When a natural disaster, untimely power outage or cybersecurity threat strikes, the disruption can severely impact your business. Replacing damaged items takes time and money, and in severe cases, the disruption even keeps employees from working.

Some disasters are unavoidable — but thankfully, a well-structured business continuity plan allows you to prepare for an emergency in advance. With proper planning, you can reduce damages and get back to work faster. Learn more about how to create a business continuity plan below.

What Is Business Continuity Management?

In short, business continuity management (BCM) is the process of developing strategies for minimizing the impact of threats and disasters on a company. Certain events, like flash floods or cyberattacks, can interrupt business for days or weeks. If a critical event results in damaged assets, replacement costs can make it even harder to recover. 

A BCM program combines the principles of crisis management, disaster recovery, emergency response and operational relocation to maneuver emergencies with as little damage as possible. By anticipating the disasters before they happen, the organization can ensure operations proceed smoothly.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is an organization’s system for responding before, during and after an emergency. The BCP is at the heart of a company’s business continuity management program, using the program’s principles to inform best practices for risk mitigation. It provides instructions for handling various situations and includes contact points for assistance, locations for emergency office spaces and procedures for an immediate response within the organization. A well-executed BCP also comprises a process for identifying certain problem areas before a critical event occurs and neutralizing the risk entirely.

Applications of Business Continuity Management

Here are some common examples of events that would benefit from a business continuity plan: 

  • Natural disasters: From floods to tornadoes and hurricanes to earthquakes, natural disasters cause lengthy disruptions to your business. Even when the damage to your own business is minimal, the more significant impact across the community can make it difficult for customers to reach you. Making a plan to evacuate valuable business assets or bring services directly to customers can significantly reduce the effects of the disruption.
  • Outages: Power, phone and internet outages impact nearly all modern businesses. Though outages may be rare in your area, it’s wise to prepare a backup plan. Emergency power generators, cell phones, laptops and mobile hotspots help in a pinch. For prolonged outages, plan to work in a shared workspace or from home temporarily. Hosting files on a cloud service and using software with autosave features allows you to continue where you left off no matter where you work.
  • Sabotage and cyberattacks: While preventing a data breach can be challenging, developing a contingency plan to respond to cyberattacks quickly can help reduce significant damages. Consider implementing quarterly cybersecurity training sessions to instruct employees on how to report and deal with incidents. It’s also a good idea to keep a backup of your most essential data so you can quickly get back to work if computer data is corrupted or deleted.

The 5 Phases of a Business Continuity Plan

Follow these business continuity planning steps to prepare your business for any disruptions:

  1. Prevention: Before a disaster occurs, try to determine which disasters are the most likely to interrupt your business. For example, if your building sits beside a river, flooding could cause significant damage in the future. You should also consider whether areas within your operation are prone to threats. In operations with heavy machinery working at high temperatures, keeping flammable objects away from the machinery at all times reduces the risk of fire.
  2. Mitigation: After identifying potential threats, the next step is to find ways to mitigate the damages caused by a disaster. The first method is to create contingencies ahead of disasters to continue functioning despite damages. The second method is to prepare a guide for immediate action during a disaster. Though damage may still occur, well-trained employees will have a chance to rescue certain assets before they can be damaged.
  3. Response: If a disaster happens, your BCP should help you assess the damages and determine the most practical actions to continue business. These instructions should be written as clear “if-then” statements. For example, “If the power in the facility goes out, then the employees should leave the building and work from home.”
  4. Recovery: Depending on the disruption, you and your employees may be able to recover from damages on your own. For many disasters, it can be as simple as replacing damaged assets or restoring corrupted file data. For more severe events like natural disasters, you’ll need to call a specialist to help recover from the damages. Emergency fuel or water delivery services can help your business return to operations as usual.
  5. Restoration: After recovery, the final step is to make sure everything is functioning correctly before returning to work.

The Benefits of Practicing Business Continuity Management

In addition to managing risks, practicing business continuity management can benefit a business in a variety of ways:

  • Follow regulations: Certain businesses are required to submit a Risk Management Plan to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plan must include assessments of chemical risk factors, actions taken to mitigate these risks and strategies for emergency procedures in case of an accident.
  • Improve reputation: Customers will react to disruptions with varying levels of understanding. A well-executed BCP allows you to get back to business quickly so your clients can keep working with you. How you respond to a critical event can improve B2B relationships as other companies will view you as a reliable source even in a disaster.
  • Boost morale: A BCP empowers all members of an organization. With a clear and thorough plan in place, employees can work confidently to respond appropriately to an interruption.

Plan Ahead With Foster Fuels

When preparing a business continuity plan, it helps to partner with an emergency specialist to ensure you have access to everything you need before a disaster strikes. Foster Fuels’ Mission Critical division is a national provider for emergency response services and the award-winning contact of choice for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). From emergency fuel and water delivery to emergency response training, our emergency services are unrivaled across the nation.

We value the opportunity to be your strategic partner for emergency services. Contact us today to see how we can fit into your business contingency plan.