In the event of five consecutive destructive storms affecting various countries in just a span of three weeks, there isn’t really anything you can do but to brace for the upcoming effects and prepare for the worst. Natural disasters, such as typhoons, often come with little to no warning and with the advent of climate change, we are likely to see such occurrences happening more often in the years to come.
For businesses, having a robust business continuity plan has never been more vital to ensure the protection of their properties, assets and people - before, during and after a disaster. This is critical so that they will be able to survive and maintain business operations in the face of a calamity.
The Philippines is one country that has been at the receiving end of the recent string of typhoons over the last three weeks. People were forced to evacuate in the anticipation of one storm, just to get affected almost immediately by another, and another, and another. This tragedy shows that just as you think you are safe from one disaster, there’s no guarantee that the next one won’t come while you are still recovering from the previous one.
Such disasters should serve as a lesson for organisations to be better prepared but the industry statistics are worrying. A study by global consultancy firm Mercer, for instance, found that 27.2% of companies do not have a business continuity plan in place at all and are not developing one. And this study was carried out after the pandemic had hit!
Just under a quarter (24%) of companies only started drafting an initial business continuity plan since the pandemic. Over the years, very few forward-thinking businesses actually have a fully documented disaster recovery strategy in place. This needs to change, now.
Disasters can come in many forms – either man-made, such as data breach or cyber attacks or natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes and typhoons. With a business continuity plan, you can ensure that your company is able to not only minimise the impact but also adapt to whatever effects a disaster may bring. So, how can you keep functioning?
Assessment of Possible Threats: The first thing you should do in anticipating a possible disaster is the impact it could bring to your assets – from your workforce, documents, data, devices and other important properties. After this, you should visualise possible scenarios that may happen when these assets are affected. Let’s say if a typhoon happened and caused unexpected flooding, your resources can be damaged and may disrupt your operations, which means you need to evacuate them soon. In this step, you should also assess the most vital assets of your company so that you can prioritise them in the protection or recovery stage. To ensure that your plan will work, you should assign a team that will carry it out and conduct feasibility and scenario tests in simulating the possible effects of disasters. However, you should also train and inform all your employees about the plan in the event of emergencies. Involve all your people, from executives to employees and even business partners.
Adapting Through the Disaster: After all these preventive measures, you should now keep a sound mind while a disaster is happening. Of course, you cannot see or anticipate all disasters before they happen. For typhoons, however, make sure that you stay informed and all of your employees are aware of what may happen in the following hours. To do this, you should communicate with authorities so you will know the protocols and guidelines. While all this is happening, you should determine a location to conduct crisis meetings to all your executives so you can oversee what is happening and respond immediately. If not possible, you can also communicate with your employees online to ensure that they are safe from their home. In the event of network disruptions, make sure you have backup or alternate means of communications. All the while, you should keep notes of what among your plans are carried out successfully, what did not work and other points you can apply in the future.
Recovery and Continuity: Finally, companies must distinguish the effects of the disaster and its impact on various components of the business to deploy specific remediation and solution. With this, you can start your business promptly by recovering critical business functions first, even without waiting for the business to recover fully. Recovery should also include the availability of your connections throughout the business, such as networks, applications and data to ensure your business continuity even if it just a work from home setup. Take notes of what happened and list down all the unforeseen circumstances and solutions, which you can add for your next continuity plans in the case of another disaster. Implementing these measures will ensure that your business can resume operations, no matter what storm may strike.
Once you have a business continuity plan in place, it’s just as important to test it using walk-throughs or even simulation exercises to make sure it is viable and to help your teams really understand what needs to be done in an actual crisis. Last but not least, you need to continuously review and improve your plan so that it can be relied on when you need it most.