Business Continuity Plan
Do you have one for when a crisis or natural disaster strikes?
Outside of a movie theater, how much thought have you given to earthquakes,
volcanoes, floods and wind here in Spokane? This time of year, the impact of snow, ice and
other weather conditions can easily disrupt our normal business routines – though hopefully
on a minor scale.
Aside from a power outage, bad weather and other events can severely cripple a company’s
operating procedures. Instead of chanting the “it will never happen to me” mantra, be prepared
for anything. A number of local businesses have successfully weathered a variety of situations that
would’ve crippled or permanently sidelined them had they not been so well prepared.
Remember what your business did after the ice storm
of 1996? Were you desperately looking for a generator
for your home or office? Many Spokanites may also
remember the days after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980
– searching for facemasks and air filters while unable to
drive our cars.
Balancing how you deal with unexpected major events
and the tremendous impact they have, along with being
fully prepared for them, is the difference between whether
or not your business makes it through successfully.
Businesses are also vulnerable to people-related disruptions,
whether it’s from a flu outbreak or terrorism.
(Remember all those travelers who couldn’t return to work
the days after 9/11?) When a business owner or a key
manager is sidelined for a prolonged period of time, it’s
Increasingly, employees are also impacted by health
crises, drug/alcohol use or domestic violence situations.
These, too, affect businesses. In these high stress times, it’s
worth talking about what to do when disruptive customers
or family members interfere with work.
Without a plan, it isn’t unusual for six or seven people to
cluster around and, in the interest of being helpful, actually
add to the confusion and chaos.
And what about accidents? Even minor ones require
immediate attention and damage control. More than one local company has had to contact customers because
confidential data was lost or fire shut down a site. Although
rare and very tragic, accidental death can occur – vehicles,
forklifts and chemical releases have all killed employees
in this region.
Within the last year, an otherwise healthy local business
owner died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Despite the
great loss, the company is doing well and employees and
customers are secure. All because five years ago the owner
developed a strategic plan and included his top managers
in the implementation. In addition to a designated and
trained “second-in-command,” each key position person
knew the plan and what was required to move forward.
Because of a well-developed pre-planned network, customers
and employees were contacted, reassured and
told what they could expect in the upcoming weeks and
months following the tragedy.
likely to occur
0 (low) - 3 (high)
(Air or Rail)
|Radiological - Facility||0.724|
| Radiological - Transportation||0.345|
Source: Spokane City-County Disaster Committee, 2002.
Another example concerns a chemical company. Their
plan included specific internal steps when deaths occurred
due to an accident, as well as public meetings to explain
to nervous and angry neighboring citizens what happened
and what was going to be done about it.
Other companies who haven’t planned potential
“worse-case scenarios” have had to shut their doors, losing
customers and employees, while they figured out the next
step. This doesn’t have to happen.
Step 1: Brainstorm Scenarios
Its better to plan in comfort rather than in crisis. So, pick a
time when you can really focus on this task without the pressure
of daily business demands, or the impeding stress of a
potential crisis, knowing that for now the office lights are still
on and the accounts receivables are in a tidy bank account.
Once you're ready, list all the possibilities for "What Could
Go Wrong." This vital step in creating a business continuity
plan can be broken down into three scenario groups: nature,
people and accidents. For each one, list specific possible
Step 2: Make a List of Actions
Create an action plan of contact that can be applied
to each crisis scenario should it actually occur. Include a list
of tasks and the necessary supplies, tools and personnel to
accomplish it. Check with your business office’s security system,
technology support and insurance company to be sure
you are clear about their responsibilities when your business
functions are disrupted. Solicit input from other key players
within your organization to help you.
Step 3: Seek Feedback and Discuss
Discuss your plans and ideas with your management team
and/or other key personnel and be open to their feedback.
Be sure everyone present is able to focus on this important task
and give it the mental attention it deserves.
Listen to what everyone has to say. Take notes. Let everyone
know how important their input and suggestions are, not only
for the good of the company’s future, but also to create the
best possible outcome should a future crisis or tragedy occur.
After this step, your plans may require substantial revisions
and possibly another meeting.
Step 4: Make Arrangements
After a plan is agreed upon, arrange to secure any items
you may need, as well as any necessary off-site storage and
access. Clearly communicate the plan to all employees and
make sure they understand it. Give managers a printed copy
to keep in a secure place at their homes or in their traveling
© Lunell Haught and Jim Barry