Crisis Management and Business Continuity Planning 101

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By: Clinton Gonzales
Chief Operating Officer, Merletti Gonzales International

As our daily routines and lives settle into varying degrees of normalcy, this is an opportunity to evaluate your organization’s emergency management programs and protocols, reflect upon any past performances, deficiencies, lessons learned, and assess what improvements can be made to benefit operational readiness.

At a time when a crisis can greatly impact business operations, companies and organizations should focus on creating the most comprehensive and strategic Crisis Management Plan. In turn, this will bolster your emergency preparedness and elevate your ability to manage a variety of incidents while maintaining daily business operations as part of your Business Continuity Plan. During a crisis, you may opt to have a security consulting firm augment your company’s capabilities.

A well-structured Crisis Management Plan should take into account preparation, planning, training and recovery. The response will be dealt with at varying levels of management such as the senior executive, mid-level, on-site managers and supervisors; therefore, your plan should encompass the roles and responsibilities of the aforementioned.

The following guidelines of Crisis Management and Business Continuity Planning, outlined below, are vital to operational readiness and response. While the current pandemic will prompt you to take further decisive action for your specific industry and organization, the majority of potential incidents should be manageable and adaptable if you have the proper planning and training.

Question: What are the important aspects of a Crisis Management Plan?

Answer: Let’s breakdown the components of this plan. There are several factors to consider when developing a comprehensive plan. Crisis Management deals with managing a crisis from the onset to recovery, while Business Continuity involves keeping your company operational as you confront and overcome obstacles that occur as a result of a crisis.

First, you should review any previous risk and vulnerability assessments conducted or perform a follow-up assessment if there have been significant changes to your business footprint or time lapse since your last assessment. This assessment will determine where the gaps exist for your company, where it’s most vulnerable, and establish the associated risks. Within your assessment, examine the recommendations put forth for improvements to your security program, prioritize those enhancements and develop a timeline for completion.

Second, review your response plans for the most probable scenarios that could greatly impact your business and ensure they meet company standards and practices. As companies grow, their programs must be scalable and adaptable. Third, assemble a crisis management team with your essential staff that are needed at every level to handle an emergency situation.

Each department will need to assess their capabilities and the role each will assume when managing a crisis. Similarly, your Business Continuity Plan will take much of these same measures into account by outlining each department’s role and determining what processes, planning and provisions need to be in place to continue effective operations.

Question: What are the important aspects of training for Crisis Management?

Answer: Once you have a Crisis Management Plan in place you can start conducting tabletop drills and exercises. Training is paramount when preparing your personnel for the challenges that lie ahead. Full-scale practical exercises, or corporate war gaming, will test your company’s readiness when presented with multiple extenuating circumstances. This type of training engages each individual, department, and team, as a whole, on how to respond effectively and appropriately.

Question: How does a Business Continuity Plan best serve an organization?

Answer: While a Crisis Management Plan typically deals more with managing an emergency from the onset to recovery, a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) ensures that business continues to function, preferably uninterrupted, when an issue arises that threatens to derail normal operations. A company’s BCP should take into account each business units’ role in operations, the tools they require to perform their normal duties and a plan of action to achieve the desired outcome.

Your plan may consider remote workstations or alternate office locations that mirror your company’s current operational layout, a backup of files on another server, printed BCP documents and checklists, and additional communications and equipment needed to keep operating daily. Another important factor is succession planning, which most importantly, should identify qualified candidates in advance to fill these mid to senior level positions.

An organization should greatly consider updating and reviewing their Crisis Management and Business Continuity Plans in light of the current state of affairs that this pandemic has caused for all businesses. Please contact Merletti Gonzales International to learn more about how we can assist your business during these challenging times.