Mitigate the impacts of severe weather by planning ahead

The Wrong Type of Snow? image

Weather is one of the most unpredictable threats in terms of business continuity planning.

If a weather event cannot be forecast accurately in terms of what, when and possible impacts, then how to plan for it?

Have we reached a tipping point in climate change? Extreme weather patterns across the world are impacting countries and people across large areas for considerable periods of time. This is not just during the weather event itself, but extends to the clearing up and rebuilding of communities in the aftermath.

In the UK, regional flooding appears to have become a feature of our weather systems, affecting more communities more often. Extreme weather events affect how people live and work. It is not just the immediate situation that has to be dealt with, but the knock on effects too.

It’s hard to recall that a severe snowstorm in 2018, dubbed the Beast from the East, almost paralysed the country. Basic foodstuffs like milk and bread were in short supply as deliveries were unable to get through to restock shelves. Schools were closed, power supplies cut off and water supplies interrupted as pipes froze and burst.

It’s hard to recall now that basic foodstuffs like milk and bread were in short supply as deliveries were unable to get through to restock shelves. Schools were closed, power cut off and water supplies interrupted as pipes froze and burst. It is not just the immediate situation that has to be dealt with, but the knock on effects too.

The principle of Business continuity planning takes the unexpected as its objective. Using the worst case scenario, it’s about thinking through the consequences of an incident that has caused a loss of resource whether that is premises, people, IT, suppliers or equipment. Then taking forward actions pre-incident to place the business in a better position to respond and recover effectively post-incident. A business continuity plan should manage the transition from incident response through to business recovery.

Imagine a worst case scenario; you are unable to get to your business premises because of roads blocked by snow or floods. How does this affect your ability to maintain services to customers or clients? What are your priorities?

Are you a contact centre dealing with emergency calls or a care home with vulnerable residents? Or perhaps a university with students about to sit important exams? Do you rely on just in time distribution of goods to replenish your retail sites? Do you need to ship products off site quickly to meet contractual agreements?

Every organisation, public, private or voluntary, should understand what it needs to do to maintain essential critical services in times of difficulty. Thinking through the pre-incident actions now will help bring about a more effective response and recovery later. For example:

Staff welfare

What actions can you take to keep staff safe?
How will you communicate with staff?
Do you know emergency contact details?

Business priorities

What are your critical activities (key services or product lines)?
What are the required recovery times?

Premises

Where you could relocate to (home, serviced office, temporary warehouse)?
What actions should be taken to protect assets?

Resources

What resources (people, IT/comms, equipment, supplies, etc.) would be needed to keep essential services going until full functionality can be restored?
What could be done pre-incident to reduce the impact of loss of resources?

Response & Recovery

Develop business continuity and contingency plans
Designate response teams to deal with the immediate situation and the subsequent recovery
Think about workarounds that can be adopted until resources are made available

Good communication is the key to maintaining control and managing a difficult situation well.

Incident management and business continuity planning extend beyond restoring the organisation’s infrastructure and factors into the equation consideration of staff welfare issues resulting from the incident. For example, flooding may affect people’s homes with families forced to relocate and faced with the inevitable hardships that will accompany such a situation.

Supporting staff through a critical and worrying time following an incident will not only be appreciated, but will be remembered and helps to foster staff loyalty. This focus could also be extended to the wider community.

We can no longer ignore the change in the pace of adverse weather conditions. Extreme weather conditions are becoming a more regular feature of the headlines. Could extreme become the norm?

 

Read relevant case studies to see how our clients plan for adversity:

Education Sector: University

Retail & Distribution: Food & Drink Importer

Manufacturing: Bottled Water Producer

Professional Services: Solicitors

  • Date: 20th January 2020
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