During and after a disaster, whether manmade or natural, environmental or biological, one of the most urgent needs is for businesses and organizations to remain in operation as long as possible and to resume normal operations as quickly as possible. This is the concept of business continuity.
Business continuity is important for a number of reasons:
- Many businesses provide important and even essential services, including the delivery of health care, the transportation of needed goods, and the repair of housing and other essential facilities
- Operable businesses help keep money flowing to employees who need it
- A vibrant commercial sector is the linchpin of a community, without whose tax revenues the government sector can rarely afford to operate
The importance of business continuity is easily underrated, but experience proves it to be essential:
- When the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001, many businesses were devastated -- some completely. As those companies were disrupted or destroyed, so were the incomes of surviving employees and the families of those who were lost. Those people needed that income, and the longer it took for the businesses to resume operations, the longer their suffering continued.
- The devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina made it difficult or impossible for many businesses to remain in service. The longer those companies were forced to remain in exile, the longer the delay in the city's recovery.
- Terrorist attacks
- Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods
- Man-made disasters like chemical spills or nuclear accidents
- Biological catastrophes like a pandemic flu outbreak
Thus, it's important to consider the following issues of business continuity:
- Is a plan in place for running the business from off-site?
- Are critical computer files backed up at least weekly?
- Is a copy of the computer backup stored off-site, in a place suitably far enough away to be recoverable in case of major calamity?
- Do employees know how to reach the employer in case they are forced to evacuate with little or no warning?
- Does the business have a visible, reliable, and easily-updated website so that vendors and customers alike can find them in a hurry?
- Do several key employees have access to critical documents like tax information and bank accounts, in case other employees are unable to perform their duties?