Planning for disaster

Continuity plans vital for businesses to have in place

Posted on Nov 12, 2019 :: Back Office Operations
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

While it’s something all businesses should have, the majority have not taken the necessary steps to put a business continuity plan in place, thinking it’s something they won’t ever need.

Amanda Cullen, commercial lines operations manager for Integrity Insurance, disagrees. Earlier this year, the Appleton business placed its business continuity plan into action.

“We had those days when it was minus-40 or more outside and company leaders decided it wasn’t safe to have employees come in,” says Cullen, who also serves as Integrity’s incident commander. “We activated the plan and told employees they could work from home, take the day off altogether or if they felt it was safe enough — they didn’t have a long drive and wouldn’t be here for long — they could come in.”

According to a study by Deloitte, one out of three companies has not adequately prepared for a disruption in their business. Factors business owners should consider include having a documented business continuity plan in place and evaluating the technologies or procedures they would need to keep operations going after a disruptive event. The study included a more sobering statistic: Less than 10 percent of businesses without a continuity plan survive a major disaster.

The risks facing manufacturers range from a physical disruption — for example the company loses power or a building suffers damage from a weather event or fire — to a cyber disruption where a business’s IT systems are hacked or compromised in another way, says Chris Halverson, risk management sales director for M3 Insurance.

“Whether you have eight employees or 800, you need to have a plan,” he says.

Halverson says many companies have fundamental plans in place in case there’s a fire that requires employees to exit the building or a storm that requires people to take cover to stay safe, but that’s not nearly enough.

The business continuity plans that Halverson says businesses need usually include a variety of scenarios, from a short-term power outage to a long-term disruption due to plant damage from a storm or fire.

You may think a short power outage isn’t that big of an issue, but think about it: Manufacturers need to complete projects on time, and if the building loses power, even for 30 minutes, that can set you back,” he says. “Also, you want to make sure employees know what to do during an outage and ensure they’re safe.”

For manufacturers with multiple sites or sister companies elsewhere, making them a part of your business continuation plan is a must, Halverson says. That way if a plant or piece of equipment goes down in one location, production can continue at another facility. The overall output will be less, but at least the product is being made.

Integrity takes its business continuity plan seriously, as it’s essential for the business to operate and help its policyholders with their needs at all times, Cullen says. A core group meets quarterly, and the crisis response team, which includes members from each department, conducts a scenario annually to test the plan.

“We need to know how to keep business running during a crisis, and we need to know what we can do to get our business back up and running” if disaster strikes, Cullen says. “If something happens, we are prepared.”

In addition to Integrity’s overall recovery plan, each department has its own plan in place as well. “Every department discussed and determined how they would keep their operations going if there was a disruption,” says Cullen, adding that disruptions range from dangerous weather to physical damage to the building.

In addition to its business continuity plans, which are reviewed and updated biannually, Integrity runs multiple drills throughout the year to ensure employees know what to do, whether it’s an active aggressor onsite or a fire. “We work with the Appleton Police Department four times a year on the active aggressor drill,” Cullen says. “It’s not something we had to worry about 10 to 15 years ago, but now it’s something our employees really need to be aware of and know what they are supposed to do.”

Halverson says if a company doesn’t have a business continuation plan in place, now is the time to put one in motion. The best place to start is a thorough threat assessment.

Look at different scenarios, whether it’s a power outage, a cyber-attack or damaged equipment and think it all the way through,” he says. “Do a business impact analysis and determine what redundancies you may need to put in place. Those redundancies also include cross-training employees.”

After analyzing a scenario, the next step is getting “people from HR, communicators, leadership and even the Employee Assistance Program in one room to build out the plan,” Halverson says.

It’s vital to create a central command area where people who are empowered to make decisions are gathered, so as questions come up, answers can be given quickly, he adds.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when putting together your plan, Cullen says. “There’s no need to re-create the wheel. Go ahead and ask others about what they may have in their plans,” she says.

Cullen says employees also need to understand the plan and their role in it. At Integrity, workers receive information on the plan both digitally and via a hard copy they are asked to keep in their vehicle or at home.

“Our No. 1 priority is that our associates are safe. Once we know that, then we focus on getting things up and running,” Cullen says.