Amidst COVID-19: Is your business continuity plan active?
Your business has weathered multiple storms: Vendors who didn’t deliver. Employee mistakes that cost the company. Perhaps even a claim or two. But do you have a business continuity plan to help weather true storms, the kind caused by Mother Nature or a simple coronavirus? No doubt, thanks to COVID-19, you’ve discovered you need a business continuity plan that includes emergency evacuation, employee safety, communication, protecting your property and more. No matter what Mother Nature throws at you – an earthquake, a flood or even a coronavirus that just won’t quit spreading, you’ll be better able to keep going, with business as usual.
Why is a business continuity plan important?
Here are just three good reasons: One, 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen, says FEMA. Two, your customers expect you to be open and operating (at least, remotely). Otherwise, they’ll take their business elsewhere. Three, even though you’ve worked through all the necessary insurance coverages with your agent, there’s more you need to do. Some strategic planning ahead of time will save you money – and time.
Related: 24 fire prevention tips for businesses
What should a business continuity plan include?
Each plan needs to consider
- How you’ll protect the safety of employees and clients, should the emergency happen during business hours
- How you’ll communicate with employees, clients, vendors and industry partners
- How you’ll maintain your level of service by minimizing business disruptions
- How you’ll protect your building, inventory, equipment, computers and digital information
- How you’ll protect your company’s image and reputation
Related: How to minimize risk by creating a business continuity plan
How to get started
First, make a list of all hazards that might take place: pandemics, black-outs, winter storms, theft and vandalism, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fire, cyber attack, or a prolonged absence of key personnel, for instance. Next, add to the list all of your vulnerabilities, from your staff, inventory, equipment and physical office, to your files and information technology. Third, analyze the impact of these occurrences on your business with a business impact analysis (BIA). FEMA has a worksheet that you can use.
Life safety is priority one when an emergency occurs, followed closely by stabilizing the incident and minimizing potential damage. A business continuity plan should provide for first aid and CPR training to employees that you’ve identified and trained beforehand, to help minimize injury and possibly even save lives. Making sure everyone knows where fire extinguishers are located, and how to use them, can extinguish a small fire. Training everyone where the best places for safety are in the event of a tornado or earthquake is also essential.
Many severe weather events can be forecast at least a few hours ahead of their impact, providing valuable time to enact an emergency plan. Now’s the time to finalize and communicate your plan complete with resources that are either on hand or available quickly. Your plan needs to include processes for damage assessment, salvage, protection of undamaged property and cleanup. These actions will minimize further damage and business disruption.
You will need to have a clearly communicated plan for each potential incident, from fires to bomb threats (when and how to evacuate), to threats of violence or a nearby chemical spill (shelter inside the building).
Related: Natural disaster aftermath: Employee safety tips
How to communicate
An important aspect of preparedness is your crisis communications plan, enabling their company to respond promptly and confidently during an emergency within hours – and days to come. Make a list of the types of audiences with whom you’ll need to communicate, from employees to clients and from suppliers to claims personnel. Additionally, your plan should include who will speak with news media personnel and the community at large – and what can or should not be said. Learn more about a crisis communications plan here.
Related: Safety tips for business recovery after a hurricane or other disaster
FEMA has a robust website full of worksheets, tools and other valuable information that can be of help:
- Business continuity
- IT disaster recovery plan
- Employee communication
- Business continuity planning suite
Now’s the time to maintain business-as-usual, with a business continuity plan.