What is happening in Texas now is a good reminder that your company needs a comprehensive and effective program to ensure continuity of operations under any circumstances. You should prepare for the full range of potential emergencies and put in place a viable Continuity of Operations (COOP) capability which ensures the performance of company operations during any emergency or situation that may disrupt them. There are several objectives to any COOP plan, which include:
- Communicating effectively from an alternate site.
- Validating support systems for 24-hour operations.
- Testing an alert, notification, and activation system.
- Performing selected operations from an alternate site.
- Receiving, process and analyze, and disseminate information.
- Be able to access vital files and databases from an alternate site.
Continuity of Operations planning must be done in advance to respond to a natural or man-made emergency. This means if your company needs to relocate to an alternate site coordination should be done before hand. Some tasks that your company may have to provide include:
- Acquiring space and facilities
- Providing for the safety of employees
- Coordinating facility repair and operations
- Providing travel and transportation services
- Providing mail and courier delivery services
- Identifying all affected real and personal property
- Providing administrative and facilities management and support services
This plan should allow your company to continue its work with little or no disruption in service; however, it takes a lot of work to do well. For example at the national level continuity planning also requires coordination with state and local governments. This planning must also include information technology.
There is a lot of guidance from the Federal Government that can be used in the planning process. Here are some that I think are helpful:
- Delegate full authority in order of succession.
- Identify alternate facility or facilities for critical personnel
- Train employees as to their individual roles during a COOP activity
- Demonstrate a general level of understanding of the plan among employees
- Maintain vital records and databases in electronic form at a backup location to meet operational responsibilities following the activation of a COOP.
Teleworking (employees working from an alternate site or home using telephone and computer) is one element of planning that must be considered. Teleworking can allow employees to work from home or an alternate location when a facility is damaged, cannot be reached, or is in the path of an impending disaster. Standards and guidance must be in place prior to any emergency to ensure employees have the equipment necessary to perform their work. This means IT components critical for telework.
There are always security concerns involved with moving an organization to an alternate site when responding to an emergency. Specifically, managers experience a great deal of concern over the security of the information technology equipment and transmissions. In addition, security planners must also consider the physical security of any alternate site. It is essential that a risk assessment is conducted of possible alternate sites so that risks can be considered along with other criteria to determine the best fit. These risk assessment should identify the potential security weaknesses of a facility. Effort should then be expanded to reduce some of the risks for selected facilities.
This blog post touched on a variety of topics that all deal with putting in place a comprehensive and effective program to ensure continuity of operations under all circumstances. The topics of planning, telework, and security were each explored. To ensure that companies can respond in an emergency it is essential that all aspects of the response be planned for. Without this planning, it will be very difficult if not impossible for a company to respond and if the response is weak customers the voters can and should go to another company.