Be Prepared for an Emergency: At Work
Planning for emergencies is a reasonable precaution. Southland is faced with a variety of hazards that could cause an emergency for your business.
Businesses that are poorly prepared to deal with an emergency, or the consequences of it, may not be able to stay in business. That potentially represents a significant economic loss, both personal and public.
Contingency planning is the safety net of risk management. Any public utility providing an essential service must have a well-tested business contingency plan that is able to cope with any catastrophe and maintain continuity of supply.
Planning is the Key
Statistics vary, but they suggest that, following a major emergency, about half of the business in an affected area do not survive. That can be cause of: insufficient insurance, the business owner or manager has not planned for suitable resilience and recovery procedures or simply, their customers desert them. Customer loyalty is very fragile. It takes years to develop but can be lost overnight. It makes sense to have a fall-back position. From the perspective of any manager or CEO who want to maintain a functioning operation, to the board that could face shareholder / stakeholder litigation, advance planning is the key. There are many cogent reasons why emergency management should form part of any organisation's business plan.
Organisations are being bombarded with the need for an emergency management plan, a contingency plan, a disaster recovery plan, and a business continuity plan.
No matter what you call it, the need is to have a pre-agreed plan to aid an organisation to work through any predetermined foreseeable 'business contingency' and to survive.
A Business Continuity Plan demonstrates how your business could recover or partially restore critical business activities within a predetermined time frame after an emergency event.
How to go about putting in place a business contingency plan is straightforward. The implementation can, however, be complex.
Business Impact Analysis
Firstly, it is necessary to identify just what hazards your organisation is most vulnerable to. There are the obviously man-made and natural hazards such as fire, earthquake, flood and the like, but don't forget loss of reputation (a major risk to most organisations), loss of Information Technology and computerised processing functions (example - the millennium bug problem had a very real emergency potential), adverse exposure to contracts with penalty causes, legal and regulatory risk. Think laterally with particular emphasis on marketing and ability to service clients.
The overall objectives of the business contingency plan will essentially be as follows. (Obviously the detail will depend on the type of organisation, whether it be manufacturing, a service organisation, a government etc.)
- Ensure the continuous availability of your business.
- Protect assets (buildings, plant, people) and the profit earning capability.
- Maintain customer confidence.
- Identify the exposures to the business and corporate risks.
- Develop recovery strategies and priorities.
- Expedite restoration of services.
- Minimise financial loss and embarrassment.
- Maintain or gain competitive knowledge.
- Meet legal obligations - employees, clients, shareholders, community.
- Identify business process inefficiencies.
- Identify single points of failure.
- Maintain a positive image.
The Continuity Plan
Try and keep things as straightforward as possible and think of the overall plan as the business contingency plan (BCP).
Within the business contingency plan, there will generally be three distinct stages of planning which need to be considered. These phases will each be time-dependent. The initial response (emergency response) may cover a timeframe up to about the first 24 hours. Thereafter, there will be the need to 'hold it together' or business continuity, which could extend from a day to several weeks followed by the return to normal operations over a period of weeks or even months.
In some organisations it may be relevant to develop an overall 'umbrella plan' ie, the big picture plan, within which more detailed divisional/departmental plans can be developed. However, both the umbrella and divisional/departmental plans should generally follow the above approach, with the restoration objectives being established under each phase. It may work like this.
The Three Stage Continuity Plan
The restoration objectives in terms of the business should have been clearly identified for each phase as part of the business impact analysis.
Phase 1 Immediate Response
Objectives: To secure hazardous conditions; establish the control organisation; provide initial status report. Phase 1 is likely to extend for the first 24 hours or so.
Phase 2 Business Continuity
Objectives: To effect minimum operational status; to review phase 1; to initially prepare for phase 3. Phase 2 is likely to extend for up to two weeks.
Phase 3 Disaster Recovery
Objectives: To provide an orderly programme for full operational restoration. Phase 3 may extend for six months or more.
- It doesn't matter what you call it - develop a plan as broadly or as detailed as your own needs may be. Typically a broad 'umbrella contingency plan' is sufficient which may need to be broken down to some detail in specific areas, e.g. IT, product recall procedures, plant level etc.
- Think of it more as a programme needing regular and on-going review rather than a document to be filed and forgotten.
- Top management commitment is essential.
- Test the plan regularly and modify as may be necessary.
- Document the plan and ensure management are familiar with it.
- Ensure the necessary resources will be available as detailed in the plan.
Download this free resource to find out how to build your organisation's resilience - Resilience For Small Business
A new website has been developed to help New Zealand businesses stay open when the unexpected happens - Resilient Business
This Business Emergency Planning Guide from Wellington City Council provides a great resource to guide a business in hazard analysis and emergency planning.
Download a free business continuity template and guide to assist you in your business continuity planning - Hazard Assessment, Planning and Preparedness for Businesses
You can learn more about preparing your business for an emergency on the National Civil Defence and Emergency Management website.