Planning How to Survive the Loss of Access to Your Main Office

Let’s take a moment to go to that place in your corporate mind, the one that hopefully rarely gets used thinking about all the bad things that could happen to disrupt your business. These can include a hurricane or tornado, mudslide, flooding, terrorist attack, fire in your building or some other catastrophic event. There are many disruptors that could stop you from doing your work in your current office, but is your organization prepared to continue operations? It’s important to think through various scenarios, have a plan and be able to execute on that plan at any given moment.

How do you start planning for such an event? First, you need to identify your critical systems and the people that use them. Many people think that it is the job of the IT department to take care of continuity. IT is only in charge of part of the plan, usually datacenter operations.

Some of the critical systems you might want to think about are: customer management, accounting, telephone, email, chat, software development. Next, you need to think about where they are located. These days many of these systems are moving to the cloud so they would not be affected by a local disaster. If you still have critical systems in your office, you will need to make plans to access them remotely if the facility is up and running but not accessible. You will also need plans for what to do if the building is toast.

After working through the critical systems, the next thing to tackle is your staffing. Who needs to keep working remotely, do they have systems with which to do the work (laptops are not much good if the employees left them in the office overnight when a disaster strikes)? Do you want to set up a temporary command center in another office or hotel? It will go much smoother if you plan all of this ahead of time.

The last piece of the puzzle is communication. When do you declare the emergency and how do you communicate it to staff? The plan should be stored in the cloud, and accessible to the senior staff, and somebody needs to oversee keeping it up to date. There is nothing like an out- of-date plan with employees that have left the company and old phone numbers for the ones that remain.

Here is a good start on a plan from FEMA: