– Richard Voisey, Nwes Business Consultant
Why have one?
Any business can experience a serious incident, emergency or disaster that prevents it from continuing its normal operations. Examples include floods, fires, electricity failures, broadband and communication network failures, terrorist attacks and major disruptions or suspensions to local transport networks.
How quickly – and painlessly – you manage to get back to ‘business as usual’ It could depend on how effectively you can devise, and put into action, your own business continuity management.
A business continuity plan describes the practical steps your business needs to follow if a problem arises. The planning process involves:
- Identifying your critical activities.
- Identifying potential threats, disasters or emergencies.
- Looking at how you can minimise risks.
- Deciding how you plan to react if a disaster or emergency occurs.
There are several situations that could have an impact on your Business:
- Failure of IT systems because of cyberattacks or faulty equipment.
- A personal data breach, such as theft or accidental disclosure of customers’ names,
- addresses or payment methods.
- Loss of key staff, for example through death or sudden illness.
- Problems caused by extreme weather conditions (including flood damage to premises and equipment).
- Utility outage (gas, electricity or water).
- Negative publicity.
- A break in the supply chain for any reason – for example, a main supplier goes out of business.
- Employee health and safety incident.
- Theft of equipment or stock.
- Terrorist attack disrupting local transport and access, particularly if the business is within a city centre.
What should your continuity plan contain?
There are two key parts to the planning process:
- The incident management phase (who does what to protect lives and property when the business interruption happens).
- The business recovery phase (who does what to get the business back on its feet again).
In a very small business, these tasks may be carried out by the same person. However, the activities are still different. Your plan should include details of:
- Immediate actions that should be taken, for example contacting the emergency services and key members of staff.
- How staff will communicate, including who will be responsible for contacting who, and how often they will share updated information about the situation.
- A map of the layout of your premises to help the emergency services. This should show fire escapes, extinguishers, sprinklers and so on.
- Which business functions you need to get up and running, in which order and how this will be achieved.
- What resources you will need to get priority functions operating.
- What everyone’s role will be if there is a disaster or emergency. Who will be responsible for dealing with any media enquiries? Who will deal with the insurance company? Define the role of each member of staff involved in the plan and appoint a deputy for each key person named in the plan.
- Alternative premises to be used in case of emergency. Can you make reciprocal arrangements with other local businesses to share premises temporarily if a disaster occurs?
- Where and how key data and information is backed up, and instructions for how to access those backups
- Contact details of anyone that needs to be notified, such as insurance companies, customers, suppliers, the local council and utilities providers. These details should be checked and updated regularly.
- Service providers that can help in the event of an emergency, including plumbers, electricians and locksmiths.
A checklist approach will be helpful as key steps can be easily identified and this will enable you to tick things off once they have been done. Set key milestones to achieve and a time limit for each milestone. Remember that your plan should cover what will happen in each different set of circumstances.
Access to the plan
The plan should be written down and kept securely. To ensure that it can still be accessed when IT systems on the premises are unusable, copies of the plan (and other essential documents) should be stored off-site, for example by using a cloud-based backup service, or by keeping them on a smartphone or on a hard drive at the business owner’s home.
The Government provides guidance to help businesses plan to deal with the impact of a major incident or disaster. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-continuity-planning
To find out more about starting or running for your business, call 0845 609 9991 or visit www.nwes.org.uk