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It’s easy to think that disasters are too rare to worry about or that they only happen to others. It’s also easy to think again and realise that your charity could be next. Preparing for the worst with a Business Continuity Plan will help keep things running while you recover, get you back to business-as-usual, and limit the damage to people and property.
The number of risks organisations face is increasing, with new types of risks emerging all the time. What with the unpredictable effects of climate change on extreme weather events, and an increasing dependence on computers and the internet, any organisation could suddenly find itself unable to operate.
A carefully considered emergency response and recovery plan will make your charity more resilient and reassure your staff and stakeholders that you are prepared for any problem. Here’s a brief rundown of how to prepare your Business Continuity Plan, and once you have all the information you need, there are some handy templates available online.
Your charity will need a dedicated team to manage and carry out the plan, including one coordinator who will take the lead. Try to get appropriately qualified people in charge of specific areas, such as IT recovery, finance, communications, and the actual emergency response. Crucially, someone must be in charge of recording details of the event, any actions taken to lessen its effects, and any extra expenses. This will ensure you have all the relevant information for an insurance claim.
This is a time when asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” is not just a joke. Start by identifying what functions are critical to your charity’s success, such as your shop, fundraising events, or counselling services, and then where these are most exposed to risks. Next, consider what could put a sudden stop to “business-as-usual”, such as a fire, machinery malfunction, or computer virus. Planning for the worst-case-scenario will put you steps ahead if a less severe disaster strikes.
Business Continuity Plans can be split into two phases for each possible crisis: the emergency plan for the first 24 hours, and the recovery plan for the (potentially lengthy) recovery period. Each stage must include who is responsible for what, the procedures that must be followed, and a communication strategy.
Communication is a key part of a crisis, so your Business Continuity Plan must contain current contact details for all staff and key suppliers who need notifying in an emergency. The recovery plan should include a strategy for updating everyone on the situation, for example by email, newsletter, telephone, text, or through the website and social media.
Once you have a plan-of-action, you should arrange a few mock emergencies to check everyone is on board with their roles. These might be a bit different from the infamous fire drills that should be a regular event for all offices and commercial buildings anyway.
New staff should be made aware of your emergency and safety procedures, and everyone should be made aware of any significant changes to the plan. Finally, you must keep your Business Continuity Plan securely stored off-site or saved online using a verified external service so it can be accessed from anywhere.
The following websites provide useful and practical advice on managing your organisations risks:
The UK Government: Preparing for emergencies