That won’t happen to me!

October 8, 2016By Industry Intuition, Views


By Dave Wendland for Drug Store News 

September 8, 2016

I’ve heard more than one organization shrug off the prospect of a disaster causing irreparable harm to their operation. Then, an unexpected circumstance causes the business not only to falter, but puts recovery in question altogether.

Contingency planning is essential for that very reason – preparation for the unexpected. And it is these unexpected events that can cause havoc to day-to-day business operations.

Take the example of the unusual weather similar to what Louisiana has been stricken with over recent weeks (described as a weather system similar to a sheared inland tropical depression or a monsoon depression…very rare indeed). And despite its unprecedented origin, this storm system has caused very real and potentially permanent damage to a widespread area.

In my own hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a violent turn of events stemming from a police-involved incident resulted in more than five local businesses being destroyed by fire and a five-city-block area now perceived by many as too unstable to visit. The affect will linger for weeks, if not months, and business owners will have to recover from losses of revenue, fearful employees, as well as customer loyalty.

Another example of contingency planning may result from an epidemic. Recently the United States declared a state of emergency within Puerto Rico due to the Zika virus. The emergency was declared one day after the U.S. Surgeon General visited Puerto Rico and said he expected 25 percent of Puerto Rico's nearly 3.5 million people will be infected with Zika by year's end. What will this do to the workforce in Puerto Rico? What would your company do if one-fourth of your employees couldn’t come to work due to illness?

Contingency planning leads to organizational readiness. This includes governance of human and financial resources, availability of emergency supplies, and communications procedures. Time spent on thoughtful disaster response planning equals time saved when a disaster occurs.

For the disaster recovery plan to be a dynamic and useful tool that enables appropriate decision-making during disasters, it is essential that time is allocated to raise awareness, team members are trained, that its readiness is tested through simulations, and that the plan is updated on a regular basis.

Whether a small, single-entity retailer or a multi-national corporation; failure to have a well-thought-out recovery plan is, in itself, a disaster. If you are in a company that is having difficulty getting its arms around how to construct such a plan, consider bringing in a third party organization. Often it is easier to document essential activities to recover from a potential disaster when not encumbered with the minutia of the organization.

I believe it was more than 15 years ago that our organization first began identifying “critical functions.” This was followed by a thorough process to detail the steps required and the priorities around getting our business back up and running in the face of an emergency. And we update it every year – and test it through simulation. Perhaps most often associated with the Boy Scout Motto, our company’s belief is, “Always be prepared.”