Five Minutes With Audio & Video Home


Developing a Business Continuity Plan with Sean Nelson

Sean P. D. Nelson, assistant director, facilities engineering with Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center in Baltimore, outlines strategies for building an effective business continuity plan.

Sean P. D. Nelson
Assistant Director, Facilities Engineering
Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center

What are the key initial steps managers need to take to implement effective business continuity planning (BCP)?
Job No. 1 is to outline your critical systems and identify essential personnel. Understand what equipment and which staff would be necessary for your business to function in the short term and long term. Have plans in place to address loss or failure of part or an entire portion of your facility, whether it would be a utility or a structural crisis. Develop external relationships with vendors and other facilities to use as a resource for these emergency situations. One example is having access to portable cooling or heating units in the event of an air-handling-unit failure or access to a portable generator for an electrical outage. Build these relationships ahead of time and refresh them periodically.

What is a manager’s role in an organization’s efforts to develop and implement BCP?
A few of the things the manager should do is identify an area to be used for the incident command center. Understand that there needs to be a back-up location in the event that the original location is not available. The manager should also develop external relationships with vendors to cover portable services, understanding that, in some cases, closing to recover could be your best option.

The manager would also assign chief positions within the incident command center for addressing and reporting on the crisis. Positions include: liaison officer, operations officer, medical control – if applicable – logistics chief, infrastructure/services support, planning chief and finance chief. The manager should also review and update the BCP periodically.

What emergency events or crises have had the largest impact on your organization’s BCP?
Most recently it has been the inclement weather. The recent snowstorms have impacted travel severely. Therefore, the patients have had to cancel and attempt to reschedule appointments. Staffing was critical, due to limited transportation and clearing of the secondary roads, and deliveries of supplies to the facility were delayed.

What are the traditional roadblocks managers face in developing and updating BCP?
I would have to say that the largest roadblock is convincing staff how important it is to have a plan in place and to practice the protocol, have a drill, and test your system before you have to use it.

How important is it for organizations to revisit their BCP?
Simply put, it can be corporate suicide to allow a plan to age for more than a year without renewing it. People and operations change frequently, and the least appealing time to realize your plan is outdated is when you need it to work.

Find more on this topic:

business continuity planning, emergency preparedness, disaster preparedness, disaster planning, generators, air-handling units, power outage

posted:  3/8/2010