• Anthony Valente

Building Resiliency: Planning for Business Continuity During a Disaster

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

In 2017, businesses lost a total of $306 billion in natural and man-made disasters, according to Niall McCarthy writing in Forbes. It was by far the largest loss in the last 10 years and up 63% over 2016. While most capital items are covered under insurance, businesses stand to lose the most when they are unable to conduct trade during a disaster. Snarled supply chains, increased regulatory oversight, and downed communication technology can halt business processes while expenses continue to add up. That's why businesses need to address emergencies through business continuity planning and mitigate the risks of disaster for their enterprise before finding themselves shut out of a flooded, burned, or damaged building with a crowd of employees and no idea what to do next.

What Is Business Continuity Planning?

A business continuity plan equips an enterprise to stay open and functional even in the midst of disaster. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this plan should include a business analysis that identifies critical or time-sensitive business functions and the resources needed to support them. The plan also needs to list pre-determined recovery strategies, disaster recovery procedures, and documented manual workarounds in case critical technology goes on the fritz. Finally, leaders should test any business continuity plan and make iterations based on the results of those tests.

How Engineering Infrastructure Supports Risk Mitigation

Disaster management begins with sustainable engineering infrastructure that adequately mitigates construction risks. Building systems, utility systems, and capital assets all need to withstand or repel potential natural disasters. A study from the World Bank concludes, "A well-designed project by a highly-qualified engineering firm will stay on time and on budget, solve construction and operational challenges, experience fewer change orders during construction, enhance performance of the completed project, and lower long-term maintenance and repair costs."

The Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016 serve as a cautionary tale for a disaster's impact on business continuity. Forcing the largest evacuation in Canadian history, these fires destroyed 2,579 homes and cost $3.7 billion in damages. It was the first time that the Red Cross provided aid to private businesses along with individuals since most enterprises could not continue to do business even after the fires burned out. Rebuilding efforts have moved at a painfully slow pace, further complicating economic recovery.

Next Steps to Building Resiliency

Resilient businesses can thrive even during a crisis as big as the Fort McMurray wildfires, however. Building resiliency requires a tested, effective emergency response plan, a workforce prepared to carry on business in unconventional ways, and a physical structure capable of thwarting damage during a natural or man-made disaster. Properly re-engineered, even long-established buildings can withstand severe impacts and lower the lifecycle costs of a negative event.

Contact us at Switch Engineering to learn more about how sustainable design and engineering can help your business stay afloat during a disaster.

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