Ensure Smooth Operations
Being prepared for an emergency requires a Business Continuity plan. Such a plan is prepared before an emergency occurs and is tested and standing by to ensure that your business continues functioning after something unpredictable or unforeseen occurs. While a good plan takes time and effort to produce, its benefits far outweigh the tedious and time-consuming nature of the task.
Why is a business continuity plan so important? It is vital to your success as a business because it allows your business to continue bringing in revenue and serving your clients in the quickest and most efficient way possible. Think about some of the major disasters in the recent past: 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Nashville Flood, and the 2011 North American Blizzard. The businesses prepared with a business continuity plan were able to recover and get back to business within just a few weeks, in some cases only days. But the ones who were not prepared simply had to board up their shops and start from scratch. A little work done now, saves you time and money in the future.
Creating a Plan
There is no “one size fits all” template for a business continuity plan. Every business is unique and thus each requires its own custom plan. A company must establish a committee to discuss, plan and create the best plan for itself, keeping in mind company-specific details and needs. While this is a very individualized undertaking, there are several broad ideas to keep in mind.
Identify a Chain of Command
Document who is in charge and who is responsible for doing what. The person in charge will be expected to fulfill the steps created in the plan.
Create Contact Lists
Who are your key employees? Who fills key positions, without which your business cannot function? List names and contact information of all people who need to be reached in case of an emergency.
Make a list of key vendors and outside contractors. Include bankers, attorneys, accountants and IT help. Think of anyone you might need to contact to get your business back up and running. Include all pertinent contact and account information.
Identify Critical Equipment
What pieces of equipment are critical for your business to continue? What will you do if they are damaged or destroyed? How can you replace them quickly?
Identify Critical Documents
Legal documents, tax information, HR documents, banking information, and lease papers are just a few documents you will need to restart your business. You should have these and anything else you may need stored electronically in the “cloud”, in case everything is lost in a fire or flood.
Identify Contingency Locations
If your building is completely destroyed, where would you resume working? Is there a hotel or another office building you can use temporarily? Will everyone telecommute?
Create a How-To
Write a step-by-step plan of what should be done and who should do it. Keep contact lists together, so everyone can be made aware of the plan should an emergency take place.
Take the time to do a test-run of your plan. You’ll likely discover tiny glitches that need to be reworked or refined. It’s better to discover the problems before the emergency occurs rather than during. Make sure all employees are aware of their roles and are comfortable with the plan.
Decide what services or technology your company can utilize to help you with your plan. Do you need a way to quickly communicate with all your employees at once? Then an Emergency Notification System may be of use to you.
Emergency Notification System
An Emergency Notification System does not equal a business continuity plan – it is simply a tool that can help youexecute your plan. Because timely communication is so vital during an emergency, many companies make use of an emergency notification system to ensure that all employees get the information they need in the quickest and most efficient method possible.
A notification system is useful because it allows one person to send a message to multiple people at once. Instead of calling individuals one by one or by enacting a manual “phone chain”, emergency notification systems allow one person to create a message and then send it out to large groups of people all at once. These messages can be sent via phone, SMS, email and fax.
Systems utilizing cloud capability actually allow document storage that facilitate communication with key vendors in the event of an emergency. These systems effectively pull double and triple duty when you’re faced with disaster, assisting you in notifying important business partners of the situation and getting your vital documents into their hands to ensure you’re back up and running smoothly in the fastest way possible.
By keeping contact lists updated and organized – including staff, key personnel and partners included in your business continuity plan, and vendors vital to restarting operations – you can send out cancellations, update inclement weather information, and activate disaster plans in minutes. If one person does not answer his/her phone, the system will continue trying to send the message. It will also leave a voicemail message if necessary and provides a real-time status of notification for tracking or accountability purposes.
The uses for such a system are numerous, and applications from our clients include:
- Medical emergencies
- Power failures
- Inclement weather
- Safety tests and drills
- Chemical alerts
- Meeting notifications
- Closings and cancellations