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Business continuity management lessons from English public disorder incidents

By Gary Hibberd.

Now that last week’s troubles seem to have died down, the government has started the process of rebuilding public confidence, whilst those directly affected have begun to rebuild their lives. Few could have imagined the events that have taken place; lives lost, buildings in flames, shops looted, businesses closed and reputations in ruins.

It will take England some time to recover from these events and we can only hope that we have seen the end of them.

As BCM professionals we must also begin to look at what happened and assess how well our plans and processes stood up to these events. Did we not prepare for this kind of event? Was this a scenario we contemplated?

Whether you were directly affected or not you should be looking at these events and asking yourself the following questions and more. And we need to be clear about the gaps that exist in our planning/thinking so that we are better able to handle large scale incidents in the future.

Personally, I will be asking the following soul-searching questions and where there are gaps I will aim to improve things;

  • Were we aware of the emerging situation fast enough?
  • Was our communication to crisis management teams fast enough or comprehensive enough?
  • Was communication to our business fast enough or comprehensive enough?
  • Was the mechanism for communication stable enough?
  • Did everyone understand their roles and responsibilities?
  • Was information received from credible sources adequate?
  • Could the use of social media be improved?
  • Did we communicate with our business in a timely manner?
  • Did we ensure the safety of our people was our highest priority?
  • Was our recovery centre also affected or in a location that could have been affected?
  • How would we have transported people there?
  • Was security of premises adequate or managed effectively?

These are just a small fraction of the questions that as a business we should (and will) be asking and assessing.

You will note from the above list that the key word is ‘communication’ and I believe the key to successfully managing any significant event is communication and ensuring that it is timely and accurate. Good information delivered late is of no use. Poor information delivered on time is equally dangerous. How and when you communicate to your teams and to your business are of paramount importance, both before, during and (importantly) after the event.

So after the event and once the dust settles and the clean up begins don’t forget that you not only need to assess the impact on the business but also on your people. These events may leave people with a feeling of unease and unrest. This needs to be proactively recognised and respected, because if you leave people to ‘get back to normal’ on their own, then that may never happen. Take steps to ensure your people have an outlet (maybe through an Employee Assistance Programme) so that they can discuss their fears and concerns, but also so that they know you take their welfare seriously. Look after your people and they will look after you.

In summary, a business is not just bricks and mortar and therefore management of significant events requires a focus on softer issues; communication with people and recovery of people too.

Author: Gary Hibberd is a Risk and Business Continuity Manager. Contact him at

Make a comment or add your own questions to Gary’s list.

•Date: 16th August 2011 • Region: UK •Type: Article • Topic: Business Continuity, General

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