Pile of roofing tiles collected after business continuity risk audit
Managing risk

Business continuity: it's ‘business as usual’

Natural disasters can befall a business at any time, and their aftermath can threaten the continuity and viability of a business.

Natural disasters can befall a business at any time, and their aftermath can threaten the continuity and viability of a business. A disaster contingency plan considers pre-positioning supplies, identifying areas where disaster is likely, fortifying essential infrastructure, and developing a natural disaster response team. Just how you recover, or indeed if you do recover, is very much dependent on how well you’re prepared.

Regain a sense of normalcy quickly

Natural disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, and tsunamis usually don’t hit with a great deal of advance warning. But when they hit chaos can occur leaving your business very much exposed.

The after-effects can also be extremely challenging for the people directly affected. Employees, customers and stakeholders all may have concerns and the sooner the business can get back to normalcy, the better for everyone. This is why it’s critical you complete a business impact analysis and have a disaster recovery plan as an integral part of your organisation’s overall risk management plan. 

Within this plan, you should also have a crisis plan outlining the process of responding to an event that might threaten the operations, employees, customers, reputation or the legal and financial status of your organisation.

This should include strategies to minimise the potential impact of identified crises, by limiting any damage and losses your organisation might face to ensuring the continuity of the business. A business continuity plan for every disaster contingency should also be an integral part of your organisation’s overall strategic business plan.

You can’t be over-prepared with recovery strategies for a natural disaster if you want your business to operate with minimal disruption.

Electrician in hardhat using screwdriver during business continuity risk audit

Continuing operations after a disaster

Within your incident response plan clearly identify:

  • systems and processes critical for continuing operations

  • strategies to minimise the potential impact on these systems and processes to ensure continuity

  • the point at which recovery is considered successful, and a recovery time objective

  • immediate actions to be taken – prioritise the rest

  • key personnel, their roles, responsibilities and contact details

If you have multiple systems in place, for instance in IT, you’ll need to have a plan for each system, including an estimated time for restoration, steps and procedures required and resources needed.

Other strategies for consideration in risk management:

  • Strip key operations down to essential functions, e.g., determine how to get tasks done without computers.

  • Identify a meeting location following a crisis.

  • Include contact details for those you’re likely to have to notify, e.g., emergency services, insurers, local council, customers, suppliers, utility companies and neighbouring businesses.

  • Provide specific training and drills so all employees know their responsibilities and are less likely to panic in an emergency situation.

  • Include a list of service providers – glaziers, locksmiths, insurers, plumbers, electricians, IT specialists and builders.

  • Include maps of your premises' layout to help emergency services, showing fire escapes, sprinklers and other safety equipment.

  • Identify your media strategy and company spokesperson.

  • Ensure you have hard copies of your business continuity plan offsite in a couple of different locations, also ensuring key personnel are aware of this.

Disaster recovery and Mother Nature 

The steps outlined above are really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being adequately prepared for a natural disaster. Mother Nature can be a force to be reckoned with, your management and OHS teams must discuss options for a variety of ‘what if’ scenarios.

Consider the benefits of drafting a loss-prevention manual to determine ahead of time how you will minimise loss. You may also lower your insurance liability payments by doing this.

Posting highly visible emergency evacuation routes in all areas of your business and having fire equipment and first aid materials readily accessible are really simple initiatives and very easy to implement. Ensure all employees are trained to use the equipment.

Having employees trained in giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

If you are ever forced to evacuate your office or factory, it will no doubt be challenging to find alternative space quickly, so always have some options on the backburner.

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