Large snowstorms are just as damaging as floods. Unfortunately, small firms do not have a Business Continuity Plan in the event of adverse weather. A severe snowstorm can knock out a business for weeks. For a small business, such a shutdown could mean severe financial losses or even going under! All it takes is a little bit of planning to get a Business Continuity Plan in place to take care of ‘snowed-out’ conditions.
Though the elements of such a Business Continuity Plan should be as detailed as necessary, some of the basic must-haves are:
In the event of a snow-out, how will employees be informed?
The manual method of calling each employee and informing them that the office is inaccessible may be cumbersome and time consuming. The best way is to install an Automated Messaging System. All employees will then receive the same message by e mail, phone calls, text messages etc. Most small business can do with a basic system that costs a few dollars per employee per year.
When the office has to be shut down, from where will the employees work?
If the plan calls for working from an alternate work site, then this alternate site should have sufficient capacity to enable all critical employees to do work. If the plan calls for a ‘work-from-home’ strategy; then critical employees should have all the resources needed, to work from home. These plans should be tested from time to time to ensure that it works and any unexpected scenarios can be taken care off.
Method of communication between employees and external agencies
All employees should be provided two lists of phone numbers. The first should contain the phone numbers of all employees plus emergency service numbers. The second list should have the phone numbers only of other employees and external agencies, with whom the person needs to be in touch, to carry out his or her tasks. All critical employees should have a home phone and cell phone and up to date contact details should be available. Critical employee contact details should be updated regularly.
What to do if the business can function from its office, but some critical employees are facing an emergency at home?
At times the business premises may be unaffected, but some of the employees are unable to attend due to emergencies at home such as their houses have being damaged etc. It is advisable to have a backup employee for all critical employees. The alternate can step up and carry out functions on a temporary basis. Cross training is strongly recommended.
How to handle the situation if a vendor, crucial to the business, is affected?
Sometimes, the problem may not lie with your organization. A vendor that provides critical inputs for your business may be affected and this puts your operations in jeopardy. The best way to overcome this problem is by establishing alternate vendors well in advance. Check out this alternate source in advance to see if they will be able to give the desired inputs. Also get information of others that will be able to fill in the breech till as such time the situation returns to normal. It would be prudent to be familiar with the Business Continuity Plans of critical vendors and suppliers, Likewise, they too should be made aware of your business continuity strategy. By meshing each other’s strategy, a possible weak link can be minimized.
Other Human factors:
In very adverse weather conditions, other human factors may have to be taken care off. Some of the employees or their family members may be injured or require medical attention. Their homes may have suffered extensive damage during the storm. They will require immediate information about insurance plans or may need material and/or monetary assistance to handle the problem. Businesses that show compassion and support to their employees tend to have greater productivity.
The organization should factor in various scenarios as a part of its business continuity strategy. All employees should be aware of the plan. Training, where needed, should be imparted and it should be updated continuously. Test runs should be conducted regularly so that unexpected problems can be addressed by suitably modifying the Business Continuity Plan. A business that is prepared is resilient and can recovery fast.