Back in September 2019, we wrote about preparing your business for disasters and other threats after Category 5 Dorian barreled through the Caribbean and narrowly missed the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
As the entire world monitors the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we find ourselves in a similar situation: activating our business continuity plan and making frequent adjustments to stay proactive during this rapidly changing environment. During this time, we’re not only responsible for protecting our infrastructure and operations, but also keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy.
And we know we’re not the only ones.
Businesses everywhere are springing into action to prepare for major adjustments in order to limit exposure to COVID-19. Some of the adjustments Vector has taken during this dynamic situation include:
In order to execute on these important adjustments, you need to have a plan in place that assigns clear roles to employees and ensures timely communications with all stakeholders, both internal and external. This type of plan is often referred to as a business continuity plan.
Simply put, a business continuity plan (BCP) puts processes and procedures in place to ensure that a company can continue to operate during and after a disaster.
According to CIO.com:
“Business continuity refers to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a disruption…a business continuity plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the face of such disasters; it covers business processes, assets, human resources, business partners and more.”
It is a living document and blueprint for how to keep an organization running, addressing business and employee personal safety as well as customer service.
But how does one create a BCP? And what should be included in it?
Here, we’ll take a look at BCP best practices as outlined by emergency management officials. We’ll also highlight key pieces of Vector Solutions’ BCP, which includes our ongoing efforts to maintain business operations while keeping our team and customers safe and healthy.
Creating a BCP can feel like a daunting task. How do you create one? What should you include in it? What disasters should you prepare for? Who should be involved?
Vector Solutions utilizes the The Department of Homeland Security’s software, a comprehensive Business Continuity Planning Suite, which includes software “created for any business with the need to create, improve, or update its business continuity plan.”
In addition to BCP template generators, the Suite also includes a 30-minute video-based training course which highlights the importance of having a BCP, as well as prepares users to create their own plans.
An effective BCP should be comprehensive and address all aspects of your organization or business. It should include:
Here are three critical elements that should serve as the backbone of your BCP:
The overview of your BCP should address:
Because Vector Solutions has multiple offices in all regions of the country, our BCPs must be specific to the office location they serve. For example, our Tampa office BCP identifies hurricanes as a likely risk threat, while our San Diego office does not. Due to the widespread exposure of COVID-19, Vector has updated and strengthened our BCPs across all office locations and assigned site leaders from each location to assess any needs from their teams.
This piece of your plan will determine when it’s time to activate your BCP team, how that activation will operate, and who will be involved in that activation. This section should include:
As outlined in the Vector COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan, Vector is using guidance provided by local, state, and national emergency management offices to determine when to act on our key decision points.
It’s important to remember that a BCP is a living document and will require updates, and testing at least once every year. This includes assigning proper training to any team members that need it, completing at least one tabletop exercise or drill, and updating the plan as needed.
In addition to performing routine BCP updates, Vector Solutions reviews and updates each office plan in the event an actual disaster occurs in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the plan. As sections of the plans are updated, the revised sections are provided to BCP team members and any additional plan holders. We anticipate that our plan – along with many other company plans – will be reviewed and assessed following the COVID-19 outbreak.
After personal safety, communication is perhaps the most critical piece of any plan and is required before, during, and after a disaster.
Proactive, timely and frequent internal and external communication show that you are prepared and ensure that the correct information is going out to your employees, clients, and stakeholders.
Because technology is often affected during disasters – power outages, unreliable cell service, etc. – it’s important to have multiple platforms of communication open and available to employees and clients so that they can receive the latest updates from your organization as well as ask questions.
The following is a list of helpful communications platforms for both internal and external audiences, and ones that Vector Solutions utilizes in our BCP:
There are many unknowns when it comes to disasters. While your business continuity plan might not be 100% successful at preparing your organization, one way to ensure zero success is to not take it seriously or waiting until the last minute to create one.
If you are in charge of creating or implementing your company’s BCP, start with your senior leadership and work your way down. Employees will not take their roles seriously if the BCP is approached with a casual attitude.
Test your BCP annually and make sure updates are completed in a timely manner. Additionally, make sure that the appropriate team members are trained and clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.
And last but not least, communicate with your team members. Misinformation or a lack of information during a disaster can lead to confusion, mistakes, panic or worse.
We hope everyone stays safe and healthy. We are all in this together.