Since the year 2000, natural disasters have steadily increased almost year on year. Last year was the worst year on record since 2001, with 330 recorded disaster events worldwide.
Thankfully, with modern technology, many natural disasters can be predicted and tracked long before they impact a region. With this being said, they can also appear with very little warning, wreaking havoc and devastation to business functionality and infrastructure.
All businesses need to be prepared for the worst. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of small businesses never recover from a disaster. Despite all the literature and precautionary tales surrounding these catastrophic events, there are still an overwhelming amount of businesses that choose not to prepare for a disaster until it’s too late.
There are two things that business owners need to be cognizant of in order to truly understand the importance of business continuity planning.
- There are no locations that are 100% exempt from natural disasters.
- The effects of natural disasters on commerce expand much further than the businesses physically affected by the event.
This is why business continuity planning is paramount for todays businesses in order to fully prepare their staff and infrastructure for coping with any kind of natural disaster.
What is a Natural Disaster?
The definition of natural disasters is any catastrophic event that is caused by nature or the natural processes of the earth. The severity of a disaster is measured in lives lost, economic loss, and the ability of the population to rebuild. Events that occur in unpopulated areas are not considered disasters. So, a flood on an uninhabited island would not count as a disaster, but a flood in a populated area is called a natural disaster.
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity refers to maintaining or restoring the functionality of a business quickly in the event or a major disruption. A business continuity plan will outline all the necessary procedures to follow in the face of disaster. If implemented properly, a business continuity plan should maintain or restore optimum levels of functionality quickly and efficiently.
There are five steps that a business must follow when they put their business continuity plan in place when considering the potential impact of natural disasters.
1. Assessing Risks to your Business
Before a business continuity plan can be created, a risk assessment must take place in order to identify weaknesses and instabilities that may be affected by potential threats. By assessing risks, businesses can both prepare for disaster, and improve their functionality, insurance policies, and business infrastructure.
Firstly, a business must identify all potential hazards that could cause damage at any point in time. Next, it's important to identify all assets that could be at risk. These assets could be employees, customers, buildings, reputation, or the environment. Anything that the business is responsible for must be taken into account when analyzing the potential risks that a business may face.
2. Analyze the Risks That You Face
Next, a business must analyze the impact of any risks that they have identified. What harm could come to any company assets? Could money be lost? Could a cyber-attack leak sensitive customer information and therefore cause a loss in trust and loss of existing and potential customers? For each risk, consider how severe the impact would be and for how long your business could function while dealing with the consequences of the risk involved.
What is necessary for a swift recovery? How long will it take to fully recover? What needs to be put in place in order to avoid the risk or deal with it both quickly and appropriately? How much will this cost? After analyzing all this data, a company's risk manager can then try to mitigate each risk with the relevant safety programs and security procedures that are applicable.
3. Design your Business Continuity Strategy
With all risks identified and considered thoroughly, it's time to figure out which strategies can be taken to mitigate interruptions and recover quickly from any imminent threats.
What do you need to put in place to protect your people, your business assets and your overall functionality Compare all the current recovery capabilities that you have in place and then list everything that you will need in order to be fully prepared to face any future interruptions.
4. Business Continuity Plan Development and Execution
With everything in place, it's now time to sit down and create a professional, organized, concise document that will be easily followed in the face of any future threat.
This plan may need to be concise enough to be used by multiple employees. It must list all risks and measures available to quickly get your business up and running smoothly as soon as they take root within your infrastructure. With this in mind, once the plan is completed and published, you need to train all relevant staff how to utilize and follow the plan to full effect.
5. Test Your Business Continuity Plan
With all the hard work behind you, it's a must that you test your plan so that you know how efficient it is and that all of your trained staff are capable of following the plan without a problem.
Tests can be performed by way of a checklist, a walkthrough, or an emergency simulation that uses the equipment and programs that will need to be understood and used in a real-life disaster.
Without fully understanding the dangers and threats that your business could potentially face, you're leaving your business and assets vulnerable against the unforeseen.
Creating and implementing a business continuity plan will instil confidence in the future of your business for all employees and assets that you have in place.
Emergency situations take place every day and destroy businesses around the world. Don't let your business become one of those as well.