Stormy times ahead – be prepared

As Storm Callum roars onward into the history books leaving flooding and devastation in its wake there is little doubt that autumn has arrived in force. Will it finish up as a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness or something more destructive?

Well, looking back through the records 2015 saw six storms pummelling the UK in November and December against just three storms in the same period in 2016. In 2017 by the end of October the UK had been on the receiving end of two storms and an ex-hurricane with the weather then giving us a respite in November before two storms hit in December.

This year the Met office aren’t saying when, or if, storm Deirdre will come along but with three storms already under our belt it is probably fairly safe to say that if haven’t prepared for the stormy season by now then a little bit of preparedness wouldn’t go amiss. After all, we may not be able to control the weather but we can certainly control how we respond to it.

That’s where business continuity planning comes into play. The premise is quite simple; firstly identify key areas of the business and then work out what do if that area were to be adversely affected by an event. Now we do know that some businesses see business continuity, or risk mitigation, planning as being extremely complex but that can be because they start out by considering all likely scenarios rather than concentrating simply on key business areas.

Let’s look at one example and assume that your business telephone exchange is situated in the basement of your premises. If you were to take the scenario-based route to planning you might start by listing out all the possible ways in which the PBX would stop working including electrical problems, fire in the building, a flood in the basement due to a burst pipe, flooding due to a storm, and so on. But irrespective of the cause, the central problem is that your PBX has stopped working.

So the key business area approach would simply look at ways of ensuring that your business telephone system is back up and running as quickly as possible. On that basis, one solution could be to set up a hosted PBX mirror system. Once set up, when you don’t need it you can ignore it. But when your main system goes down the hosted system can instantly swing into play, directing telephone calls to alternate telephones or mobiles as required.

If the problem is temporary, that may be all you need. However, if the unavailability of your main telephone exchange is as a result of a more impactful disaster which could prevent you from using your premises for some time then you may wish to consider additional backup measures. These could include setting up an SMS text message service to alert employees, customers and others in the first instance and to provide ongoing updates as required. Deploying a company information line is also an option.

When it comes to business continuity planning the key is in the word planning. Identifying key business areas and setting systems in place to mitigate problems can be fairly straightforward when the business is running relatively smoothly. Leave it until a crisis hits and your resources can be so stretched that key areas are missed or mitigation plans may come at an unwarranted cost. Are there stormy times ahead? If there are then a little planning now could go a long way in the future.

Written by Alison