“Physician Heal Thyself”
Monday, March 21st 2011
Invoking our Own BCP
Posted by Fiona Mostyn
“Physician heal thyself” – so says the well known Biblical proverb so often used whenever the opportunity arises for companies to avail themselves of their own services.
On arriving at our offices on the morning of Friday 11th March, we were met by a crowd of bewildered people standing outside. Our building is a large tower block in the centre of town populated with businesses of different sizes and offering a diverse variety of services across the whole business spectrum including football team management, recruitment, wind farm developers, charities and accountants to name just a few. We were informed by the building’s management that overnight on Thursday a hot water pipe had burst on the fifth floor leaking through the night and causing devastating damage to businesses on the 4th and 3rd floor. After the assessment of the situation, it was determined that 17 different businesses were affected in all. Of the 9 floors in the building, the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors were declared unusable and businesses on these floors, including ours, were prevented from entering their premises.
So what to do next? Unlike many of the fellow tenants of the building stood outside in the street, all of our staff were briefed and immediately knew what we had to do next. Firstly, those present decamped to our local Starbucks and referred to our Business Continuity Plan. With our CEO present we had a hard copy of the plan available, which is always kept on his person, and immediately set to work on working through our staff communications via our mobile phones. Our telephones were immediately diverted and our IT back up systems and emergency management location was put on standby as we assessed the severity of the situation.
As more information emerged, it seemed that being on the 3rd floor we had been one of the least affected offices, suffering only a small amount of water damage to the floors, and had fared better than our colleagues on the 4th floor whose ceilings had fallen through and were facing up to 2 inches of water on the floor. Given the likely short term nature of the interruption and being Friday, we resolved to continue working from home via webmail and review the situation on Monday. On Monday morning we were back in the office and, after electrical testing, given the all-clear to resume business as usual despite being surrounded by dehumidifiers and smelly carpet!
Despite spending our working lives engrossed in business continuity, it still came as no less of a shock when we discovered we may have to invoke our own plan. It is also easy to forget the human aspect of the devastation which we don’t often come across in planning to be prepared. Having a plan in place did not make it any easier to see colleagues walking out of the building in tears, after first seeing their ruined offices or seeing the office management bearing the brunt of angry tenants who had no back up for not being able to access their premises. On reflection, we were prepared and our staff informed and confident of how we would continue, but it is not easy to sit smugly now when we know that other businesses in our close knit community may be in the next wave of statistics that we frequently quote, of businesses who do not survive such incidents.