Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness

Developing a business continuity program is crucial to prepare for and effectively respond to any incident, natural or man-made. While many preparedness efforts are seen as individual or community-based, preparedness in the workplace, where employees spent a majority of their day, is important to a holistic approach to preparedness. By focusing on personnel, core functions, spot in the supply chain, and surrounding community, businesses may be better prepared to reduce risk and prevent a small disaster from escalating into a disaster from which they are unable to recover. Today, business continuity receives a lot of attention in regard to information technology and data back-up; however, the focus of this information will be protecting a business's personnel, infrastructure, and surrounding community when disaster strikes.

Intended users

This document is intended for private and public sector managers and employees, as well as anyone interested in preparedness in the workplace.

  • Business owners, operators, and managers looking to implement, or are curious about, business continuity.
  • Employees who would like to see their workplace implement a business continuity program.
  • Those interested in private/public relationships to enhance community-based preparedness.

How to use this document

This document includes basic steps needed to initiate, plan, and implement a business continuity program. Outlined are 5 steps to a Business Continuity Program that one can follow to ensure preparedness in the workplace in a way that may not require large investments or consulting. This guide can be tailored to meet the needs of each individual business, and should not replace expert advice when necessary. Little steps can make a big difference in preparedness of a workplace. By focusing this guide on matters aside from IT or data management, such as personnel, infrastructure, and reputation, a business may have a more holistic approach to risk reduction and recovery when a disaster strikes.

5 Steps to a comprehensive business continuity program

Step 3: Plan
Step 4: Implement
Step 5: Extend
Have you recently created or revised your business continuity program?  Make sure to share your story so others may learn effective ways to create their own business continuity program.
Materials and information used in Steps 1-5 have been compiled from various sources, including: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s, The American Red Cross Ready Rating Program, and knowledge from practitioners from the field.

Simple steps to take now: Business Continuity 101

Workplaces play a key role in preparedness and community resiliency through business continuity planning to protect their employees, lessen the financial impact of disasters, and re-open their businesses quickly to support economic recovery in the community. In addition, workplaces can also be advocates in the community for preparedness and resiliency to protect their employees and suppliers as well as their markets in communities that might potentially be affected.

Know your area's risks

  • If flood plains have been mapped, find out if your business is located on a flood plain, and learn about the elevation of the property and building relative to predictable flood levels
  • Maintain communication with neighbors/tenants
  • Speak with local authorities and neighbors to find out whether your area is prone to certain disasters and how they are currently being mitigated
  • Workplaces can begin by identifying the likelihood of disasters in their community and factors that might increase these risk
  • Identify industrial activity that may create hazardous materials release and contamination

Store valuables and dangerous materials in a safe location

  • If there is significant chance of flooding, workplaces may want to take steps to ensure that key assets are stored above ground and if possible in raised areas to protect them from flood risks which may develop very rapidly
  • Copies of important documents should be stored elsewhere or digitally
  • Keep important papers, equipment, feedstock and other valuables safe
  • Keep hazardous chemicals in a safe place, particularly accounting for flood levels

Consider relocating or mitigating and adapting

  • If you live in a place prone to frequent or serious disasters, consider relocating

Know your area's expected evacuation routes

  • Identify your safe evacuation routes, using any forms of transportation available to you, as well as routes that can be used on foot
  • Create a workplace disaster plan–staff should plan together in advance how each member will get to a safe place; how they will be in contact with one another and business leadership; and learn what they will do in different situations

Most importantly, make or revise your emergency plans, decide how you will communicate with employees during a disaster, and have supplies at the ready.

Workplace preparedness for specific hazards

Business Continuity: An organization’s ability to plan for and respond to incidents and business interruptions in order to continue business operations at an acceptable pre-defined level. [Source: American Red Cross Ready Rating]