Business Boost | 31 October 2016 - by KCOM

Is your business prepared for emergencies?

Winter is on the horizon and with it will come an increased risk of flooding and stormy weather – and an increased risk of disruption to your business.

But floods and other acts of nature aren’t the only thing that could send your business off course – fire, a cyber-attack or even the loss of a key employee could all affect your ability to operate.

Business continuity planning is all about having preparations in place to help your business survive a disruption and recover afterwards. Creating a plan doesn’t have to involve significant time or expense – but not having a plan or business continuity measures in place if disaster strikes will almost certainly cost you plenty of both.

The good news is there’s lots of free advice out there to help businesses prepare for the worst. Much of this comes from central government and local councils – not surprising when you consider that the cost to the UK economy of the December 2015 floods topped £5bn.

Here’s a quick guide to the main steps in building your business continuity plan:

Assess the risks to your business

What things are critical to keep your business running? Think about equipment, processes, employees and suppliers. How long could you operate if they were unavailable? Focus on the resources your business needs to keep functioning, rather than thinking about the possible impact of fire, flood or any other specific disruption.

Develop ‘Plan Bs’

Based on your assessment of the critical risks to your business, think about what contingencies you can put in place if key premises, people, equipment, systems, data or suppliers are unavailable.

For example, can you cross-train employees so they can carry out each other’s roles? Do employees have the equipment needed to work from home if you can’t access your premises? Can you host systems and / or store data in the cloud so they’re accessible from anywhere? Is there a supplier you could subcontract some of your work to in an emergency?

Document and test business continuity arrangements

Once you have contingency plans in place that will enable you to respond to key risks, document the steps that need to be taken in the event of a disruption. Include in your plan details of which team members will take on roles of responsibility during an emergency, and their contact information.

Your plan should also set out key procedures, details of equipment and information you’ll need access to and contact details for people and organisations that need to be informed.

Finally, in the same way that buying new trainers won’t get you fit, just having a plan won’t mean you’re prepared for the worst. Your plan needs to be shared and understood by employees, and tested regularly and updated as your business changes.

You can find more information about business continuity planning at the Humber Emergency Planning Service website and in the Government’s ‘Expecting the unexpected’ guide to preparing a plan.