Business Continuity Planning:  Alternate Worksite

Business Continuity Planning: Alternate Worksite

Working hard to ensure that our community can continue to look to us for assistance before, during, and after a disaster is what emergency planners should be aiming for.  Emergency planners should be working hard in a continuous cycle of emergency planning, training, and exercise to ensure continuity of operations.  Whether the continuity is within the business or outside for response, the sole point is to continue to strive towards a cohesive emergency response operation.  As emergency planners, we will all have a home base, a steady place of business, but during a disaster, there is always that chance of the physical space being out of commission.  The building could be destroyed and non-operational, which would mean that you will have to work somewhere else.  Business Continuity includes planning for an alternate location for recovery, which is Step 9 for Business Continuity planning that has been laid out in previous articles.  Briefly, I have laid them out below:

Today, I will discuss step 9 and share some tips on what you should be looking for when planning for an alternate location during recovery.

9.  Plan for an Alternate Location for Recovery.
A summary from Ready.Gov:  Business Continuity Planning

When you're planning for an alternate location during recovery, you are officially implementing one of the recovery strategies that you previously developed in your business impact analysis.  Recovery strategies are alternate means to restore business operations/essential services following the disruption.  Recovery strategies require resources, such as people, facilities, equipment, and materials.  You will need to work with your planning team to decide which strategies would work best for your facility and if each of them are feasible to keep your services running.  An example of a recovery strategy would be to allow staff to work from home when they are not able to be in the office due to the disruption.  This strategy would require ensuring staff have a home work environment and are equipped with or have access to a computer with appropriate software, documents, forms, and other data that may be necessary to complete their tasks.  They would also need to have access to a secure internet service.

An internal recovery strategy is using an alternate location within your facility to continue services.  Sometimes the disruption is only on one section or wing of a building, and you can move staff to another space inside the same building, such as a cafeteria, conference rooms, and/or training rooms.  These areas can all be converted to office space or to other uses if needed.  Before the emergency occurs, you will need to plan on equipping the new alternate space with furnishings, equipment, power, connectivity, and any other resources that would be required to meet the needs of your workers.

Another recovery strategy would be to partner with an outside agency that has space able to support the services that you will need to keep running.  This partnership can also be a reciprocal relationship, where you support their agency or they support yours after the emergency if needed and if operational.  Once you have found the space you need, whether it is within another business or a warehouse, you will need to look at a few other things such as:

  • Capacity of the building and number of staff that is necessary to operate the essential services
  • Connectivity for telephones and technology
  • Protection of privacy
  • Intellectual property
  • The impacts to each others' operation
  • Allocation of potential expenses, time frame of potential expenses, and any funding constraints
  • Agreements.  These should be negotiated in writing and documented in the business continuity plan.  Periodic review of the agreement is needed to determine if there are any changes in abilities of each party in the agreement.
  • Accessibility of alternate sites and the ability of staff to travel to the site in the event of a transit shutdown or closure of major roadways.  Provide transportation alternatives for staff to use if needed.
  • Generator capacity.  If the generator does not supply full power, find out what it does power, and highlight the locations on a building map.  Store the map with the business continuity plan.

Once your planning is complete and your recovery strategies are written down, it is always important to gain the buy-in and sign-off from executive staff, provide training to involved staff members, and finally TEST IT!  Business continuity plans for alternate locations need to be tested.  It will be the only way that you will really know how long it will take for your staff to arrive on site, set-up, and get ready for services.  Testing your plan also helps identify gaps and smooth out "rough" areas.  Stay tuned next month for the final step, Exercise Your Plan.
Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Independent Consultant

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