If your organization and/or employees are located near the Atlantic seaboard, you know that June 1st marks the start of yet another hurricane season.

Statistics analyzed by The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) estimate that 75% of businesses without a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) will fail because of damage suffered during a hurricane.

Is your organization ready?

If you’re not sure or think you might just need to dust off your existing BCP to ensure it’s up-to-date, now is the perfect time to do so. As we’ve seen over the last two years, the hurricane season has shown increasingly above-normal activity. Emergencies often expose the weak links in how well businesses can operate in exigent circumstances.

If you haven’t thought about BCP in a while, we’re going to provide a few considerations below. We’ll dig into the foundations of what a BCP is, why it’s important, how information governance drives the process, and some specific points around hurricane preparedness.

What is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?

A BCP is a predefined set of protocols on how your business should respond in case of an emergency or natural disaster like a hurricane. It contains contingency plans for every aspect of your organization, including human resources, assets, technology and business processes.

Since disaster events can cause injury, downtime, lost revenue and profits, you want to prepare as much as possible ahead of time. In fact, businesses that fail to recover quickly from such an event (especially SMBs) face the risk of losing their customers to their competitors. To prevent this from happening to you, it’s important to have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place.

Why Hurricane Preparedness is So Important

Obviously, your business continuity plan should explain what to do in the event of every type of disaster, but for the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on hurricane preparedness.

According to NOAA, hurricanes have caused the most death and destruction when compared to other storms, totaling $2.155 trillion in damages, between 1980 and 2021. Additionally, FLASH notes, 40% of small businesses don’t reopen after a hurricane.

Large enterprises are certainly not exempt from damage either. If your national footprint includes the Atlantic area, you can have an unfortunate scenario very easily if a storm hits your local offices that house physical records that need to be accessed frequently by staff.

Before we dig into preparing your records program for a hurricane, let’s talk about business continuity in general.

Foundations of BCP

Business continuity planning (BCP) is defined by Investopedia as “the process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery [that] ensures that personnel and assets are protected and able to function quickly in the event of a disaster.”

BCP plans should be extremely extensive and cover people, procedures, and technology. Following are 5 different lenses you can look through to ensure you have a solid foundation.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures obviously make up the backbone of the BCP but what’s more important is that they are written down. Institutional knowledge is one thing, but documenting the plan is key so it can be continually modified to fit the evolving business now and into the future.

Monitoring and Support

This step is most often overlooked. There’s no ongoing program worth its salt that can skip this step. Once the plan is set up, you need to continually monitor it for compliance as well as identifying gaps.

Technology

Investing in technology is another vitally important area of focus. What’s important is to ensure that IT and records management are collaborating closely.

Training & Communication

Business continuity training never ends. You should train everyone once, then train them again with case scenarios and drills. If there are changes, be sure your employees are in the loop and aware of what changed and why.

Governance

Information governance is strongly related to business sustainability in the event of a disaster – so much so that we’re going to spend a bit more time with that topic below.

Information Governance and Business Continuity Planning

When creating a business continuity plan, it’s important that a strong information governance program is in place.

Reason being, in order to ensure your information is secure but accessible in an emergency situation, you need to know:

  • What information you have
  • Where it’s stored
  • How it’s stored
  • How to access it
  • Who has access to it

All of these things fall under the umbrella of a proper information governance program.

If you’re looking to future-proof your information governance program, we recommend you start with our reference guide: Best Practices for Governing Information Lifecycle Management.

How Should your Business Prepare for a Hurricane?

If starting a BCP from scratch, with no plan in place, Ready.gov has a great guide on building an overall BCP that protects your employees, locations, and organization from disasters.

When it comes to addressing your records in a BCP specifically, there’s one question your BCP needs to have the answer to: How do we make sure that our records and key content are accessible to the correct people at the right time, from anywhere?

Many organizations learned the hard way during the pandemic that paper is not accessible to everyone, especially in increasingly geographically dispersed workplaces. It’s important to provide information access for all who need it across an organization. Converting active files to digital formats is a logical first step.

To assist your efforts in planning, we’ve created a handy BCP Checklist to help you assess your hurricane preparedness. If you find that you’re not able to check off many of the checklist items, it might be time to revisit and update your BCP and disaster preparedness documentation in general. You might also look into optimizing your digitization program to convert paper-based processes and become a more digital-first organization.

Remember, diligent records and information management exist to help manage disruption and keep the flow of information as clean as possible. These things are in our control.

Get started today by downloading our hurricane preparedness checklist to stay ahead of the curve!

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