Business continuity planning: How your business can survive a crisis

By Chris Dougherty, General Manager, Westlawn Insurance
26 April 2016

How would your business survive a crisis? Natural disasters, vandalism, theft, power outages and equipment failure could occur at any time with little or no warning and have a severe impact on your business. For businesses that aren’t prepared, suffering such a crisis could be devastating.

Risk management and business continuity planning could mean the difference between getting back on your feet quickly and closing the doors for good.

What risks could threaten your business?

There are a multitude of risks that could impact your business at any time. Natural disasters common to the Northern Rivers and many other parts of Australia include severe storms and hail, bushfires and flooding.

Then there are the deliberate acts such as vandalism, arson, cyber-attacks, the theft of stock and equipment, or even the theft of your intellectual property.

Power outages, computer system failures, machinery breakdown and loss of key staff can also be added to the list of crises that could impact your business operations and damage your reputation.

A practical plan to prepare your business

Business continuity is all about developing a practical plan for how your business can prepare for, and continue to operate, following an incident or crisis. Your business continuity plan should outline the following:

  • Identifying and preventing risks, where possible
  • Preparing for risks that are out of your control, and
  • How to respond and recover from any incident or crisis.
  • Your plan should contain all the information needed to get your business running again as soon as possible.

Key areas to consider when developing your plan include:

  • Communication
  • Location
  • Equipment and technology
  • Suppliers and key stakeholders
  • Regularly evaluating and updating your plan.

Communication

The first task following any incident should be communicating with those affected. Depending on the event, you’ll need to update staff (and/or their families), customers, key suppliers, emergency services, equipment repairers and your insurance broker.

Create a contact list of everyone you will need to contact. Remember, depending on the event, mobile coverage could be patchy or not available at all.

List landline numbers as well as mobiles. Also, your contact list must be accessible at all times. If it’s a printout pinned to your noticeboard, it won’t be much help in the event of a fire in your building.

Location

Where your business premises are damaged, access by staff may be severely restricted or unavailable altogether. Establish an offsite disaster recovery location where your staff can work, if necessary. This could be space at another business location, a hotel, home or garage.

“I have seen a real estate office go underwater but get back on its feet quickly by setting up another location to work from, diverting phones to mobiles and having the right insurance cover. Everything else was just an inconvenience.

“They knew beforehand that the high-water mark was 10 feet and that their office roof was 12 feet, so they moved everything upstairs. When they came back, their insurance paid for new furniture and flooring and they were able to move on.”

Anna Spicer, Senior Business Continuity Management Analyst at Suncorp Group, in Why you need a business continuity plan by Theo Pitsikas.

Your plan should also include how to conduct an orderly evacuation of your premises for any event occurring during business hours. Your staff should understand how to evacuate and where they need to go in the event of an emergency. Conduct regular evacuation drills.

Equipment and technology

Document who you will need to contact to fix your equipment, machinery and IT systems if they are damaged or fail. Do you have after hours contact details for each? Do you have back up equipment available? It may be necessary to hire equipment so include your rental options in the plan.
Include in your plan details of how you will maintain your IT systems, secure data, divert phones and set up staff to work offsite with access to critical backup systems, records and supplies.

Suppliers and key stakeholders

In the event of an emergency, you will need to communicate with your suppliers and other key stakeholders to keep them updated. In your business continuity plan, consider how they will be affected and what they will need to know.

Following a natural disaster such as a major flood or storm, for example, your suppliers may be affected and unable to provide the materials needed to keep your business running. Do you have alternative suppliers you can rely on in such a situation?

Regularly evaluate and update your plan

You should evaluate and update your business continuity plan annually or whenever there are changes in your business, your industry or your location.

You’ll also need to keep staff and other key stakeholders up to date with any changes to your plan.

Business interruption insurance: Key to any business continuity plan

A key component of your business continuity plan is business interruption insurance.

For specified events, business interruption insurance meets your regular business expenses, such as staff salaries and redundancy payments, financing repayments, and other fixed costs incurred by your business. Cover can also include additional costs incurred while you are in the process of returning to normal operations.

And if your business relies on a key supplier or customer, an extension to business interruption insurance can also cover you for losses incurred as a result of interruption to a key supplier or customer’s business due to property damage at their premises.

As you can select the period of time you are covered for following any specified event under your business interruption insurance, you should consider how long it may take to get back on your feet under various scenarios. Discuss your options with a Westlawn Insurance Broker to determine the appropriate level of cover required for your business.

Additional resources

Talk to a Westlawn Insurance Broker

To discuss how an Insurance Broker can help protect your business, contact Westlawn Insurance Brokers today:

  • Call us on 1300 WESTLAWN (1300 937 852)
  • Email us at insurance@westlawn.com.au

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