Businesses reminded to develop strong continuity plan amid disasters

As disasters both natural and man-made inflict damage on communities with increasing frequency and intensity, businesses are again being reminded to make a business continuity plan (BCP) to improve their resilience in the face of devastation.

Leonardo Pasquito, a professor at the University of Makati and vice chairperson of the University of Makati Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative, gave a talk on disaster resilience on July 27, coincidentally the day a magnitude 7.0 temblor hit northern Luzon. “The earthquake reminds us na dapat isa-puso at isa-buhay na natin ang BCP natin,” he remarked. This incident underscores the importance of a written BCP that everyone, from management down to the rank and file, must be very familiar with, he added.

Pasquito said a good BCP must be guided by a goal statement and the stated purpose. In the case of their university cooperative, for instance, the goal is “to restore loan/lending services within twenty-four hours in the event of a typhoon and other natural or man-made calamities.” The BCP should also state its purpose, which Pasquito said could be along these lines:

  1. Ensure employee/member safety
  2. Maintain client/customer confidence
  3. Minimize economic losses
  4. Ensure continuous services/operations

The plan should also identify the BCP lead team that will take charge when a disaster strikes and this should be disseminated to everyone on the team.

The BCP must also make a risk assessment of the company in the face of different types of calamities. Assess the what ifs in case of an earthquake, typhoon, power outage, fire, flood, tsunami or storm surge, and how these can disrupt or cut short the continuity of the business, said Pasquito.

Another element of a good BCP is identifying the vulnerability of key activities and products to a disaster. “Know where you are most vulnerable by listing the key products and services and estimating the impact to your customers, your community and your environment if [these] suddenly [become] unavailable,” the academic said.

He also cited the importance of digital transformation to enable the back-up of important data files that might get lost or damaged in the event of a disaster. The BCP should provide for a solid recovery plan in place, divided into the “before” phase (prevention, protection and mitigation strategy), during (response strategy for each department), and after (continuity and recovery strategy).

For the plan of action before hazardous events, a crucial question that has to be answered is “How do you protect your company resources in the immediate (now), short term (within one year) and long term (more than one year)?” said Pasquito.

This is the time when an emergency fund needs to be set up, power banks must be charged, partnerships should be forged such as with banks for online transactions, first-aid kits and necessary tools and equipment including generators and fuel must be prepared, and an escape and emergency evacuation map should be plotted. Trainings must also be regularly conducted so life-saving information is cascaded down.

For the plan of action during a hazard, outline the various steps to take, such as the conduct of evacuation and rescue (e.g., moving to a previously identified evacuation site), set up of emergency operations (establishing a command center), employee safety confirmation (confirm employees are safe using the internal contact list), and stabilization of the situation (putting out fires, containing the spread of hazardous substances), he added.

The action plan after a hazard must also be written down. Steps can include a survey of the damage (filling in the damage survey form), asset protection (e.g., preventing theft), commute safety confirmation (monitoring the news, assessing if it’s safe for employees to go home), and damage communication (using the external contact list to communicate with stakeholders and update them about the recovery plan).

Likewise important is to allot funding for disaster response and recovery. A well-prepared BCP contains information on how the company will finance its recovery and resumption. “Ensure your fund is fluid,” advises Pasquito.

The ultimate goal of a BCP is to make sure that the business stays resilient and the company has the ability to continue serving its customers during times of crisis, the expert concluded.

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