If you could imagine, a rubber ducky inside a plastic paddling pool full of water, in an emergency control centre made during the cold war. This image might not automatically trigger thoughts of a professional business continuity exercise, however that’s exactly what it was. As a local authority our approach to business continuity is a little different; 1) because we have a statutory duty to do it and 2) because we don’t tend to focus on money and profit in the same way a private company would – but that’s not to say that we don’t still get a return on our BC investments.
Back to the rubber ducky, this scenario was part of an exercise we ran with our internal museums service to test what they would do if some of their artefacts were water damaged. (Don’t worry we didn’t actually use any real artefacts… they wouldn’t let us). It helped test practices and procedures, but most importantly it highlighted to those staff playing the importance of their BC plans for the company as a whole, and ultimately their livelihoods.
Often when people think about business continuity they tend to think about saving big bucks and less about the costs which are not monetary based. There is a phrase that habitually goes around the BC community that £1 spent on preparedness will save £8 on response, and whilst I don’t doubt that is true, often it is hard to find out whether or not that is the case.
Using the example above there was very little in regards to investment (a borrowed child’s paddling pool and a few buckets of water), however the return on investment could very well be priceless as most of the artefacts in the museum are irreplaceable. Knowing what to do, who to call and how to achieve their plans is crucial in any response and goes to show that BC really does add more value that can be recorded on a ledger.
Livelihoods is something which often doesn’t get mentioned as prominently, we focus on getting the business back up and running, but don’t appreciate that if that doesn’t occur people will lose their jobs, their houses and their ability to cope with financial pressures. During our duty officer roles here at the local authority, we come across a wide range of emergencies that often dip into the realms of business continuity.
How can you put a price on a life? More importantly how would you quantify what you have invested versus the cost of a life. I suppose the answer is that you can’t (granted that might not be what the budget holders out there want to hear). Fire emergencies have been topical across the West Midlands recently with a number of major scrap yard fires. We’ve worked closely with our fire service colleagues to help produce robust and dovetailing BC plans to help ensure that their potentially life-saving services can be maintained during disruptive events and that we can provide wider support if needed. Without the investment of time, money and expertise these plans wouldn’t have been achieved. Sure the investment may be larger here, but still not significant. Producing and maintaining a plan won’t break the bank and when the result is the continued provision of life-saving skills, ultimately the investment return is worth far more than just money.
Within local government, making money is not as high on our agenda as it is for private companies but what we do achieve is significant. The services that we provide to the people within our patch can be life changing, ranging from social housing to providing a fire fighting service and all of which requires robust BC plans, as the alternative is not worth thinking about. We work hard to strive for these plans, and can offer our expertise and time to assist those private companies so that all our communities can be resilient and prepared.
Josh Adams is the Resilience Officer, and Tom Knibbs is the Senior Resilience Officer, for the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Resilience Team