Creating a Business Continuity Plan
Business continuity planning refers to the activities your organisation undertakes to prepare to manage disruptions.
There are a range of business continuity plan templates available. A strong business continuity plan will include the following:
Roles and Responsibilities
Communications strategy (including contact list)
Temporary office/service accommodation
Data security and back up
We have identified some that are relevant to the community sector that you can download below.
You can also use the Disaster Plan template in the 'Downloads' section below.
1. Roles and Responsibilities
Timely decision making in disasters and emergencies is critical. Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities during and after disasters and emergencies is essential for this.
The needs of each organisation will vary greatly so this is a step that requires you to consult with your staff and volunteers to determine what the key roles and responsibilities would be to maintain your operations in the aftermath of a disaster. Some responsibilities you may consider include:
- Person in charge/manager/decision maker
- First aid
Not all of your staff and volunteers will be available after an emergency. Some may be affected by the emergency personally or be unable to reach your premises. Therefore it is useful to define roles and responsibilities that can be filled by a range of people, not just one.
Emergency situations can be exhausting so an approach that allows for a range of people to fulfil roles also helps you to manage fatigue.
Do you know if your team includes volunteers for emergency services? This can be a significant issue for smaller community organisations in rural locations. Find out before an emergency if your staff and volunteers are in the local SES, fire brigade or other emergency service.
2. Communication Strategy
Before an emergency it is really important that all of your staff, volunteers and key external stakeholders know what your emergency and business continuity plans are. This may require you to communicate your plan in a variety of different ways depending on your target audience. Together with your team identify the following:
- Communication objectives
- Target group
- Key messages
- Communication tool
- Who is responsible
During an emergency and immediately after you will need to be able to contact a range of stakeholders, both internal and external, to alert them to the situation and its impacts on your organisation.
Internal: it is critical that you have up to date contact details for all of your staff and volunteers as well as their emergency contacts.
Communication is a key means of protecting the wellbeing of your team. An immediate priority during and after an emergency will be to confirm the safety of your staff and volunteers. You will also need to get in touch to discuss how you will continue to deliver services. Due to damaged infrastructure or potential health hazards your staff and volunteers may not be able to reach your usual place of work. You will need to communicate with them to determine safe alternatives where possible so your organisation can maintain operations.
External: After an emergency there will be key stakeholders you will need to contact. As emergencies can be very stressful and busy times it is helpful to have a list of key external contacts so your organisation knows who to contact and how. Here are some contacts you should include:
- Local emergency services (000, police, fire, ambulance, SES, poison information)
- Local council
- Building Owner/Leasee
- Insurance company
- Key suppliers
- Partner or local community organisations
- Key funders
- Telephone/internet provider
- Utilities (water, sewerage, gas and electricity)
Tip: During an emergency telephone lines may be very busy as people will be trying to get in touch with loved ones or assistance. Sometimes you are not able to be connected to another phone number in the affected area however you may be able to successfully call a number outside of the area. Therefore it can be useful to have an out of area contact point that all staff and volunteers know to call in the event of an emergency. For larger organisations this could be your head office or other service delivery site. For smaller organisations you may like to buddy up with another similar organisation in a different area for this purpose.
3. Temporary Accommodation
One week after an emergency that renders their premises inaccessible, 50% of community organisations would still be unable to deliver services. For 25% they may never reopen. Your organisation is too important to close.
Make arrangements for temporary office/service accommodation so that your organisation can continue your valuable work if your premises are damaged, destroyed or inaccessible. With your team identify the essential items you need to maintain operations such as telephones and computers.
Some organisations arrange to rent a temporary premises whilst other partner with similar service providers in another location who have the specific equipment they need to care for their clients. Once again, there is no one size fits all approach; talk to other community organisations for inspiration.
Document the address and key contact details for your temporary accommodation in your plan.
Data Security and Back Up
Many organisations are reliant upon their online case management systems, databases and email to do their job. Would your organisation be able to continue operations without access to any of your IT systems and data? There are a range of threats to your data security including simply being inaccessible due to infrastructure failure, viruses or deliberate attack. For this reason it is important that you have up to date virus protection, secure networks, firewalls, strong passwords and backup procedures.
As a team identify your organisation’s essential data (i.e. emails, spreadsheets, website, files, payroll), how you will back it up, the frequency of back up and the person responsible for doing so. There are a range of back up options including saving to an external hard drive or using a cloud based service. Check out the links in the further information section below for more ideas.
5. Emergency Supplies
During an emergency and its immediate aftermath you may be required to ‘shelter in place’, meaning that staff, volunteers, clients and visitors may have to remain in your organisation’s premises for some time. This situation may arise because your premises become inaccessible or due to a health hazard in the area. Your organisation may also be cut off from essential services such as electricity, gas and water. Having some emergency supplies will help you get through this period. For some this will primarily involve their emergency kit whilst others will need additional supplies such as a generator to run vital equipment for clients or medications.
Supply chains are often impacted by emergencies and can have flow on effects to organisations who may not have been directly affected by the event itself.
Having a stockpile of essential supplies to enable you to continue operations for days or weeks after an emergency is a good idea. The types of supplies you will need will vary greatly depending upon the size, location and type of service your organisation provides. For example, you may require particular medications or food to care for your clients. Run an activity with your staff and volunteers to identify everything they would need to operate for a week. Implement formal processes to make sure that you always have the required quantity of these items in stock.
Speak with your key suppliers and find out what their business continuity plans are. This may prompt them to develop some if they have not done so already! If they have a business continuity plan they will be able to advise you of what you can expect from them so you can plan accordingly.