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Contingency Planning for Businesses: How to Prepare for Emergencies

Mar 16, 2020

It would seem that in today’s environment, contingency planning for businesses has never been such an important consideration. The ability for your business to respond and act  quickly and decisively in the event of an emergency or unprecedented situation can make the difference between your business surviving the impacts of a wide range of scenarios. It is also a legal requirement for some businesses to carry out business continuity planning.

Take the Coronavirus as a very real and immediate example. Across the world we are seeing people and whole areas being locked down, businesses having to ask staff to work from home for prolonged periods of time, sick pay rules relaxed and extended, and the likelihood of social distancing being enforced in the UK. Whilst no business could have predicted such an event, having a plan in place which sets out the action you will take in the face of business disruption will be hugely be beneficial at a time like this.

What types of emergency should your business plan for?

Your business should prepare for as wide a range of emergency situations as possible. You never know what will be around the corner so having a plan in place which covers a wide range of circumstances should be your priority.

Much has happened in recent years and months which highlights the importance of planning for a range of scenarios:

  • Extreme weather events – year on year we are seeing increases in weather events – heavy rainfall leading to severe flooding has had a devastating impact on many businesses
  • Brexit – the levels of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, which are still apparent today albeit at a lesser extent, have caused issues for many businesses
  • Coronavirus – the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus around the world is set to affect businesses in the UK as the government look to increases measures to deal with the outbreak

Some situations you will be able to plan specifically for. If you operate within a flood risk area for example, you can get very specific in terms of the action you take if flooding is expected. But for something more abstract, such as Brexit or the Coronavirus, you can have guiding principles which direct your business – for example how do you respond if staff cannot come to their normal place of work. From these you can then build out a specific business continuity plan as and when required. But because you have laid the groundwork and planned for a range of different scenarios, putting a dedicated plan together should be less of an onerous task which, importantly, can be achieved more quickly.

How do you build a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan is a document which steps out all of the processes and procedures that will be undertaken if disaster strikes.

It is likely that you will want to follow 4 key stages when it comes to building out your business continuity plan:

Appoint someone to be responsible for your business continuity plan – Depending on the size of your business this may be an individual, or a team of people. Ultimately you need someone to take responsibility for the plan. Someone who can oversee the creation of your plan, give direction, gain buy in from your senior team and allocate roles and responsibilities to individuals with the right skills set. Without an overall owner you risk not getting the job done.

Carry out a risk assessment – This can help you understand where your weaknesses are. Along with what type of disaster events may impact your business. Think about what are the key business functions that you require to keep your business running. And what impact scenarios would have across all areas of your business

Also think about:

  1. Key business areas
  2. Business critical systems and functions
  3. Dependencies between business areas and functions
  4. Acceptable downtime for critical functions and systems

Create and document – This is where you document all of your actions. Think about how you will respond during the key stages as an emergency or unprecedented event unfolds:

During the emergency – what do you in the immediate event of an emergency or event outside of your control. Employee safety will be paramount of course.

Crisis management – The actions that you take and the way that you manage the situation will be critical. So, think through all aspects of crisis management. Do you need to communicate to your customers? Do you need to contact suppliers?

Business recovery – think about how your business recovers from the event in the long term. How do you get systems back online, premises back to the state that they were in prior to the event etc.

Test and Implement – Staff with a role to play in your business continuity planning need to have a copy of the document and a thorough understanding of what is required of them. Training for these staff will be vital in ensuring your plan works. As will testing. A plan only works as well as the amount of effort put into creating it. Testing your plan will highlight any flaws and areas you may have missed. Finding these out now rather than in the middle of an emergency can only be a good thing.

What should a business continuity plan include?

This will depend on the nature of the event or emergency event that your business continuity plan covers. Take a look at our recent blog for an example of the areas you should consider when building a business contingency plan which relates to flooding risk. 

Ultimately, a business continuity plan will include all of the processes and procedures that your business will follow if an emergency or unprecedented event occurs.

You should also include

  • Emergency contact details of key staff named in the plan
  • Contact details or key suppliers
  • Details for utility providers
  • The location of any other contingent plans such as disaster recovery plans
  • Location of any back up service providers
  • Your insurance providers contact details

The current climate can be a worrying time if you are a business owner. But engaging in business contingency planning and creating a business continuity plan can at least offer you the reassurance that if the worst were to happen, that you are well prepared to take decisive action to protect your staff and business.

If you are concerned about disruption to your business, then you may want to consider taking out business interruption insurance. Chat to Anthony Jones today to discuss business interruption insurance and how it could benefit your business.

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