Are you using business continuity program elements for your rural business disaster and crisis readiness strategies?


Business continuity program elements setup the stage for your rural or small business to be ready for disaster and crisis and continue critical operations if your company is involved in abnormal activities. In this article, we will discuss the three-tiered business continuity program elements that you might consider integrating into your business continuity program. The three-tiered system includes Pre-Programming, Business Continuity Planning and Post-Programming for your company’s business continuity strategies…


Business Continuity Program Elements

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Business Continuity Program Elements: Pre-Programming

The first of the business continuity program elements is to actually create your business continuity program so that you can be ready for critical operations before, during and after a disaster and/or crisis impacts your business. There are three stages in the pre-programming tier:


The first stage is initiating the business continuity program and involving those who need to be involved. In this stage, you will ask yourself what portion of your business needs to be in operation at all times even when impacted by a disaster and/or crisis. You also need to determine who should be involved in your business continuity program such as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), members of the community public services and even your employees who might serve a significant value to your business continuity strategies.


The second stage is creating risk and threat mitigation concepts and methods after assessing and analyzing the risks and threats of your business impacted by a disaster and/or crisis. What would bring your business operations down? How can you prevent it or at least lower the risks of bringing that operation down? Analyze your business risks and threats and prioritize them focusing on the most critical ones first and then moving down to the less critical threats and risks.


The third stage of pre-programming is conducting a cost analysis. As a rural and/or small business, cost is going to be important to you. You cannot enable a mitigation technology or strategy if you cannot afford even if it appears to be the only way. So while you are prioritizing your business risks and threats, you need to counter in costs of what you will spend on protection and the costs of what you would spend if the area of concern was not protected and severely impacted by a disaster and/or crisis. At this point, creating a budget for your rural business continuity program might be ideal.


Business Continuity Program Elements: Business Continuity Planning

The second of the business continuity elements three-tiered system is the actual business continuity planning phase. In this phase, you will plan for your business to maintain critical operation after being threatened and/or impacted by a disaster and/or crisis. There are three stages in the business continuity planning element:


In stage one, you focus should be on developing business continuity strategies. A strategy is basically a plan of action to continue business operations after a disaster and/or crisis has impacted your business operations. A strategy is about having a plan before the impact actually occurs so that you and your business can be ready for anything. Strategies should include resources and equipment you might need to obtain ahead of time as well as alternative methods of operating critical business activities if an impact has halted the original methods.


In stage two, you should develop your Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) which will outline your emergency situation procedures and policies. This will include response and recovery phases of business continuity practices. If a tornado is heading towards your business, do you have a plan for protecting your employees and guests? Create your EOP and be encouraged to reach out to fellow businesses, community governments and rural first responder services to get assistance and advice in developing your emergency plan.


In stage three, you want to develop your business continuity related teams. These are going to be partners and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as well as employees who will complete different tasks and assignments to ensure critical business operations are in full active status after your business has been impacted by a disaster and/or crisis of some kind. This would also be the best opportunity to create a team for emergency response at your place of business otherwise known as an Emergency Response Team or ERT.


Business Continuity Program Elements: Post-Programming

Now that you have completed the program creation and planning business continuity program elements, it is time to move on to the final step of the three-tiered system. This step is post-programming. There are three stages in this final step:


In the first stage, focus should be on plan awareness and plan exercising. You have started a business continuity program and you have developed business continuity plans. Now you need to inform your employees, associates and customers of these developments. They need to be aware of how you will continue critical operations after a disaster and/or crisis has occurred otherwise developing such programs and planning will be a complete waste of time. Along with awareness, you also need to train and exercise the plans of your business continuity program so that your employees and other partners can gain some experience and understanding of how your business will continue to operate after it has been impacted by a disaster and/or crisis scenario.


In the second stage, focus should be on results and the “lessons learned” of exercises, training and awareness meetings. You should involve everyone who plays a role in business continuity and look at what has worked and what has not worked. A popular formula used by businesses for this sort of activity is a SWOT analysis. Strengths – what are the strengths of your business continuity program? Weaknesses – what are the weaknesses of your business continuity program? Opportunities – what are the opportunities for improving your business continuity program? Threats – what is threatening your business continuity program?


In the third stage, focus on maintenance of your business continuity program. This where you take the lessons learned from your partner discussions, training and exercises and use them to maintain your business continuity program and plans. You should always look to update your program and plans when you can so that they don’t become outdated or obsolete. A good plan is a plan that remains a good plan and that means you will have to maintain it as needed and as required.


Does your Business use Business Continuity Program Elements?

Do you use any of the three business continuity program elements listed in this article? What other business continuity program elements would you recommend to be used not listed in this article? Please comment below with your thoughts, ideas, opinions and questions about business continuity program elements for increasing business continuity success.


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About the Author

Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn J. GossmanB.S., M.S., M.B.A., SEM, PDS
Shawn J. Gossman is an article and publication contributor of rural and remote-based emergency management, continuity and public health topics. Shawn holds a Master of Science concentrating in Emergency Management and a MBA in Hazardous Environment Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Shawn is dedicated to helping rural communities and organizations be a part of the Whole Community approach of National Preparedness.