In 2004, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The America Prepared Campaign, the American Red Cross, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the U.S. Department of Education joined a coalition of more than 50 national organizations to engage American citizens in emergency preparedness by designating September as National Preparedness Month. This year, more than 3,000 organizations are taking part in supporting emergency preparedness efforts. National Preparedness Month provides a variety of opportunities to learn more about ways they can prepare for an emergency, get an emergency supply kit, establish a family communications plan, and become better aware of threats that may impact communities.
By prioritizing and encouraging preparedness, companies can set the example for employees, customers, and the surrounding communities. Disasters not only devastate individuals and neighborhoods, but entire communities, including businesses of all sizes. Employers should designate National Preparedness Month to encourage preparedness training, develop business continuity plans (BCP), review and evaluate existing plans, or advance preparedness practices through exercises and gap analyses.
Large and small businesses that are able to continue operations throughout a crisis situation or quickly restore services may avoid economic hardship and potential failure. Determining how to maintain critical business functions in less than ideal situations may be the key to company survival.
Understanding and exercising effective response procedures and the intricacies of a business continuity plan can minimize the effects of an incident. Business continuity events typically result in the loss or temporary disruption of one or more of the following necessary key business resources:
- IT Applications/Systems
- Supply Chain
A detailed identification and evaluation of critical business processes, focusing on the key business resources above should be performed as an integral part of a business continuity plan. This “bare bones” evaluation should list the minimum criteria necessary to keep your business in operation. Necessary minimum criteria may include:
Infrastructure needs: An incident that results in facility damage or mandatory evacuations may require relocation of critical business processes. Companies must identify and arrange for potential alternate locations, if applicable (ex. satellite offices, work from home, alternate locations).
Data and computer needs: Identifying computer backup solutions, data restoration methods, and minimum software requirements are crucial to re-establish critical business processes. Companies may examine data center outsourcing to ensure continuity and accessibility, as well as alternative/backup power sources for laptops.
Notification lists: Regularly update lists to ensure all contact information is up-to-date. Business continuity planners must be certain that notifications are being delivered to accurate e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers, especially in case of an evacuation. If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for an e-mail notification verification system that enables individuals to verify their own information.
Communication needs: Clear and effective communication channels must remain available in order to disseminate information to employees, assess and relay damage, and coordinate a recovery strategy. A mass notification system may assure a reliable method to communicate to key individuals, company employees, or an entire client base. However, in order for communication to be effective, contact information must be accurate.
Supply Chain: Plans should be constantly updated to include new suppliers. Additionally, pre-selected alternate suppliers should be included in the BCP to ensure consistent delivery and continued operations in the event primary suppliers are not able to provide required services.
Essential Personnel: Identify necessary minimum staffing levels to remain on-site during a storm. As the storm passes, ensure staff, contractors, and suppliers are in communication, and understand their individual responsibilities and recovery time objectives.
Equipment needs: Identify and procure necessary equipment and establish processes for continued operations and recovery. This will prevent unnecessary downtime and additional recovery efforts. The process of relocating equipment arranging for these essentials after-the-fact is time consuming, and potentially costly.
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