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BCPlifeCycleHaving a Business Continuity Plan will outline the processes and procedures an organization puts in place to ensure that essential functions can continue during and after a disaster or other business disruption. A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the least expensive insurance any company can have, especially for small companies.  Business continuance planning is very important, as it outlines how to continue doing business until full recovery is accomplished. A business continuance plan should include these steps:

    • Document internal key personnel contact information:  These are people who fill positions without which your business absolutely cannot function – make the list as large as necessary, but as small as possible.  Identify which job functions are critically necessary.  Think about who fills those positions.  Think about who fills those positions when the primary job-holder is on vacation and ensure their contact information is documented also.
    • Make a list of contact information for all Key Personnel as follows:

      Address:  home and business
      Phone:  home, business, and cell Pager
      Email:  business and personal
      Emergency Contact Persons

Add any other contact information appropriate to enable you to contact key personnel in an emergency situation where normal communications might be unavailable.

  • Identify who can telecommute: Some employees may be capable of conducting business from a home office or other location. Find out who can and who cannot.
  • Document external contacts:  If you have critical vendors or contractors, build a special contact list that includes a description of the company (or individual) and any other critical information including key personnel contact information. Include in your list services, lawyers, bankers, IT consultants, utility companies, municipal and community offices (police, fire, water, hospitals), and the post office...any that might assist with operational issues.
  • Document critical equipment:  Personal computers often contain critical information. Do you have off-site backups?  What type of equipment do you rely on to run your business?  Do you rely heavily on the telephone, fax, or copy machine to do your business?   Do you have specialized software – that would often be considered critical equipment especially if it cannot be replaced.
  • Identify critical documents: Articles of incorporation and other legal papers, utility bills, banking information, critical Human Resource documents, building lease papers, tax returns etc.  Uou need to have everything necessary to start your business over again in a safe place off site.  Remember, you might be dealing with a total facility loss.  You can store copies of critical documents in a bank deposit box or scan copies into your computer to be stored on an offsite backup.
  • Identify contingency equipment options:  If your company uses trucks and it is possible the trucks might be damaged in a building fire; where would you rent trucks? Where would you rent computers? Can you use a business service outlet for copies, faxing, printing, and other critical functions?
  • Identify your contingency location:  This is the place you will conduct business while your primary offices are unavailable. It could be a hotel – many of them have very well equipped business facilities you can use. It might be one of your contractors’ offices. Perhaps telecommuting for everyone is a viable option. Wherever it is, make sure you have all the appropriate contact information (including people’s names). If you do have an identified temporary location, include a map in your BCP.
  • Make a "How-to" manual:  It should include step-by-step instructions on what to do, who should do it, and how. List each responsibility and write down the name of the person assigned to it.  Also, do the reverse: For each person, list the responsibilities. That way, if you want to know "who is supposed to call the insurance company?" you can look up "Insurance" and if you want to know what Joe Doe is doing, you can look under Joe for that information.
  • Put the information together:  A BCP is useless if all the information is scattered about in different places. A BCP is a reference document – it should be kept together in one binder and saved in a directory on your computer.  Ensure all key personnel have a copy on their business and home computers. Keep several extra copies at an off-site location, at home and/or in a safety-deposit box.  Make sure it is up to date at all times.
  • Communicate: Make sure everyone in your company knows about the BCP. Hold training classes for every employee whether they are on the critical list or not. You do not want your non-critical staff driving through an ice storm to get to a building that has been damaged by fire then wondering what to do next.
  • Test the plan: You’ve put really good ideas down, accumulated all your information, identified contingency locations, put your personnel list in place, contacts, service companies, but will it work? One thing you will definitely learn in the test is what may need to be changed. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to figure out what you should do differently next time. Run the test. If you make any major changes, run another test a few months later. Even after you have a solid plan, you should test it annually. Pick a day – let everyone know what’s going to happen (including your customers, contractors and vendors) then on that morning, act as though your office building has been destroyed. Make the calls – go to the contingency site.
  • Plan to change the plan: No matter how good your plan is, and no matter how smoothly your test runs, it is likely there will be events outside your plan. The hotel you plan to use for your contingency site is hosting a huge convention. You can’t get into the bank because the disaster happened on a banking holiday. The power is out in your house. The copy machine at the business services company is broken. Your IT consultant is on vacation.
  • Review and revise: Every time something changes, update all copies of your BCP. Never let it get out of date. An out-of-date plan can be worse than useless: it can make you feel safe that you can continue business when you are definitely not safe.

Websites for further information:

Government of Canada - Public Safety Canada
Emergency Management BC
Small Business Canada
Continuity Central
Be Ready Now