When the Rains Come


By Sara Harrup

23 years ago I was a nurse working in the operating theatre of a large public hospital. One day whilst assisting with surgery on a man whose life was hanging in the balance, all the power went down. There were a few seconds where everything went quiet (except the sound of my heart thudding in panic) and then suddenly the emergency generators kicked in and the power went on again. There had been a major gas leak on the road outside and the electricity provider had shut down the whole grid. That was, at the age of 20, my first introduction to business continuity planning. If the hospital didn’t have plans in place in case of a shutdown of their major equipment, lives would be lost.

In business it doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death but imagine what would happen if the things you need to run your operation were suddenly taken away from you? How would you operate? How would you communicate with staff and clients? Where is your information stored? How would you access it?

In large organisations business continuity drills can happen almost as often as fire drills. In smaller organisations, particularly in not for profit organisations, there may be no business continuity plan at all. A business continuity plan is essential for all types of business, not just the large ones. The plan outlines exactly how your organisation will continue to function if your operations are disrupted or disabled for a period due to events outside of your control.

The first step is to identify the known and unimaginable (it won’t happen to me) risks. These could be things like power failure, flood, theft, bushfire, equipment failure or even injury or illness to key staff members which may affect how the business functions. The next step is to work out if there are any ways you can prevent any of these events from occurring.

It is important, once risks and prevention of risks has been covered to find the main things your business needs to be able to run. Each of these things should be given a priority. Identify a person or team responsible for enacting the business continuity plan. This should also include a backup person, in case the event causing disruption has also caused loss of contact with the main leader of the business.

You should draft an action plan which details exactly how you would act to restore operation of your services. What external supports would you need and what are their contacts? Where is your critical documentation? Do you have an alternative physical location to operate from?

It is critical (and fun) to do a trial run every six months, where you run a mock disruption to services and see if your action plan works.  Remember that when you make changes to your business you should also check your business continuity plan to see that it reflects those changes.

Cause and Effective can take your organisation through a powerful, engaging and exciting workshop which sees you walk away with a business continuity plan tailored to your operation. This workshop also serves as a great way to build your team, as you collaborate together on how to keep your business afloat in troubled times.

If you and your team are prepared to invest 4 hours in preparing for when your organisation may be “rained upon” contact us here.

Image credit: 123RF

About Sara – Sara Harrup is a Cause and Effective Associate and Director of Focus and Flourish. She is a former not for profit CEO who now focuses on organisational performance and executive health and wellbeing. You can contact Sara here

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

4 Responses

  1. Sara, a great blog. I have been involved in a few of these situations and you are right, practice definitely makes perfect. Particularly with the IT side where really clear prioritisation of what is critical versus what is urgent versus what is merely important is a MUST.
    Thank you for raising the awareness.

  2. Thanks for your comment Claire. I think the best business I have ever seen in terms of being prepared is a small insurance brokering firm. You might expect them to have a great plan because they are in the business of risk. If their whole building burned to the ground they could be up and running within a matter of hours. I have also seen a great hospital in a far west Qld remote community deploy their plan twice due to flood and their preparedness saw them through a really frightening experience.

  3. Shelly

    I was up in Mackay during a cyclone. After the cyclone, we had no power for 3 days. We were warned to take heed, and so I bought extra tinned food, gas stove, had candles and other items. Didn’t expect we’d really have no power – but it happened. Some people had none for 2 weeks, and they were really stressed. They blamed the Electricity Board (whoever runs it now up there), when they were warned to be prepared. It’s quite an experience being without electricity. We just can’t imagine living without it for even a few hours, let alone days or weeks (or beyond).

    1. Sara Harrup

      So true Shelly. I think one of the reason many people don’t have business continuity plans is because they think “it will never happen to me”. It does and its better to be prepared.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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