Is your business continuity plan weather-proof?

James Foley is VP at Resilient 

Bad weather is bad news for business. The disruption and associated economic impact caused by adverse weather conditions over the last 10 or so years makes for alarming reading.

Storms and other severe weather events have been commonplace in recent winters. December 2010 - the UK’s coldest December since records began - saw heavy snowfall, disruption to schools and travel chaos with thousands of motorists stranded in their cars for up to 10 hours. In February 2009, the UK had its heaviest snowfall for 18 years, causing huge disruption to public transport, and costing about £1.2bn in lost working hours. A bout of heavy snow in January 2013 left a third of the UK workforce unable to get to work. The winter of 2013/14 was also the wettest on record, with flooding and storm damage affecting over 3,000 commercial properties.

The impact of all this disruption is immense: power, phone lines and other utilities are often heavily affected. In March 2016 there were over 100,000 power outages in the south of England after Storm Katie battered the UK with peak wind speeds of 106mph; the floods and storms of winter 2013/14 had a direct cost to businesses and households of £1.1bn- without taking into account the indirect and ongoing economic consequences of the disruption to infrastructure, transport and utilities. The severe cold spell in the run-up to Christmas 2010 is estimated to have cost the UK economy up to £1.2 billion a day.

Considering this, I am continually surprised at how many businesses fail to put a plan in place in case their operations are affected by adverse weather or some other disruptive event. In the winter of 2013/14 when nearly a third of UK businesses were hit by transport problems, power cuts or broadband and phone line failures, 40per cent of those companies affected did not have a business continuity plan in place. This meant that their staff were unable to work from home or from another location. The Federation of Small Businesses reports that two thirds of small businesses say they have been negatively affected by severe weather in the last three years and 64 per cent of them have taken some action to manage the risk of severe weather to some part of their business, however only 19 per cent have taken action to manage the impact of severe weather on their supply chain.

With the above in mind it’s worth briefly reviewing your business’ contingency plans for severe weather conditions and natural disasters. The ubiquity of mobile communications and ease of flexible working means such a plan can be straightforward and there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your business keeps going whatever the weather.

Telecoms is central to every business continuity plan. What would you do if an exchange went down? Or if your premises became inaccessible? If you can protect your calls and staff can talk to each other, customers and suppliers, then they can continue with their duties. Using a cloud-based number management service means you can redirect calls to any location needed, bypassing the local telephone exchange system or existing connectivity infrastructure and eliminating the risk of missing calls.

Such smart number services mean you can invoke custom dial plans so that you know that calls will always reach the right person no matter what happens. You can also use smart voice services to give you Direct Inward Dialing (DID) by DID number management, giving you the ability to reroute individual calls in real time. Such services are monitored and automatically diverted when a failure is detected. Something to think about as you hunker down in expectation of a cold snap - or worse - this winter.

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