Disaster Preparedness: 10 Steps to Business Continuity
In the last blog post we discussed the need for a cooperative partnership between the public and private sectors. It is largely the responsibility of public-offices to coordinate this relationship, as they are responsible for a given community’s disaster preparedness. However, the private sector must not sit idly by; instead private businesses must develop their own preparedness plans. Specifically, I am referring to the private sector’s business continuity, and moreover, the resilience of this business continuity during and after a disaster scenario.
As with any preparedness effort, the key to business continuity is effective communication. It is essential to convey your organization’s plans and strategies, not only within your organization, but also externally, with the community at large. The reason for this is simple: if your message is not received by those who need it, planning efforts will not be effective.
- Engages target audiences directly and consistently
- Encourages that target audience’s active involvement in your preparedness plan
- Galvanizes support and buy-in that you need for operative continuity
So how do you ensure that your business is effectively communicating your continuity plan? Here are 10 helpful tips:
- Set goals and make a plan – Identify key functions in your organization and work backwards to develop a plan that ensures their resilience during a disaster scenario. Has your organization accounted for its high value fixed and mobile assets? Does your organization’s total asset visibility allow property managers to leverage and protect those resources in a disaster scenario? A clearly articulated plan prevents executives, managers, and employees from losing sight of what needs to be accomplished when disaster strikes.
- Establish realistic priorities – Now that you have accounted for the key functions your business must protect, it is time to prioritize the steps that will ensure their preparedness. Establishing a protocol for disaster response will help prioritize a plan that can be executed immediately and without error.
- Practice your plan – The only thing more devastating than the disaster itself, is an inability to respond when disaster strikes. Sure, you may have a sound plan in theory, but unless your business is running routine exercises, you cannot be sure the plan is effective. As part of this practice, property managers must conduct regular audits of the organization’s asset inventory to ensure total asset visibility.
- Engage leadership – Your organization’s leadership is vital to a successful business continuity plan. From developing plans to overseeing drills and exercises, if the executives don’t see the value in your preparedness they won’t support it. Effective leadership will realize the importance of a continuity plan immediately; however, some executives only support disaster preparedness to the extent that it supports policy requirements. Emergency managers and property custodians must engage superiors by involving them in the planning, practice, and implementation processes.
- Engage experts – property and emergency managers should rely on both the physical resources, like fixed and mobile assets, and human resources at their disposal. Coordinate with each department vital to the protection of your business continuity. Talk to department heads to learn and understand their needs, and moreover, learn from their expertise. Asking for their involvement and acting on their advice will strengthen their commitment to the plan
- Build a network and rely on it – establishing and maintaining a network of professionals in the industry will help you in many ways. Just as you rely on your internal experts, so too should you seek the advice of professionals outside of your organization. If you have a question or a problem, being able to ask for advice or bounce ideas off of fellow industry members plays to your advantage.
- Commit to the plan – getting leadership to sign off on your business continuity and disaster preparedness plan is the hardest part. Once the decision makers in your company commit, managers and employees will follow suit. However, to ensure commitment on all levels it is important to continue communicating your goals and plan. Ensure that all members of your organization understand the preparedness goals and demonstrate that you have a realistic plan that accounts for all assets and individuals. What’s more, property and emergency managers should make it clear that every employee plays an active role in disaster preparedness; engage employees by asking for their input and listen to their concerns. Reinforce their engagement by scheduling monthly reviews that keep everyone committed to the plan and prepared for disaster.
- Know your audience – emergency managers must tailor their approach to different audiences. Whether addressing colleagues, clients or customers, every audience has different needs and expectations of their involvement in a disaster plan.
- Be consistent– an important part of engaging your audience is to use consistent terminology. Whether you call it disaster recovery, business continuity, business resilience, or emergency preparedness, make sure your audience knows exactly what you are talking about.
- Keep it simple – business continuity plans that are over complex are not nearly as effective as those that are more concise. In an emergency situation, people are not going to have the time to read through the entire plan to find what they need. Keeping your plans short and direct will serve recovery and asset management teams much more effectively. Tabbing your plans so recovery teams can pull out only the section or sections they need to function is an even more effective approach to simplicity. Simple is better.