Preparing for storms

As the first gusts of autumn herald a season of fallen trees and flooding, it’s time to dust off the business continuity plans. Not that they should have been sitting idly in a drawer anyway. Business continuity, or risk, plans should be living documents which change in tandem with changes in the business or its operating environs.

The trouble is that risk planning can take time. And in an operating environment in which businesses are still recovering from the effects of Brexit, Covid, and other factors, time is not always something which business leaders have in abundance.

Nevertheless, taking time now to review plans could make a measurable difference if something happens to interrupt the business later on. Key to effective planning is to not get bogged down in scenario mapping but rather to identify potential failure points and plan to overcome these. For example, it doesn’t really matter if a fallen tree, snow or flooding blocks access to the business premises. What is important is that there is a plan in place to effectively communicate the situation to employees, suppliers and customers and to let them know what alternative working plans are in place.

Bulk SMS text messages can be effective ways of conveying this initial information. Not only can SMS texts quickly reach key contacts; by monitoring whether the messages have been received and opened, businesses can pinpoint those who have received the message and those who may require further contact by other means.

SMS texts can also be used to advise on further developments. However, businesses may feel that, particularly in rapidly developing scenarios, an emergency information line may better fit the bill once the initial contact has been made. Operating completely outside of the normal telephone system, emergency information line messages can be updated instantly as required. In addition, by linking the emergency information line to an answerphone system, a first line of communication can be established; perhaps receiving offers of help, or employee confirmation of actions taken.

For ongoing situations, businesses need to consider how quickly they can move towards a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Here again communication is key. Covid may have given us a chance to try out some working from home scenarios but it has also highlighted the importance of maintaining good communication links. Some businesses may decide that they require a mirror of their existing phone system to switch in when required. Others might simply need calls to be switched to alternate numbers. Whatever the solution; by identifying needs and setting systems in place, a phone solution is already there for you when you need it.

Finally, never underestimate the importance of communicating your plans to your people, and training them so that they can be effective in helping the business to overcome its immediate challenge. For example, your people may have to field calls about subjects which are outside their immediate area of expertise. Being trained to effectively communicate on the phone can give people the confidence to provide a professional response, even if that response is on the lines of ‘I’ll find out and get back to you.’

We can’t do anything about winter storms. But with effective planning and the right plans in place, businesses can at least mitigate their effects on the business whilst providing good levels of information to those who need it. 

Written by Alison