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Disaster Planning for Businesses

The past few weeks has seen an unexpected threat rear its head in the form of the Coronavirus. From talk about mass self-isolation, to cancelling meetings, supply chain issues and the availability of cleaning products, COVID-19 has already created several issues for businesses to consider.

It is not yet known to what extent businesses will ultimately be affected by the Coronavirus. However, it has certainly caused a stir across the majority of the business community; getting business owners thinking of the ‘if’s and ‘buts’ the outbreak could bring.

Disasters can come in many shapes and forms and by nature, can often not be prevented. Having a disaster recovery plan (or a business continuity plan) in place can help to mitigate the potential impact of the disaster, reducing the long-term impact on the business…

Creating a written plan

The amount of time dedicated to a disaster recovery plan and the level of detail that should be included will very much depend on the size and complexity of your business’ operations.

For larger businesses with multiple employees, you may want to assign a planning team to develop a written plan. This should include elements such as who will take the lead in an emergency (and who would be charge if regular managers are unavailable), what the action plan would be in each type of possible disaster (fire, flood, earthquake, etc) and what procedures should be followed in each instance.

Other issues that should be considered include a shelter or safe internal space in the event that authorities tell you to stay put and potentially also the identification of an alternative worksite should access to your regular site be restricted.

Staff training

Having a plan in place is one thing but ensuring staff are familiar with it is another. Relevant employees should receive training on the disaster plan and all employees should know where it is located and how to access it.

Keep databases up to date

Communication is one of the key elements to the successful management of a crisis and being able to access data lists via which you can transmit communications quickly and easily is an essential part of this.

Businesses should have an easily accessible list of all active customers and suppliers, ideally stored securely in ‘the cloud’ so it can be accessed from anywhere.

Personnel files should also be diligently kept up to date – with the address details of staff members and their emergency contacts reviewed at least annually to ensure they are accurate.

Data breaches

One of the biggest threats to businesses currently is data breaches and the risk of cyber crime. There are a whole set of guidelines and procedures businesses should follow to mitigate these threats, but as a general rule, reducing reliance on written records and having an off-site back up of data are best practice.


Perhaps one of the reasons Coronavirus is causing such panic is that there is little precedent on how to deal with it. For businesses, keeping an eye on government guidance and the ACAS website are the first ports of call. Ensuring sickness absence policies are up to date is also a priority for businesses.

Few businesses will be able to take the strain of shutting down altogether and many will try to keep operating, even if they have to make alternative arrangements to do so. Making suitable provisions for remote working is a sensible step for employees who are able to do so, as is looking at other ways in which technology can assist in limiting face to face contact, such as video conferencing.

Although each situation is unique, any business can be better prepared – and ultimately more resilient – if it plans carefully. There are a number of useful tools and checklists available for disaster planning, links for which can be found on the Government website.


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