Contingency planning: is your business prepared?
Extreme weather has hit the UK, and recent research has predicted that the UK economy could lose up to £900m a day due to adverse weather conditions this winter.
There are many incidents that could cause significant damage and disruption to a small business, whether it is bad weather or a natural disaster, global pandemic or fraud. With businesses now increasingly dependent on computer databases, internet services and other technology, there is also greater exposure to system failures through power outages, viruses and hacking.
It is important to ensure you have sufficient contingency plans in place in order to avoid or minimise the potential disruption or damage to your business and its property, should it be affected by an incident.
Planning for recovery
Identify the potential risks facing your business - for example flood, fire, snow, illness or fraud. Then think about the areas of your business that might be affected if these were to occur and which key areas would cause a significant problem if they were to stop working.
Once you have established this, you can begin to devise a strategy to deal with each possible incident, starting with those that are most likely, and those that have the potential to cause the most damage or disruption.
Test your contingency plan rigorously to ensure it works and make sure it is reviewed at least once a year to keep it relevant.
Brief your staff
Make staff members aware of important procedures - every team member should know what role they play in the event of an emergency situation and have access to emergency contact lists.
Consider the feasibility of staff working from home in the event of bad weather conditions or damaged premises so the risk of potential accidents is eliminated and the productivity of your business can be maintained.
There are many precautions that can be taken during the everyday running of your business to ensure that you minimise the risks where possible, should disaster hit:
- Back up essential data on a regular basis in case of loss and keep a copy of this information in a separate location
- Make sure the security software installed on all of your computers is up to date and working properly
- Keep important equipment away from high risk areas e.g. off the floor or away from water pipes
- Make sure key job roles can be covered by other members of staff
- Check the type of cover that your insurance policy provides to make sure it is adequate. Remember to read the small print carefully for anything that may not be covered
- Ensure you know where to access sandbags and road grit so that you can obtain this emergency equipment quickly if you need it.
Remember that it is important to act now to make sure you are prepared. It is easy to put off planning, but the point of a contingency plan is to prepare you for the unexpected!