, employees, and retail customers, must factor into your planning and preparation. Depending on the nature of your business, access to raw materials, outsourced processing services, or other resources may be critical.
Remember that the goal of all business continuity planning is to quickly recover your ability to serve your customers when something happens.
Clearly, I've just scratched the surface, but my main goal is to get you thinking about being prepared - instead of waiting for something to happen. I'll have more updates in the coming days. If you'd like to discuss your particular situation, please contact me.