“…Or High Water”: A Business Continuity Case Study

The Importance of Business Continuity and Leveraging Resource Loss Based Planning

On Sunday, January 8, 2017, the temperature in Cleveland, OH dropped significantly, which caused a water pipe to burst in the hallway of our building, right outside the entry to our Cleveland office.

No one was in the building at the time, and the water poured out for about 45 minutes before it was shut off. The water pooled primarily in our office space resulting in damage to floors, walls, and some equipment. When all was said and done, the total amount of water removed from our office space alone, was approximately 15,000 gallons. The rest of the water literally went down the elevator and main stairway – flooding three of the floors below.

At 4:00 AM ET, both our director of consulting and operations manager were notified of the incident by building management. Over the course of the next few days, building management and restoration crews requested that we limit access to the office as they worked on the clean-up and the damage assessment processes.

Our business continuity program manager activated our Crisis Management Team (CMT) so they could assess the situation, review and activate necessary business continuity plans, confirm next steps, and communicate with all employees.

Our business continuity program coordinator sent an alert through our emergency notification system to notify Cleveland-based employees of the situation, activation of remote work strategies, and when to expect the next communication update. Employees were asked to respond to the active survey question confirming receipt of the notification and an ability to work remotely. Quickly and seamlessly, our team knew what to do and when to do it. We had planned, and we were prepared.

As our team worked remotely, our facilities representative met with the building manager to assess the situation more thoroughly. As the extent of the damage and the required repairs were better understood, employees were updated on the situation and told that remote work strategies would remain active through the remainder of the week, at a minimum. The number one concern remained the health and safety of employees, and until testing proved otherwise, the CMT assumed the presence of a heightened level of mold and other contaminants.

Being part of a professional services (consulting) organization, we have the ability to quickly activate a remote work strategy. And over the past few years, enabled by an ISO 22301-certified management system, we identified and eliminated as many single points of failure as possible, in the dependency on the Cleveland office, driving a high level of resilience. However, if the nature of your business requires that your employees be on-site to perform their job responsibilities, it’s even more critical that you have well-socialized and exercised plans and strategies in place – ensuring that your employees know where to go, what to do, and how to communicate when a disruption does occur.

Because we had prepared for a loss of facility (our Cleveland office, in this case), the transition to working from home was smooth. During the planning process, we pro-actively mitigated the impact of a facility loss with a company-wide policy that every employee take their laptop home with them every night. This policy may not be possible for every organization, but identifying dependencies and pro-actively developing actionable business continuity plans ensures that your organization can effectively respond to a disruption, recover resources, and sustain critical organizational activities until you can resume normal operations.

As of this posting, more than a month after the pipe burst, our team is back in the Cleveland office (albeit we’re working in an active construction project!). We were reminded of something important – re-construction is a slow process given the dependency on the claims handling process in a multi-tenant building (and others might benefit from taking the reconstruction timeline, influenced by the claims handling process, into account when estimating how long they may be away from their primary workplace). For more on the relationship of business continuity and insurance in general, check out this video for a discussion on the differences.

But, most importantly, even though we faced a business interruption, our clients and the delivery of our services weren’t impacted. That is the value of business continuity.

An effective business continuity program builds strategies and plans that can be implemented immediately and address any kind of disruptive incident. Creating business continuity plans around a loss of resources, rather than planning for specific threats (e.g., floods, power outage), enables an organization to better address a wide-range of potential events. Although Castellan had not planned for a pipe burst specifically, our business continuity team had developed a plan for the loss of access to our facility, which we rehearsed and validated via multiple exercises to ensure we could properly respond. For more information of this specific topic, check out: Effective Business Continuity: Program vs Plan

Business continuity and IT disaster recovery planning is all that we do. If you’re looking for help with building or improving your business continuity program, we can help. Please contact us today to get started. We look forward to hearing from you!

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