Disasters come in many forms. But from a business perspective, it doesn’t matter if a flooded office is caused by faulty plumbing or a city-wide rain-pocalypse; the effects are the same, and they can be devastating. Natural disasters and extreme weather conditions cost American businesses billions of dollars every year.
According to FEMA, natural disasters result in the failure of 65% of affected businesses within one year of a disaster, and the lion’s share of these failures can be attributed to extended downtime. That is why having an effective and comprehensive business continuity plan in place is vital. By working with service providers and keeping a few key ideas firmly in mind, it’s possible for any business, including a small to medium sized business (SMB), to stay up and running.
Identify Mission Critical Elements
Certain elements of any business are vital to its operation. The first step in developing a business continuity plan is to identify which parts of the business are absolutely necessary for operation and which are not.
Evaluate the Risks
Businesses in different geographical locations face different potential disasters. Once armed with a comprehensive list of business critical elements, identify what types of natural disasters are most likely to affect those processes and how.
Develop a Strategy
Work through each disaster and develop a strategy to mitigate the effects of that disaster on critical aspects of the business. Common strategies include offsite data backup and secondary plans for internal communications should the regular network become unusable.
Physical Response Plan
Part of a comprehensive business continuity plan should involve what to do physically in case of a disaster. Consider the following:
- Which emergency services should be contacted by whom in what circumstances?
- Which exits should staff use under what conditions?
- What materials and hardware should be rescued and/or salvaged first?
Answering these questions before they arise and practicing the steps involved can make recovering from a disaster much easier than it might otherwise be.
Once the immediate danger has passed, it’s time to start assessing the damage and its effects on the business. How much downtime ensued, and how much did it cost the business? How much damage was inflicted upon facilities and infrastructure, and what is necessary to repair it?
The goal is to return to “business as usual” as quickly and efficiently as possible. Provided there was a solid business continuity plan in place before disaster struck, that should be quite feasible. Statistics show the devastating effects natural disasters can have on SMBs. A business continuity plan can prevent a business from becoming just another statistic.