When planning your response to specific incidents that can be reasonably foreseen, such as coronavirus (COVID-19), there are three tools you should be using. These are a crisis (or major incident) plan and business continuity plans. These should be designed to be able to respond to a wide range of incidents, along with a specific COVID-19 plan.
Your organisation’s crisis (or major incident) plan sets out the management structures, including lines of authority, and the arrangements in place for them to lead the proactive response to any major incident, including responding to COVID-19. If you have not yet activated your plan, check your crisis/major incident plans are fit for purpose for this type of event, refreshing them as necessary. Considerations might include:
You may need to brief new colleagues and exercise the leadership and teams appropriately in order to embed the crisis plan in your organisation. This will create confidence and familiarity with each other and the processes in place as well as the arrangements available for their use.
If you have pre-existing pandemic plans then you may want to refresh and revise them. Ask yourself “What change is required for this plan to be relevant for COVID-19?” COVID-19 specific planning will focus on creating risk reduction (where that is in the control of the organisation). Considerations of the areas might be key at this time: People; Workspaces; Supply and distribution chains; Technology; Critical assets; Reputation; Commercial risk.
Business continuity (BCM) planning provides arrangements to continue or recover critical business activity in response to significant disruption. For example, when faced with an absence of people, technology, usual workplaces, supply chain and critical assets. Where they can’t enable that, management should already be aware of that risk. Business continuity planning leaders should consider:
As with the other tools, exercising the business continuity plans to ensure that people are familiar with them, and they will deliver what is expected of them is advised.
The outbreak is a timely reminder that if we plan for the reasonable worst-case scenario, then we are better prepared for almost anything. With good responses and a little luck, we all hope that the COVID-19 outbreak will soon abate and crisis plans won’t be needed by anyone not already using them. But the most successful businesses rarely leave their core response capability to chance.