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Business Continuity Plan – Templates, Examples and Checklists

Team writing a business continuity plan

Business Continuity Plan; It’s the No. 1 Way to Survive Hurricane Season

Simply having a business continuity plan (based on your hurricane preparedness plan) can keep your small business open during hurricane season … or when another disaster strikes.

If you dread even thinking about creating a business continuity plan, you’re not alone. It can feel overwhelming. But business owners already have most of this information, and their teams can drop it into a business continuity plan template.

Need motivation? Change your thinking: You’re not starting from scratch. Instead, you’re:

  • Compiling existing information.
  • Organizing it logically in one document for quick accessibility; and
  • Filling in the holes.

All organizations need a business continuity plan: the government, nonprofits, multinational corporations, universities, the ice cream shop on the corner, and your small business.

The reason? Organizations without disaster preparedness plans (which include business continuity plans) seldom survive disasters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Three years after a natural disaster such as a hurricane, 75% of affected businesses without business continuity plans fail, FEMA data shows.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?Only 25% of businesses without a business continuity plan were still open three years after they were affected by a natural disaster.

A business continuity plan is an evolving road map that explains clearly how employees, teams and departments will prevent and limit business disruptions during extreme natural events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, snow storms, floods, heat waves or firestorms to hostile man-made events such as terrorism or cyberattacks.

Start With This Business Continuity Checklist

Your “if this, then that” plan needs to be comprehensive, but its development doesn’t have to be difficult. That’s according to the Yale University Office of Emergency Management. Its Guide to Business Continuity and Recovery Planning recommends business leaders do four things to simplify business continuity planning:

  1. Build your business continuity plan with your team. Business continuity planning is everyone’s responsibility. Involve your director, manager, lead administrator, IT specialist and other essential staff.
  2. Schedule regular meetings with your continuity team. Start building your business continuity plan by holding an hourlong, weekly meeting for four weeks. Then, add meetings as you need them.
  3. Follow this guide. Yes, complete the worksheets.
  4. Review your existing plans, such as those for emergencies. Incorporate what you’ve already established and what works for your company and employees.

A Business Continuity Plan Example

A business continuity plan, also called a continuity of operations plan, includes several sections. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests including these sections:

  • Essential functions. What does each department need to do? (Remember to include fuel supply for backup power solutions.)
  • Orders of succession. Who will do it?
  • Delegations of authority. Who’s authorized to make decisions? What are the limits to that decision-making authority?
  • Continuity facilities. If your building or space is damaged or inaccessible, then where can employees perform their duties? Where are suitable backup locations?
  • Communications. If electricity or phone lines are down, then how will you communicate, and with whom? What are your backup communication options?
  • Essential records management. How do you store critical files and information? What technologies? If computer systems are down, then who needs access to paper copies? Are they protected from water? What are your backup options?
  • Human capital. Who’s on call for emergencies? Does it make sense? What are their roles and responsibilities?
  • Tests, training and exercises: Do you stress and test essential functions to identify preparedness gaps? Is there a routine exercise plan to test processes and prepare staff for potential disasters?
  • Devolution of control and direction. If leadership is affected or unavailable, then who will step in to ensure the continued performance of essential functions? Is there a process to transfer official authority and responsibility for essential functions from primary operating staff and facilities to other employees and facilities?
  • Reconstitution. When will things go back to normal? How?

Specific Questions About Fuel Storage and Backup Power Solutions

The following questions, adapted from the San Bernadino County (Calif.) Business Continuity Plan Test Situation Manual, may be incorporated into a business continuity plan that addresses fuel storage and backup power solutions. These questions also work as discussion points when you’re starting your plan. (Note: Not all questions may be relevant to your business.)

Hurricane Pre-Landfall Questions

  1. In the case of an approaching hurricane, what would your business do first to prepare for possible landfall?
  2. What would you do to prepare for a possible long-term power outage?
    • Does your facility have a backup generator and fuel? If yes, then how long is emergency power available?
    • What is your fuel supplier arrangement?
    • If you lose power, then how would your business maintain communications?
  3. What data is most important to business operations?
    • Do you store backup data offsite? If yes, then where?
  4. How much downtime is acceptable without significantly affecting operations? Can anything be done to extend this time?

Hurricane Post-Landfall Questions

  1. At landfall, what would your business do first?
  2. What initial damage assessments, if any, could be conducted now?
    • Who will perform these assessments? What roles, responsibilities and qualifications do they have in these assessments?
    • Does your facilities management/security team have rules on facility re-entry?
  3. When would the business declare a disaster?
    • How? Who decides?
    • How would employees be notified of a disaster declaration? By whom? What if power is out?
    • What criteria determine your business can’t operate?
    • Who decides operations must slow or stop?
    • What notifications must be made if business operations slow or stop? How will this be communicated to customers?
    • If operations slow or stop, will employees get paid, or do they need to take leave?
  4. If your organization operates an emergency operations center (EOC), would it be stood up?
    • How? Who makes that decision?
    • Where is it? Do the appropriate people know its location?
    • How would your business deal with travel restrictions or impassibility? What if employees can’t get there? Are there alternatives?
  5. Would you relocate to your alternative site?
    • How would your alternative site be activated? By whom?
    • Where is your alternative site? How would employees get there?
    • What functionality is available at the alternative site? Does it have full telecommunication capabilities?
    • What logistics might be needed if staff need to stay at the site for an extended time?
  6. Does your business have business interruption insurance? Flood insurance?
  7. How long might it take to repair structural and physical damage?
    • How could this affect business operations?
  8. Does HR have strategies to help employees and their families?
  9. Do policies provide flexibility to displaced employees (alternate schedules, remote work, etc.)?
  10. How will you restore disrupted services?
  11. How will you clean the facility and remove health and safety hazards?
  12. How will your business do long term after this kind of disaster? What strategies might improve its resilience?

A business continuity plan explains what to do when employees can't get to work during hurricane season and other natural disasters.


You’re Ready to Build Your Business Continuity Plan

You have a business continuity checklist. You have a business continuity template. And you know the difference between a business continuity plan vs disaster recovery plan. Get your team to those initial four meetings, and start planning how your business can be among the 25% that remain in business three years after a natural disaster like a hurricane.

Helpful Resources – Business Continuity Plan Templates

Need Help? Ask the Experts.

For help in choosing the right fuel storage tank to ensure business continuity, emergency supplies or everyday operations, it makes sense to ask the experts.

Unity Fuel Solutions is North America’s leader in fuel storage tanks. For advice on the tank and system that’s right for you, call the Unity team at 800-234-1689.

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