Business Continuity Programs

A disaster or disruption can have a huge effect on a business and its operations. While no one can know exactly when a disaster will strike, preparedness can be the difference between a minor delay and a complete collapse of operations. Business continuity is the method of ensuring that essential business functions can continue during and after a disaster, such as a terrorist attack or a flood. It aims for the business to reestablish full functioning as quickly as possible. A Business Continuity Program (BCP) exists to provide plans and guidance for restoring business functions. A BCP is devised by companies utilizing the guidance of the NFPA 1600 Standard. Each BCP will be different according to the business, its functions, and the threats it faces. The BCP ensures that management is able to coordinate three key functions. The first function is to identify the impact of the potential damage and loss that could occur following a disaster. This is determined through risk assessments. For example, if there is a high risk of damage to a business’s main headquarters by earthquake, the BCP identifies the direct and indirect impact upon the business and provides plans for lowering losses and preparing for those that are unavoidable. The next function is to maintain recovery strategies and plans, which are borne out of risk assessments and impact analyses. These assessments and analyses are aimed at recovering the business following specific disasters. If a business is at risk of an earthquake, it will develop a plan specific to that potential disaster. The last key function is ensure the continuation of services by preparing for disaster and having plans in place. For example, if the business loses its headquarters in an earthquake, there will be plans in place to ensure that alternative measures are taken to maintain customer contact and keep systems running. The BCP will only be truly successful if there is the correct and thorough training of personnel in all BCP content. There must also be rigorous and regular testing of the BCP. Care should also be taken to ensure that the program is updated to cover all relevant issues. When a company decides to implement a BCP, personnel are elected by senior management to take responsibility for the program’s implementation. Each BCP team member has a specialized role in the BCP process. For these larger companies it’s more practical to hire BCP personnel specific to the role; smaller firms may not have that option and prefer to give existing employees the additional work. The main BCP personnel are entity leadership, the program coordinator, and the program committee. The entity leadership demonstrates commitment to the program to prevent, mitigate the consequences of, prepare for, respond to, maintain continuity during, and recover from incidents. The leadership commitment should include policies, plans, and procedures to develop, implement, and maintain the program, resources to support the program, reviews and evaluations to ensure program effectiveness, and correction of any deficiencies. The program coordinator is appointed by entity leadership. The program coordinator is authorized to develop, implement, administer, evaluate, and maintain the program. The coordinator is also responsible for liaising with management and other relevant departments and agencies (such as the fire department, nearby companies, and suppliers), and providing training and regular audits of the BCP. The program committee provides input for and/or assists in the coordination of the preparation, development, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of the program. The program committee includes the program coordinator and others who have the expertise, knowledge of the entity, and the capability to identify resources from all key functional areas within the entity, and should solicit applicable external representation. Failure to have a plan for a disaster situations leaves businesses completely vulnerable to an utter collapse of all functions. The aim of a BCP is to restore business functionality and ensure that operations continue during and following a disruption or disaster.

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