Hurricane season is in full swing, bringing with it the triple whammy of high winds, destructive water, and flying debris that can threaten your business and its workforce. With seven of the top ten most destructive hurricanes making U.S. landfall in September, it’s no wonder that this month is National Preparedness Month.
How, though, do we prepare this year, as an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season clashes with civil unrest and a “once in a lifetime” COVID-19 pandemic? The short answer is, “Update your Business Continuity Plan now.”
Start with Your Current Business Continuity Plan
As we mentioned in an earlier blog, it’s faster to adapt an existing business continuity plan than to start a new one. You probably have the basics covered in your current plan, including an assessment of hurricane, flooding, and other natural disaster threats. (Are you in an area that has been hit by previous hurricanes, floods, or tornados? How likely is it that those events will happen again?) Your plan likely considers disease outbreaks, as well. If your business is located in a federal building or if your location has experienced civil unrest in the past, you have probably already assessed the likelihood of those threats and documented your anticipated response and recovery as part of your plan.
Review and refresh your plan, as needed, to ensure that your plan considers your people, your company’s space and physical assets, communications and business systems, and customer service. This handy toolkit is a hurricane preparedness plan for businesses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Ready.gov also has excellent business continuity planning resources for businesses.
Refresh Your Plan to Reflect Today’s Reality
COVID-19 has turned so many businesses upside down! Are your products and services more (or less) in demand now that COVID-19 has emerged? Do you have employees suddenly working from home, effectively diffusing the geographic footprint of your business? Are you managing an office space with restrictions on how many people can be there at one time and requirements for extra cleaning and sanitation?
Our country is also experiencing widespread civil unrest, with local protests that can disrupt businesses and sporadic violence that has put residents in harm’s way. Even if your employees are not actively involved in any of the demonstrations, the national diversity, equity and inclusion conversation is drumming up emotions and urges that can complicate a disaster response for a workforce that’s already feeling vulnerable, uncertain, or simply tired.
Think through the new realities of your business. Consider where your people are and how you need to support them. Are certain key employees working remotely from areas that are more susceptible to the path of a hurricane, potential power outages, flooding, and the like? In what ways has civil unrest touched your workforce this year? How well is your organization responding to that disruption? What else might employees need to ensure their safety and wellbeing?
Assess what customers expect of you now. Then, update your business continuity plan to support continued operations – or a fast recovery – should COVID-19, a hurricane, flooding, civil unrest, or violent protests directly impact your business community. You may need to order extra supplies to ensure that you have what you need if your supply chain is impacted by a disruption. Or shore up your communications and infrastructure to support employees and customers whose essential connectivity may become compromised.
Prepare Your Workforce
An effective business continuity plan is as much about people as operations. If a hurricane, flood, civil unrest, COVID-19, a seasonal flu outbreak, or other potential danger is forecast to hit your area, start communicating with employees early. Be sure they are aware of your business continuity plan and how they should respond. Direct them to local news outlets and emergency response authorities for specific instructions in their communities. For example, COVID-19 has changed the availability and best practices of public disaster shelters. People with underlying health conditions may opt to shelter with friends or family outside of the area if they must evacuate.
Many of our clients use their Avilar WebMentor Skills competency management system to prepare and respond in an emergency. Asking employees to complete an online skills assessment can give you an up-to-date view of which employees have skills that may be needed for a response. A current workforce skills inventory can help you identify employees who have the skills to step in if some employees are temporarily unable to work. You can even use the system for wellness check-ins, so employees can provide a quick daily update confirming they’re okay.
Be sure you work out in advance how to stay in touch with employees if their workplace is compromised by weather, disease, or social upheaval. You wouldn’t want employees to return until you had the “all clear” for them to return safely.
If you haven’t yet updated your business continuity plan for 2020, don’t let the COVID pandemic sidetrack you from this important task. Especially this year, you’ll want to ensure that the plan, your team, your business is as ready as it can be in a time of crises.
To learn more about the novel coronavirus and dealing with a pandemic, we invite you to view these free video training courses, provided as a public service by our content partners ej4 and Vado. For tips on creating a competency management plan for business continuity, read our white paper, Before Disaster Strikes: Building Your Crisis Management Plan from your Skills Inventory. Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ can support your team.
Business Continuity: How Can Competency Management Help Now?
How to Create a Skills Inventory and Why it’s Important
How to Bring the Best Lessons from COVID-19 Back to Work
How Natural Disasters Impact Businesses