Disasters and emergencies occur with no advance notice. Small businesses can struggle to put everything in order again and get back to earning revenue. A quarter of businesses don’t survive disasters. Ensuring that your organization weathers whatever comes your way, there needs to be a business continuity plan in place. Keep reading to learn how to build a business continuity plan.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

Maintaining business functions or quickly resuming operations following a disaster is business continuity. You would do this with a business continuity plan that outlines procedures that must be followed in the face of a disaster. The plan would cover processes, assets, human resources, partners, and more.

While this might sound like a disaster recovery plan, it is the larger picture. A disaster recovery plan may be a part of the business continuity plan. But the latter focuses on the entire organization and not just infrastructure or operations.

Your business continuity plan would include the plan to get human resources, manufacturing, ad sales departments functioning again after a disaster. To keep the doors open you must remain competitive. Doing so means that you must continue to provide the same level of service or quality of products to your customers while adding to your customer base, no matter what is going on.

Steps to Build Out a Business Continuity Plan

If you are ready to get your business prepared for whatever is next, it’s time to get your business continuity plan in place. The only way to start is by taking a good look at your current processes and look for areas of vulnerability and identifying the potential losses if your business stops operating for a short time.

Once you know the financial impacts of those losses you will know which areas you should start and prioritize the steps you need to take.  When you review the risks involved in a total shutdown, look for ways to mitigate them.

Having a clear picture of your core products and services and where the bulk of your profits come from will help you identify what must be done first when restoring service after a disaster. Then you will know what needs to be taken care of on the first day after a disaster, the second day, and so on.

You also need to get a good idea of what type of disasters are likely for your business or geographical area. For example, businesses in Houston should be including plans for hurricane season, a business in Los Angeles may include plans for earthquakes. All businesses should consider the risk of fire.

A fire is something that you can work to prevent. Consider having your location inspected for fire hazards and that it meets fire codes. Get your team involved and include them by handing out information on preventing and containing fires, evacuation plans, and how they should be reported.

Think about who would be affected by a business disruption, including your best customers, and be prepared to communicate with them after any emergency or disaster situation. Form your message before anything happens and outline how your message will be communicated to those that need the information after a disaster strikes.

Identify critical employees and compile an emergency contact list. Make sure that this list includes team members from each level of the business. Choose an operations center just in case you cannot get into your office. Figure out who will work from home and how that will be set up.

Develop relationships with backup vendors so that you will be able to get the resources that you may need. Get with your IT team and assemble a technology recovery plan. Make sure that you are continually backing up important data and have an off-site space or off-site server for the backup information.  

Remember to include all team members and determine their roles, what they will need to keep working under emergency conditions, and include this in the plan. Now it’s time to get started. Put your plan together, in writing and make sure everyone is aware of it.

Give it a Test Run

There is no point in creating a business continuity plan if you don’t plan on putting it in motion. Test your plan and adjust as needed. Testing should occur at least once a quarter. Whatever type of scenarios you come up with for tests, make sure they are challenging. Testing can be done through several means.

Tabletop Exercises involve creating a scenario and assigning roles to those around the table from the various departments in your organization. The team then talks through the details of the plan. You can find opportunities for improvement while doing this.

Structured Walk-Throughs are conducted by having each member walk through their component of the plan to identify weaknesses with a specific disaster in mind. Drills and role-playing can be incorporated.

Disaster Simulation Testing should be done once a year.  You simply create an environment to simulate a disaster using all equipment, supplies, personnel, and vendors involved. In this test, you would attempt to carry out critical business functions during a disaster.

Keeping Your Continuity Plan Fresh

You’ve done all the hard work putting together your business continuity plan and testing it. You mustn’t let it go stale. As technology evolves and staff changes, the plan needs to be updated. At least once a year, review the plan with key personnel to find opportunities for updates and needed modifications.

RACK59’s Business Continuity and Workplace Recovery

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