Are you prepared if disaster strikes?

By David Collins, Pound Gates Chartered Insurance Brokers

From fires to floods, storms to gale-force winds, disaster can strike anytime, anywhere, and often with little to no advance warning. Many businesses that are forced to suspend operations due to a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen their doors.

Try to imagine the challenges and struggles your business would face in the wake of a natural disaster. Even a relatively minor fire or flood can force your business to shut down operations, it does not have to be a large-scale disaster.

Your commercial property insurance cover would help you rebuild your physical infrastructure, but are you equipped to deal with lost revenue and mounting expenses while you work to restore operations?

Planning for the worst

The difference between surviving a business interruption and going under often hinges on one factor: preparation. The best way to prevent a disaster from putting the future of your business at risk is to have a proper business continuity plan in place.

Business continuity planning involves:

•  Defining potential risks

•  Determining how those risks will affect operations

•  Implementing safeguards and procedures designed to mitigate those risks

•  Testing those procedures to ensure that they work

•  Reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date

Start the process by establishing a planning team to develop the plan. Typical goals of your plan should include:

•  Protecting the safety of employees, visitors, contractors and others at risk

•  Maintaining customer service by minimising interruptions or disruptions of business operations

•  Protecting facilities, physical assets and electronic information

•  Preventing environmental contamination

•  Protecting your organisation’s brand, image and reputation

The planning process should take an ‘all-risks’ approach. The likelihood that a specific hazard will impact your business is hard to determine, so it’s important to consider the many different threats and the likelihood they will occur. A business impact analysis predicts the consequences of an interruption and gives a good idea of how operations would be affected if you were forced to temporarily close.

Implementing the plan means more than simply exercising the plan during an emergency. It means acting on recommendations made during the hazard analysis, integrating the plan into company operations, training employees and evaluating the plan on an ongoing basis.

It is important to conduct a formal audit of the entire plan annually, to help identify any factors that may necessitate changes.

Let us guide you through the process

No business owner wants to think about what will happen to the business if disaster strikes, but it’s a reality that all business owners must face. We realise it can be a daunting task to plan for a major business interruption, but it doesn’t have to be.

We can help you kick-start your planning efforts with a suite of business continuity tools and resources, including a sample plan that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of your business. We can guide you step by step throughout the planning process, from assessing hazards to implementing safeguards to ensuring your plan stays up to date.

David Collins is Client Services Director at Pound Gates Chartered Insurance Brokers. For more information: T: 01473 346046 or visit poundgates.com Twitter: @poundgates