Getting started with your business continuity plan is easy. Identify and assess the risks you want to prepare for, write out your plan (and don’t forget to communicate and test it), and make sure you do what’s needed in an emergency.
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
The first thing you should do is determine what you hope to accomplish with your business continuity plan. Do you want to have a better chance of surviving natural disasters or social unrest? Do you hope to prevent financial losses due to poor customer service, missed deliveries, and faulty products? Which events are your biggest concerns? Business continuity planning can be done at many different levels; before you start any type of plan, think about what is most important for your business.
Step 2: Identify and Assess Risks
The next step is to find out what could go wrong with your business if something unexpected were to happen. You’ll need to be as specific as possible when identifying potential risks, since you want to know where the most likely threats lie and which of them might affect your organization’s ability to survive. Sit down with your employees and go through a brainstorming session to come up with as many possible risks as you can. Then start planning for the most dangerous of them.
Step 3: Write Out Your Business Continuity Plan
It’s time to translate all that brainstorming into focused action. Once you have determined which risks are the most pressing, it is time to create a contingency plan for each one. This will be an individual document addressing the particular problems you identified and how your business could deal with them. You should set up emergency procedures at all levels of your organization, from managers to employees. Make sure every employee knows what they’re supposed to do if something unexpected happens!
Step 4: Communicate the Plan
Now it’s time to make sure everyone knows about this plan you’ve created and how it works. Put together a brief document that provides enough information for anyone in your company to understand what is supposed to happen in any given emergency situation, and then distribute it throughout your organization. Also make sure that every employee has access to the plan itself. Don’t forget to update the plan as new information about risks and procedures becomes available or existing procedures are altered, since this kind of planning often has to evolve in response to events.
Step 5: Periodically Test Your Plan
Finally, test your plan from time to time. The best way to do this is by simulating a full-scale emergency with your entire team. If you can, try to make it as close in nature to the kind of disaster you are trying to prepare for. For example, if your biggest concern is floods then you might want to hold an evacuation drill or a “mud-out” during which everyone has to leave the building immediately and meet at another location. This will help you find any flaws in your plan and make sure that your employees are ready to handle a real emergency when the time comes.
Step 6: Follow Up If You Experience an Emergency
In some cases, a disaster may be inevitable despite all the preparation you do beforehand. For example, even if you’ve simulated a flood several times you might not know whether the water will rise high enough to cause damage in your facility. If something unexpected happens, it is important to follow up with the steps outlined in your plan right away. This is when all of that preparation you did pays off!