In the face of a disaster, business continuity resources need to be pre-planned. Use a business continuity plan sample or disaster recovery plan example to build your plan prior to disaster occurring. And incorporate it into your business operations plan.
To prepare to handle disasters or emergencies, review another disaster recovery plan example or business continuity plan sample.
Typically, you can access sample plans from your region's emergency coordinator.
The various levels of government (municipal, state or provincial, and federal) also have business continuity resources available.
When planning for disaster always assume you will have communications issues, electrical and gas issues, water issues, road and transportation issues, and more for the first 48 hours. In other words, you will need to rely on yourself, your plan, your employees and neighbors.
Use a disaster recovery plan example to help you build your plan. For example, government emergency plans usually state that they would take over available communications lines for emergency response - meaning that you will likely have limited access.
Immediately after a disaster, it is likely that business continuity resources and services from various levels of government will be limited. Ensure that you make it the role of human resources staff (if you do not have a human resources department or specialist, then it must be up to you) to brief your key people on your plan), and that your plan is reviewed at minimum on a yearly basis with those people.
Your people need to know what the plan is so that they will act on it as soon as possible.
At some point early in the disaster, typically after the insurance company has attended the scene, you will have to make a decision in terms of continuing your business and determining what it will take to do so. Assess what business continuity resources and services are available to you during your decision making process. In addition to government services, you may be able to access industry and/or business associations' support.
Some businesses may never be able to, or want to, rebuild.
But ensure that before you make that decision, at what would likely be a very emotional time for you, that you sit down and review all the pros and cons in a rational manner. Build a business case for going ahead: either business recovery or business shutdown.
Once you've built your business continuity strategy, you must keep it current. Review a business continuity plan sample from your industry - how does it handle the most important decision points?
Recognize that your plan cannot address all possible disasters, but should be focused on the most probable occurrences. And those probable disasters need to be assessed for business impact.
One of your business protocols must be that as you hire new employees, add new customers, change or add suppliers, that you update your business continuity plans with the information.
Additionally, you need to schedule someone to review the information at least once a year and ideally every quarter. Keep a copy your continuity plan on a CD and keep that CD in a safe location away from the business. Keep a hard copy of the plan with your insurance agent or your lawyer.
However, always ensure that the privacy of the information you have collected in your continuity plan is protected (make sure that you have a signed confidentiality agreement with those who store your plan offsite for you).
You might want to keep a copy of your continuity plan (with high level of security) in a login section of your website. Assuming your website host is remote, and that they back up on a regular daily basis, you could access that information from any internet connection (once the internet comes back up).
At the end of the day, if your business was strong before the disaster - if you had good employees, good customers, good suppliers - it is possible to transition that business value into a successful 'new' business. Use your business continuity resources to ensure that your business can respond to disaster.
A checklist for your Business Continuity Plans.
Human resource planning needs to be part of business continuity planning.
Ensure your Business Financial Plan includes a provision for emergencies.
Include continuity strategies in your Business Operations Plan.
Once you've built your plan, you need to implement it.
Developing your strategy (in the plan) is the first, necessary, step. You need to know the direction you want to go, and you need the strategy and the plan to help you get there.
But once you've built the plan, you must execute it.
There is no value in building a plan that just gathers dust.
When building your business plan, make sure that you include an action plan for the strategies, techniques and tactics.
The actions need to include who's responsible for doing what; measurements for success (such as deadlines and timelines, targets and goals, costs, etc.); and why you need to take the action (in some cases, one action needs to be accomplished before subsequent ones can be launched).
As you work through the plan, make sure that you build reporting periods into the implementation: you need to know what's going on and why something is working, or not.
Make sure to communicate progress, or lack of it, throughout the organization. And re-visit the plan when and where necessary.
Plan for the future: lots of business owners want to get, or keep, moving forward. Planning seems to be more of a passive activity.
However, to ensure that your business goes in the right direction and that it optimizes all its opportunities, and manages its challenges, it is important to plan.
Balance your activities against the plan: make sure that you are investing your time, and money, on the elements of your business that will help you succeed.
Measure what works, and what doesn't work, and keep your focus: use your business plan as a map to guide you in the direction you want to go.