Ready or not, winter is almost here, serving as a reminder to businesses about the importance of having a continuity plan that effectively ensures your operations remain resilient regardless of the damaging effects of inclement weather.
Unlike our Northern state counterparts, Georgia’s propensity for snow and ice varies widely from year to year. However, spending some time to review the steps necessary to prepare can prove essential and valuable. Business continuity plans should cover a number of contingencies, such as preparing for the lack of access to your most critical resources: staff, facilities and technology.
Securing Your Most Valuable Resource – Your People
If a winter weather event occurs during business hours, management can take actions that demonstrate concern and goodwill on behalf of the business to its employees.
Safety is the first important factor, especially in terms of when employees should be allowed to leave work during a storm or other inclement weather. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for determining dismissal needs, but you should consider a combination of factors: What time is the storm anticipated to reach our area? Where is staff commuting from and what’s the best time to dismiss them to ensure a safe arrival?
It’s vital to stay informed about weather alerts. A NOAA weather radio is a great tool for detailed weather updates, and the Ready Georgia mobile app offers weather alerts via your smartphone. Also, connecting with your local emergency management agency can provide insight into preparations and responses.
For staff who are required to “shelter in place,” it’s important to validate that your on-site emergency preparation kits contain enough supplies for three days. Basic supplies should include: water; non-perishable food items; flashlights; batteries; blankets; air mattresses; baby wipes, prescription medication, etc.
I’d also recommend establishing a call-tree account to help determine your staff’s location and safety. Some companies provide one-touch emergency communications systems that can immediately notify large numbers of employees and receive feedback of their status. If emergency communications systems are not an option, text messaging is another effective means of reaching your team.
Lack of Access to Facilities
Questions to consider when having limited or no access to your business premises:
- Can your business function if you are unable to access the office for a number of days?
- Can work be rerouted to an alternative/partner site not impacted by the weather?
- Are employees equipped to work remotely?
- What if the power goes down at their homes?
- Does critical staff have a Wi-Fi hotspot or cellular wireless cards?
- Does staff have extra batteries for laptops?
- Is there a need to notify customers/clients of anticipated service interruption?
- What means are in place to communicate with employees?
- How long can your business operate remotely before infrastructural failures (power, landline telephone service, etc.) harm the overall business health?
- Does the building have security guarding the premises?
Lack of Access to Technology
Technology is the foundation upon which many disaster recovery plans are built. The functioning of most large corporate, mid-sized or small business operations depends on the viability of technical systems. A single piece of malfunctioning equipment can impede operations within an organization. Some remedies to impaired technology can be either cloud-based and/or managed via co-location or other redundant systems.
Co-location data centers offer an alternative to setting up your own disaster recovery (DR) service. These types of facilities allow data centers to house an organization’s networks, servers and storage. Should co-location be an option, be sure to determine if the site fits specific business needs such as capacity, access, transmission speeds, service level agreements and other operational factors. Businesses should also consider the resiliency of the local and regional power-grid and choose a colocated site in a region separate of its headquarters.
Analyzing Your Plan
Conducting an enterprise-wide continuity needs and impact analysis helps a business prioritize recovery resources and strategies as it develops its business continuity plan. The plan should tie together all aspects of a resilience strategy, and it should be reviewed annually and updated as needed. The key to successfully surviving inclement weather is planning and thorough preparation.
Ready Georgia’s Ready Your Business Guide provides a straightforward, 12-point program for business continuity planning. Take action now to make sure that your business is prepared for whatever this winter may have in store.
Tamika McLester is the Business Continuity & Education Compliance Manager at Crawford & Company.