When will the next pandemic happen?
Call me Debbie Downer or a pessimist if you wish, but there is no doubt that we will encounter another pandemic. The question is only when. However, the important question is how will we prepare for the next pandemic, or even the next disaster. Any Business Continuity plans (BCPs), any mitigation efforts, that involve people, anywhere, whether employees, suppliers, or customers, need to include contingencies for disruptions that occur during any phase of a pandemic. In addition, planning needs to take into account any pandemic that takes place during another type of disaster. Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
What does preparedness look like?
Preparing for the next pandemic looks a lot like preparing for any disaster, taking into account everything we’ve learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. While it sounds like a lot, if you break it down to the types of impact a disaster can have, and incorporate lessons learned, you’ll have a solid BCP that you can test. What do I mean by “the types of impact a disaster can have?” Any disruption or full-blown disaster will impact one or more of these things:
- Access to your building
- Loss of workforce
- Access to your IT systems
- Supply chain disruptions
Soooo many problems
For example, a natural disaster such as a massive snowstorm where you operate will likely have an impact on access to your buildings, either because roads are closed/not plowed or possibly because of downed trees and power lines. Additionally, you probably have employees who can’t get to any buildings that are accessible because of the aforementioned unplowed and dangerous roads between them and where they work. No problem, you think? Lots of employees who might normally work in an office have been working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. That might be true, BUT what about your shipping department? Or, what if your business is centered on warehouses or factories? Many of those employees may not be able to do their job from home.
Add to that the next pandemic. You might get by using just what you remember from this pandemic, but won’t it be easier if you integrate those lessons learned into your plan? And make sure your teams know exactly what to expect? Now that sounds like a plan (Here’s another look at being prepared during Covid-19).
To make matters worse, let’s say in our snowstorm scenario that some of those downed power lines provided power to your data center (or even “just” a server room). Now what? And on top of everything else, the snowstorm is going to impact your supply chain. No raw materials = no widgets. No power = a whole lot of nothing. Granted, bigger businesses will likely have generators. However, fuel runs out and when you’re dealing with natural disasters, getting fuel into an affected region takes time. Google “Hurricane Rita” if you’re unfamiliar. Another great (also terrible) example is the massive Texas power outage earlier this year.
The next disaster
What if the next pandemic begins while you’re dealing with any one of the possible impacts to your business? Hopefully, you’ve captured all of the lessons learned over the past 20 months. Take a look now at where the effects of the pandemic (employee absenteeism, stay at home orders, shutdowns, quickly changing rules, state-by-state (or country) differences, etc.) intersected with *other* impacts like:
- No Building
- No People
- No Systems
- No Suppliers
The next step is to modify your plan based on that information so that you can better address a future scenario that might have your business dealing with major supply chain issues (hmmm, sound familiar?) compounded by an early phase of a pandemic that restricts warehouse occupancy or one where lots of employees are calling in sick and can’t deliver the product you do have. You’ll be prepared for the next disruption, no matter how big or small, with an executable BCP.
For more on the “No Building, No People, No Systems, No Suppliers” concept, check out this post.
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