A communications plan to alert staff, resume operations and let customers and suppliers know how you’re doing are central elements in a company’s business continuity plans.
As companies take part in America’s PrepareAthon!, sponsored by FEMA, on April 30, it’s a good time to review (or start to compile) post-disaster communications plans for your company.
Business continuity is a team effort that will require coordination among IT, production, sales, customer service and other important business functions. Contacting employees and letting them what to do or where to report is a central element that should be planned – and tested – before a catastrophe strikes.
Probably the most important element of an effective communications plan is making sure you have up-to-date information about team members and how you can reach them. Phone numbers, email addresses and other important contact information should be stored electronically not only on your corporate network, but also on a remote server that can be accessed after an event. Printed copies of this data should also be stored in a safe location.
Keeping this information current is critical, but can be challenging. After Superstorm Sandy, for instance, some companies found nearly a third of the contact information listed in their continuity plans was outdated or inaccurate.
It’s also important to let customers and suppliers know how your company is doing after a disaster. You may have problems providing goods or services on time, for instance, and may need to alert customers about potential delays. It’s also helpful to let suppliers know if you can’t receive scheduled shipments, or whether you need to rush orders.
Testing your communications plans on a routine basis, such as twice a year, is important to identify information that needs to be updated.
To promote the value of continuity planning, FEMA is sponsoring America’s PrepareAthon! on April 30. Participation may include conducting emergency response drills within your facility, sharing promotional materials designed to help Americans be prepared, or participating in discussion forums with other businesses or community members.
Scott Nicoll is a senior risk specialist – business continuity planning, for Chubb North American Risk Engineering Services.