How to Set Up a Contingency Plan

Jul 3, 2012

It is impossible to prevent all disasters, but it is possible to minimize the risk of a disaster or the damage from one. Having a contingency plan and testing it regularly can make a difference in the event of a manmade or natural disaster. It can also make the difference between a timely recovery and a long and difficult one, and affect the cost of recovery.

A disaster does not have to be large to cause large problems. A leak can damage critical equipment; a pest infestation can destroy costly supplies; a small fire can spread; theft or vandalism can compromise a company’s proprietary information; and an illness or death that befalls a staff member or members can have a devastating effect on fellow staff members.

Does your company have a plan to protect your hard copy records? What about your computers, disks, external hard drives and flash drives, and telephones? A lot of people think that with computers there are fewer paper records, but in most offices that is not the case. And computers are not immune to problems, either!

Having a contingency plan can, as much as possible, prevent or at least minimize the dangers of manmade disasters and help your business be prepared for natural ones. Read on to find out how to create and incorporate your company’s contingency plan.

Contingency Plan Steps
1. Gather together the operations department and invite the landlord to send representatives, including the building manager. Then go over all the blueprints, and do whatever you can to make sure all pipes are included on them. Ideally, all the tenants in an office building should take part.
2. Check out the fire prevention and fire suppression equipment, as well as the drill and evacuation plans. Look at all ceilings, radiators, windows, and screens for holes anywhere. Ask the local fire and police departments to send over a representative to survey your premises.
3. Based on your findings, create your contingency plan. If necessary, contract with a contingency planning expert. Test, test, and test some more. Gather your staff and instruct them in the plan. Every new employee should be taught the plan as part of orientation, and every employee should have a copy of it. Just as companies designate fire marshals, designate contingency planning marshals. Once a week, they should check for leaks, mold and mildew, and also inspect the areas where food is kept and eaten.
4. Consult with an exterminator about preventive measures. However, if your company has historic records, call your library or a museum and ask them for advice—parchment and old paper and books are magnets for bugs.
5. Create a records management program, which must include instructions on what can and what cannot be thrown out. A major part of a records management program is determining what the vital records are, i.e. what needed to reestablish a business and what must be kept for legal and tax purposes. No one should dispose of records, even a few files, without knowing the records management schedules.
6. At the end of the day, ask employees to put their files away in their desks, particularly if under pipes. Files should also not be left on the floor. Disks or external hard drives should not be left on the desk. Preferably, they should be in a different office or building if at all possible. That way if a pipe bursts in one office, items kept in another will probably be safe. Also consider keeping some back-ups in a bank vault or off-site storage. Even cloud computing could have a problem someday.
7. Have a public relations plan in place to deal with the media. This is even more important, as thanks to social media word can spread across the world in moments.

Phyllis Barr is president of Corporate Culture Marketing by Barr Consulting Services, which helps companies leverage their history and heritage. She can be reached at ladyhistory@earthlink.net.

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