Emergency Response Planning Blog

Geographical Risks and Business Continuity

Posted on Thu, Dec 06, 2012

Despite a company’s location, natural hazards are a risk to business continuity. Natural hazards have a tendency to be location specific. However, images of the devastation left behind by these events are widespread. Unfortunately, many companies and their employees believe such disasters will not happen to them and fail to plan for plausible business disruption. 

The CMI 2012 Business Continuity Management Survey detailing Business Continuity efforts stated that 54% of companies surveyed that don’t have  business continuity plans stated their reasoning that they experience disruptions. This statistic is not uncommon. However, every year, rivers overflow their banks, high winds break treetops and tear away roofs, and power outages leave entire areas in the dark.

Despite the likelihood of a business disrupting natural disaster, many companies do not implement a Business Continuity Plan. Earthquakes and hurricanes are persistent and ingrained in location-specific cultures. Changing weather patterns, unprecedented seismic activity, strong winds and tropical rainfall impact many communities. Yet, 50% of all companies do not practice continuity planning.

Threats from extreme weather, wildfires, and flooding can affect any business in any location.  The below graphic from the Institute for Business and Home Safety demonstrates the potential risks of naturally occurring events across the United States.

Potential risks throughout US resized 600

These natural events can result in the loss or temporary disruption of key business resources including:

  • Facilities or Workspace
  • Infrastructure or IT Applications/Systems
  • People
  • Supply Chain

While natural weather events are not avoidable, companies may limit damage, loss, or prolonged interruption to key business resources with mitigation measures and business continuity planning. A detailed company identification and evaluation of critical business processes should be performed as an integral part of a business continuity plan.

A “bare bones” evaluation should list the minimum criteria necessary to keep a business in operation. Subsequent continuity plans should include procedures for the prevention of loss or restoration of operations.  Necessary resources for business continuity may include:

  • Alternate workplace location(s)
  • Necessary equipment
  • Critical software
  • Client records
  • Off-site storage
  • Key vendors lists
  • Inventory and supplier requirements
  • Notification procedures for key stakeholders
  • Predefined personnel roles and responsibilities with current and alternate contact information
  • Business Continuity Team notification and activation procedures
  • Staff relocation requirements, including name, department, title, function code, home address, type of PC (PC or Laptop), number of adults and children in immediate family, pets /other, relocation priority, recovery location or facility, relocation seat number/room assignment, alternate employees, and special needs

A business continuity effort for an impending or existing natural event should incorporate the following four phases into the plan:

  1. Initial Response: This phase covers initial response to an active or potential business interruption and immediate efforts to minimize downtime.
  2. Relocation:  Mobilization of resources and relocation of equipment and personnel to alternate facilities or redundant sites may become necessary if forecasted or current conditions dictate. The relocation phase ensures that the recovery phase can be fully implemented to sustain minimum service levels defined for each critical process. This stage may include “Work from Home” and “Alternate Facility” relocation strategies.
  3. Recovery:  The time after personnel and equipment have been relocated to an alternate site to before primary facilities have been restored or permanent alternate facilities have been secured. This phase incorporates the processes and procedures necessary to recover lost or interrupted resources.
  4. Restoration:  Personnel are able to return to restored facilities, or permanent alternate facilities, and critical resources are in full operational status.

A business continuity natural disaster event may be initiated from a single contained incident that affects one facility, or a large-scale incident that affects an entire region. Regardless of the incident, business restoration can be accelerated if communication processes and continuity of operations plans have been developed, tested, and properly implemented.

For a sample Emergency Response Checklist, download our helpful and informative guide.

Tags: Climate Change, Fire Preparedness, Extreme Weather, Business Continuity Plan, Hurricane Preparedness, Flood Preparedness, Business Disruption, Tornado Preparedness, BCM