Every Florida business should have a business continuity plan (BCP). Disasters can come in many forms, from a simple power outage to a major hurricane. And in the event of business-interrupting crises, whether natural or man-made, you need to know exactly the steps to take to get your business running again as soon as possible.
If there’s anything we’ve learned in the past two years, it’s that you never know when a disaster might strike or how long a disruption may last, so it’s important that your company is prepared for any type of situation.
This article will guide you through the basics of creating a business continuity plan for your Florida business through a simple business continuity checklist.
Basic Business Continuity Checklist for Florida Businesses
Although every company’s emergency response plan is unique and determined by its own risk factors and budget, there are some basic requirements that apply to all companies who need a business continuity plan.
Businesses should consider and address the following items for a basic Business Continuity Plan:
Before a Disaster
Taking preventive steps before a disaster is critical to your business’s ability to recover quickly. The steps you take in the planning stage are the foundation of your entire business continuity setup. You’ll want to cover as many different areas of risk as possible in your BCP.
- Identify Key Stakeholders
Identify who should be involved in determining how to address an emergency situation. Identify required approvals, key contacts, and reporting structures.
- Prioritize Critical Operations
Areas that are critical to company operations should be identified and secured. Create a plan and process for keeping the minimum necessary operations running in limited conditions.
- Create a Business Continuity Team
Appoint a team leader who will be responsible for creating, maintaining, and carrying out the continuity plan. The team should include key personnel from different areas of the business, such as human resources, information technology, customer service, marketing, and legal teams.
- Identify Key Suppliers and Partners
What suppliers or partners do you rely on for critical services? What would happen if they were no longer available? Plan who you would contact to resolve supply issues. If your supply chain faces significant risks, identify backup suppliers you could utilize.
- Identify Cyber Risks
Work with your IT team to identify potential threats and how they might impact your business. This may include implementing penetration testing to simulate real-world attacks, as well as conducting employee security training.
- Implement Cyber Threat Mitigation Measures
Install antivirus software, firewalls, and other security measures to protect your computer systems from cyber threats.
- Identify Disaster Risks
Is your building in a flood zone? Is it exposed to hurricanes or high winds? What about wildfires or earthquakes? Determine potential disasters or events that could threaten your business.
- Document Key Business Workflows
List every step of each process that must occur for your business to run smoothly. What is required at each stage of the process? Which staff members are responsible for which tasks?
- Take an Equipment Inventory
Document all your business’s assets, including IT equipment and data banks.
- Create Test Drives and Exercises
(I) Establish a crisis management team;
(II) Determine who will need to be contacted and what information will need to be shared in an emergency;
(III) Review and test your business continuity plan regularly.
- Ensure Data Backups
Make sure you have a backup of all critical data, including employee files, customer information, and financial records. Store backups off-site in case of a disaster.
- Increase Employee Awareness
It is vital for every employee to know what his role is before, during, and after the crisis occurs. Communicate regularly with employees about procedures they should follow in an emergency. Make sure everyone knows who to report to, where to go, and what to do in the event of an incident.
- Develop a Communications Strategy
In an emergency, timely and accurate communication is essential. Plan how you will distribute information to employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
During a Crisis
If and when a crisis hits, you’ll need to activate your plan immediately and follow your established protocols. The exact steps you take may vary depending on the type and extent of the disaster, but having a thorough plan in place allows you to choose the applicable actions for the situation.
- Coordinate with First Responders
(I) Review your plan with local authorities;
(II) Get their input on how to address specific disaster scenarios;
(III) Work together when disaster strikes to ensure public safety while minimizing damage to buildings and infrastructure.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Immediately notify employees, shareholders, and suppliers of the situation and the actions each person should take. Communicate to customers essentials like changes in business hours, delays in services, etc. Notify your disaster response team of the situation and begin planning for recovery.
- Get Core Operations Online
Your team should immediately start enacting the protocols you’ve already planned to get critical operations running at whatever capacity is practicable.
Recovery After an Event
Once the immediate danger has passed, it’s time to start assessing the damage and rebuilding.
- Analyze Damage Done
Using inventory lists taken as part of your pre-disaster planning, analyze what damage has been done—physical, financial, or digital—and what can be recovered, repaired, or replaced.
- Create a Recovery Timeline
Based on the damage analysis, create a timeline for full recovery with expected completion dates, services needed, and roles of all involved.
- Begin Disaster Recovery
Address key steps for IT recovery; (II) Identify employees who will perform these functions and determine which computer system they will use; (III) Develop a strategy to restore all necessary data.
- Remain in Communication Until Fully Operational
Even when the immediate danger has passed, don’t forget to update your team and clients about the ongoing situation until it’s fully resolved.
- Test and Update Your Plan
Now that you have real-life data showing how well your defenses and planning worked, update your plan to improve on any weaknesses or oversights that you discovered.
Protect Your Business Today
Although there are circumstances that simply can’t be planned for, businesses can take the right precautions in order to make sure they are ready for the most common and likely emergency situations. By taking steps to prepare and educate your staff, you can help ensure that your company will be able to bounce back quickly in the event of a disaster and minimize the impact of an emergency on your business and customers.
For more information on creating a business continuity plan and getting all the right precautions in place to protect your data and technology, contact ITS Group today!