A continuity plan is a written document that outlines how your business will continue to operate in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. Whether a hurricane or tornado strikes your town or a terrorist threat disrupts service, having this type of plan ensures operations can even though your physical location is damaged or threatened. Once a written plan is in place, make sure all your employees know what is in it and the procedures for activation.
Assuming your organization has a good continuity plan, how do you know when, how and who will activate it? The following steps may be used as a guideline for your company's activation procedures, though the will need to be adapted to your organization.
- Identify a leadership team. Select three or more people to act as the leadership team. They should make judgment calls about when and how to activate the plan. Three or more people ensure that even if someone is out sick or on vacation, you have someone ready to step up and take the lead to activate the plan.
- Monitor the situation. The company's leaders as well as the continuity plan leadership team should be ready at a moment's notice to monitor the impending disaster, if it is known in advance. For example, a hurricane provides ample warning; the weather service usually warns of hurricanes up to a week in advance, and many other natural disasters also have some warning time, such as snowstorms and ice storms. If the disaster has already occurred, you will still need to monitor the situation to understand the potential delays, long-term consequences, and other variables.
- Notify employees. If the company's physical location must close, use the contact list in the disaster plan to activate a phone tree or a series of people to call, who in turn call others, to notify them of the disaster. Tell them that the company's continuity plan is now being put into place.
- Follow the steps in the plan. Most plans call for critical services to be established at a separate facility, data restoration, and disaster monitoring.
- Implement the plan. Most plans have separate teams with roles and responsibilities. Each team should implement the appropriate steps in the plan to get their respective work areas up and running.
Depending on the nature of the disaster or emergency, there will come a time when the team must decide to resume normal operations. Be sure that the monitoring steps in the activation plan include frequent reports back to the core team on the status of the facilities and normal operation. For example, in the event of a hurricane, building damage needs to be repaired and perhaps electricity restored to the office building where the company is housed. During the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, the organization may need to relocate employees and critical facilities to a safe and intact facility. As soon as authorities say it is safe to return to the office building, however, the plan must conclude. The core leadership team must make the call to move everyone back to the original location.