The Essentials of Business Continuity Planning

Whether natural or man-made, small to large-scale catastrophes can strike businesses without warning. When they do, having a well-developed business recovery or continuity plan ready and waiting reduces not only the negative economic impact, but the risk of closing down an organization forever.

A business continuity plan should always be in written form, ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice, and anticipate scenarios ranging from storms, floods and fires to massive power outages and even civil disturbances. Moreover, it should also address an organization’s economic, human-resource and technological needs. Here are some essential elements to consider when developing a comprehensive plan:

Employee Safety: A business’ most valuable resource is its people. How will your organization evacuate, aid and instruct personnel in an emergency? If the workplace is forced to close, is there a way to maintain communication and work with employees at their homes or a remote location?

Data Protection: Next to safeguarding personnel, restoring access to financial, employee, customer, product and related data is critical to survival. Redundant and regular data backup with offsite storage will help guarantee business continuity.

Economic Considerations: What are projected costs associated with different disaster scenarios? Is the organization adequately insured for every eventuality? How will the organization manage the costs of temporarily replacing or relocating equipment, people and facilities until such insurance kicks in?

Communication: How will your organization communicate with the greater outside world — including authorities, vendors and customers — if a business-interrupting event occurs? Equally important, are managers and employees well-versed in your business continuity plan? Will they know how to implement the plan when disaster strikes?

If all this sounds like a “Chicken Little” or “the sky is falling” mentality, consider this: the U.S. Fire Protection Agency reports that 43 percent of companies close for good after a major fire. Meanwhile, related research shows nearly the same percentage of small to medium businesses must restore their data within 24 hours of a crisis or face almost certain extinction. The risks are very real.

Fortunately, there are a number of online resources to help businesses plan, including the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

While these resources are beneficial, they cannot replace the training and preparation a business degree provides. Essentials of organizational planning, including business continuity plans, are an integral part of American Sentinel University’s business degree online curriculum. Armed with properly educated leadership, a business will be in a much better position to weather any storm.