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Creating a Preparedness Plan: A Good Investment

September 27, 2012
No one thinks that their company may be affected by a flood, earthquake or other disaster, but with 43 natural disasters in 2011 (Emergency Events Database search on 2011 US based disasters. Accessed September 15, 2012.) directly affecting millions in the United States, and projections for more for the next few years, more and more small businesses are being seriously impacted.  While many small biotech company owners think disruptions won’t happen to their business, they should plan otherwise. A staggering 80 percent (Impact on US Small Business of Natural & Man-Made Disasters. Published July 2011. Accessed September 15, 2012.) of small businesses that don’t resume operations within one month of a disaster go out of business.  One primary reason is failure to create a simple preparedness plan or business continuity program.

After an unforeseen disruption every organization needs quick communications with employees, investors and customers, and management need to know which business activities must be resumed immediately and which ones can wait. Small businesses can start with small steps that will have a large impact on their ability to resume operations after being impacted by a disaster.

Some simple steps:

  1. Back up your data offsite

  2. Purchase basic supplies including water, an emergency radio and potentially a generator if your business relies on things like cold storage

  3. Consider a mutual assistance plan with another small biotech company outside of your immediate area where you could share facilities or storage until you are able to re-open (BIO can help you identify other companies that may be willing to provide mutual assistance)

If you’d like to do more to protect your investment in your small biotech company, you can take your planning to the next level with a well-designed business continuity (BC) program. Without having to invest significant resources, a BC program will give you the tools to help protect your key assets in the event of disruption and give you a holistic snapshot of the potential threats you face, your vulnerabilities, and a roadmap for how quickly you can resume operations.

Steps in establishing a successful BC program:

  • Evaluate risks facing your organization

  • Identify potential threats and risks

  • Quantify and prioritize risks

  • Understand potential impacts to your organization

  • Identify criticality of business functions and processes

  • Determine recovery time goals (i.e. 24 hours, 2 days)

  • Understand resources required to recover (people, facilities, technology, files)

  • Identify critical interdependencies (suppliers, vendors, customers)

  • Identify and implement recovery strategies

  • Identify recovery options (remote location, transfer of service, telework)

  • Implement strategies

  • Develop and implement a BC program

  • Include scope, recovery plans, resources (individuals, technology, facilities and/or critical assets) and communications materials

  • Train your people, exercise and test your plan

  • All personnel should be trained and plans tested on a regular basis (at least annually)

A valuable resource that can help you develop a simple preparedness plan or more complex business continuity plan is Rx Response. Rx Response was developed after Hurricane Katrina to help ensure the flow of medicine, including biologics, in the event of a major disaster. BIO has been a leading member of Rx Response and as such, BIO members can take advantage of Rx Response support.

As a no cost source of information for your organization, Rx Response can serve as a business continuity center of excellence and also help you with your emergency response in a disaster. Rx Response can provide:

  • Contacts that can connect you to decision makers

    • Rx Response has contacts within the bio-pharmaceutical supply chain, with federal and state public health and emergency management officials, and non-profits such as the American Red Cross and the United Way

  • Trusted source of information on national preparedness that can provide you with the tools you need to build your own internal plan

  • Networking and access to peers to help you benchmark your disaster planning with other small biotech companies

  • Opportunity to showcase the bio-technology industry’s commitment to serving the health needs of the American people

  • During times of wide-spread crisis, up-to-date and relevant situation reports (i.e. power outages, government efforts and supply chain disruption) to help you make faster and more accurate decisions

When you’re busy running your small biotech company, focusing on production, making payroll all while creating the next break through biologic, it can be hard to dedicate time towards preparedness. Sadly, as countless small business owners who have seen their dream collapse after a disaster, failure to invest minimally in preparedness can be devastating. Spending a small amount of time now to create a preparedness plan or business continuity program may be the best investment you can make all year.

Emily Lord is the support team lead at Rx Response.