The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 closed 350 businesses. 150 never re-opened. Other events such as widespread illness, vendor shut-downs, floods, earthquakes and fires can shut your business down as well. The question is, How quickly could you get back to work?
Whether you work out of your home or a high-rise building, a Business Continuity Plan is your first line of defense against losses due to natural or man-made disaster. This article with highlight five things you should consider when writing your plan and point you towards further resources that will guide you through the process.
Even if you work alone, you will still need strategic partners in the event of a disaster. These partners may be vendors, customers, neighbors, emergency services personnel, etc. If you work in a larger company, your team members will be recruited mostly from within your organization.
Before assembling your team, try and predict what kind of business distruptions you are most likely to face. For example, if you live near the coast, you will be more likely to encounter flooding than a colleague in the mountains. Once you have identified the threats, you will be in a better position to determine the identity of the people you will need to partner with in order to continue business operations.
In a larger organization, you will want to assign specific roles to staff members. For example, one individual may be responsible to retrieve the off-site backup tapes needed to rebuild your company data. If you are a sole proprietor, then it all falls on your shoulders. But that doesn't mean you can't develop a list of people you know you can call on in an emergency. In a wide spread disaster, such as a flood, you won't be the only one suffering, so developing some cooperative relationships ahead of time makes sense.
Once you have identified your team members, you will need to decide how to communicate in an emergency. Your communication plan may be as simple as having a call list saved on your cell phone. Besides communicating with your disaster recovery team, remember to contact customers and other stake holders as soon as possible. Let them know what your situation is, and what steps you are taking to keep your business moving.
Temporary Production and Distribution
How will you keep goods and services flowing in the event of a disaster? You may need to store some critical components and supplies off-site. Or you may need to have distributors drop-ship directly to your customers. If you are a manufacturer, can you arrange for other shops to assemble your product on a temporary basis? However you deal with temporary production and distribution, make sure you think this one through before a fire or tornado destroys part of your facility.
Regular data backup is critical for any business. If you aren't backing up critical data regularly, stop reading this article and get to it now. Your data backup can be as simple as an external USB drive. But regardless of the medium, arrange for off-site storage and develop a plan for bringing critical computer services back on line. For more information, Jean Murray's article on Backing up Your Business Computer Records is a great place to start.
Ice storms, hurricanes, floods, fires and other disasters can cause long term power outages. Consider how long your business could survive without power. This will help you determine whether you need a simple UPS or a back-up generator.
An Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS, can keep your computers running for a limited time and then allow them to power down safely. You can read more about Uninterruptible power supplies here.A generator is designed to kick in a black out. The right generator can keep your entire business running as long as fuel is available.
Taking the Next Step
Considering these five items will start you down the road of creating a Business Continuity Plan. But it's only a start. The next step is to take this information and create a formal document. The American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS)and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) both provide excellent, step by step guides that you can use for creating and maintaing your plan. The Small Business Adminstration (SBA) has some helpful information for you as well. Follow the links below to move closer to your goal of creating a useful Business Continuity Plan.