Business contingency planning refers to the steps that an organisation takes ahead of time to prepare for recovery in the event of a disaster that threatens to interrupt business operations. Detailed plans are set out that take into account various types of emergencies that can occur and how to minimise the downtime (and lost profits) for the company. Typically business contingency plans set out clear actions that key individuals can take when disaster strikes. An ideal business contingency plan is a living document that changes over the years as technology evolves and new threats to business continuity emerge. While there are third-party companies out there that aid in creating business contingency plans, a savvy business owner prepared to do research and planning can do the groundwork for disaster planning without an outsider provider.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Internet connection
- Word processing program
- E-mail program
- Pens and paper
Identify the key personnel required to keep the bare minimum of business operations running in the event a disaster should strike. Examples might include department managers, the accounting department, or branch managers in field offices if your business is a large one. If your company has an Information Technology department, whomever is in charge of it should always be involved in business contingency planning.
Create your own business contingency template that sets out information such as key personnel and their typical responsibilities, potential disasters that could threaten business operations, and steps each key personnel member could take to minimise loss to the company.
Once satisfied with the initial draft business contingency plan, e-mail electronic copies to all key personnel members to get their feedback and suggestions on ways to strengthen the plan. There may be factors you're unaware of that they deal with on a daily basis and that need to be addressed in the contingency plan.
Revise the business contingency plan document based upon the input given by key personnel members. Improving the plan should always be your top priority--one reason it's crucial to view the plan as a living, changing document rather than something set in stone.
Conduct a face-to-face meeting with key personnel when you feel you have a more finalised draft of the business contingency plan. The floor should be opened up for completely honest and critical discussion on whether any further improvements should be made to the plan.
Test the business contingency plan periodically the way you would test any emergency system. Plan an actual physical drill to iron out as many wrinkles as possible before a real disaster strikes. It will be much easier to tweak the contingency plan now than in the middle of a true emergency.
Tips and warnings
- Disasters to plan for can range from small ones like a power outage to large-scale emergencies such as fires, floods or hurricanes. Don't forget to prepare for the smaller events as well.
- Your business contingency plan should address how employees will communicate in the event of disruptions, where they will meet in the case of building evacuation, and how they will continue performing their duties, if at all possible.
- Consider training backup employees to handle the duties of key personnel in the event that illness or injury should strike individuals, or in the event that key personnel members are incapacitated during a firm-wide disaster.
- Connect with local emergency response forces such as firefighters, police departments and EMTs to make sure you've got a realistic plan in place. It's never a bad idea to familiarise police and rescue personnel with the physical layout of your company, especially if the facilities are particularly large or complex.
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