For those of us who operated in Hong Kong during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) near-pandemic in 2002 / 2003 there is much to remember, and many lessons were learned that can be applied to the potential operational risks from Swine Flu (H1N1) today.
Many will clearly recall the visual images of blue face masks and the underlying fear of being confined in an elevator when going up to the 34th floor of an office building, watching the small, wall-mounted, television with the latest ‘number’ (of infected victims) scrolling across the screen, or travelling to work in a crowded, though spotlessly clean, MTR (underground railway) carriage trying so hard to keep at least a small air gap between yourself and your fellow-travellers. Many might have forgotten the intense effort and commitment of staff in every department of their organization who did everything they could think of to keep the business operating and customers served.
It is, perhaps, stating the obvious to say that businesses must have or must now quickly put in place, Business Continuity Plans to address the potential of a serious threat to business operations should Swine Flu or, indeed, any other debilitating risk be realized. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
Business Continuity Plans need to cover so many different areas of an operation that sometimes it might be tempting to ‘tick the box’ and simply document that if Jane Doe is unavailable for work then John Doe will cover the task (assuming that staff levels in your organization are sufficient to offer a degree of redundancy). But what if John is also unavailable? Even if he is available, who is going to cover his tasks?
Large organizations usually have an advantage over smaller operations regarding total staff numbers and multiple, often internationally distributed, theatres of operation. Some companies have a response model which includes ‘flying in’ resources from other locations to fill any temporary gaps in expertise. But, should this model be used, it is important to keep in mind the impact of either voluntary or enforced quarantine restrictions that might apply when they return home.
Modern communications make it much more feasible to manage many tasks remotely, but the ability to communicate is only relevant if the person communicating is trained and knowledgeable in the subject that needs managing. It is this precise point that might be more effectively addressed by implementing backup and backup-backup staff education and training now rather than later. Alternatively, or preferably additionally, sourcing and pre-establishing links with third party consultants and subject-matter experts will increase confidence that the right skills are available if required, without putting pressure on the head-count budget.
And, for ATM and Self-Service terminal deployers, don’t forget your brand image in front of your consumers – clean the keyboard….
The above article was written by Douglas Russell, DFR Risk Management Ltd.