Imagine the following:
You are sitting in your office when you hear the fire alarm go off. You sigh, look around to see if anyone else is leaving, logout of your computer, and head toward the exit. Once outside you see there is a problem; smoke is streaming from an upper office window. People on the sidewalk are taking photos, messaging family members and offering reassurance that they are ok. The fire department has pulled up, and ambulances arrive to assist the wounded. It takes an hour for the fire to be located and put out, then the building is cleared and the injured are taken to the hospital. It is obvious that no one is going back to work today; so what happens tomorrow? Or the next day? Next week?
A lot of businesses have trouble sorting out the difference between Emergency Response vs Business Continuity when an incident occurs. This is why organizations should plan in advance to:
- Identify and understand the difference,
- Know what emergency response services expect of them, and
- Be able to explain the steps taken to stakeholders.
Emergency Response vs Business Continuity
In a nutshell, Emergency Response focuses on the safety and protection of life, assets, and the environment. On the other hand, Business Continuity focuses on continuing the operations of the business until it can return back to normal.
Many organizations use an Incident Flow Chart, similar to the one shown in Figure 1 below, to help them through the Emergency Response steps and decide to enact their Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
Figure 1 – Incident Flow Chart
*ERMT = Emergency Response Management Team
Emergency Response steps are all of the steps that take place from the time the incident occurs up to the point where the ERMT chooses to declare a disaster (the second diamond shape in Figure 1 – Incident Flow Chart). Only when a disaster is declared is the BCP enacted.
Declaring a Disaster
Some organizations might choose to declare immediately, given the extent of the damage that is evident. Others might wait for 24 hours to gather more information before making this decision. Regardless of when that decision occurs, there should be a previously identified standard that describes the guidelines for choosing to enact, or not enact, the BCP. It is important to remember, that while Emergency Response and Business Continuity are two different things, it is possible that some Emergency Response steps will be carried out at the same time as some Business Continuity steps, depending on the incident.
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