November 30 is the official end to an unusually quiet hurricane season. However, don’t allow the inactive season to dampen your business continuity planning efforts. Develop a plan to know what to do before, during and after an emergency in order to ensure your business can avoid a significant interruption due to natural or human-made disasters.
Why Business Continuity? Up to 40% of businesses never reopen following a major disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute and the Small Business Administration. OSHA dictates that companies accomplish emergency action planning to protect your employees, visitors, contractors and others at risk from emergencies that may occur at your facility. A Business Continuity Plan is designed to protect your business by minimizing the interruption following the emergency by maintaining customer service, protecting facilities and electronic information, and protecting your business brand and reputation.
How to start Business Continuity Planning? It is helpful to utilize a cross-functional team approach when establishing your Business Continuity Plan. You will want different experts from your business to assess hazards, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts on your business. Identify time-sensitive or critical processes and the financial and operational impacts if these processes are interrupted. Assess resources and suppliers that can provide assistance. Understand your insurance policies. Develop communication protocols and train all employees. Finally, test and exercise your plans, and critique actual incidents to improve your plans.
Where can I find resources for Business Continuity Planning? The good news is that there are numerous resources available to assist you. The US Department of Homeland Security and FEMA offer great resources for business on the Ready.gov website, including a downloadable business continuity planning suite to help you organize and prepare your plan. Take time to view the video training and to utilize the plans, assessment tools and template procedures.
Be ready for any emergency -- now and before the 2014 hurricane season starts. I’d like to hear about your planning efforts.
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Wendy Laing, CSP, is the Director of the Southeastern OSHA Training Institute Education Center, based at IES. Wendy has a B.S. and M.S. in industrial engineering from NC State University and more than 20 years' experience in the safety, health and environmental protection profession. Her experience includes safety and health program management; OSHA compliance and ISO 14001 certification; occupational health services; environmental risk management; and more. She is a past president of the North Carolina chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers, and currently serves on the Manufacturing Sector Council of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), a program of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).