This summer, a freak turn of weather events led to the Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge overflowing, causing severe damage to the retaining wall of the dam. The extent of the damage was sufficient enough that authorities had the town below evacuated as a precautionary measure, then set to work draining the reservoir and repairing the wall.
To all of us here at Rotaflow, this was more than just news. Rotaflow HQ is located in the town of Whaley Bridge and the business was forced to close for a week whilst the authorities worked on solving the problems with the dam wall.
The move forced Rotaflow to action a plan that has never been used in the company’s history – the business continuity plan.
You make emergency and continuity plans in the hope that they will never be used, but in August 2019, for the first time in 35 years, the business continuity plan was utilised.
In the article we’ll share what we learned and you never know – it may give you a few tips to help you keep your business going in case of emergency…
Safety is Priority
When the order was given to evacuate, all staff were informed they were to return home and await further instruction, which would be communicated as soon as the relevant management was aware of the facts.
The important thing is to not panic, but act on official notice. People were being told to evacuate via word-of-mouth, but no official notice was given until 1pm. The first sign was that an evacuation was imminent was when the police stopped allowing people into the designated flood area.
With the advance warning of an evacuation, we put the business continuity plan into action and all Rotaflow staff were all evacuated by 1pm, ahead of the official notice.
Communication Needs to be Clear
The next step is communication. Customers, suppliers, business partners and any other relevant bodies need to be informed of the situation and what is currently be done.
Most people will be perfectly understanding when they are made aware of a situation first-hand, rather than finding out at a later date. Key to the business continuity plan was a clear and effective communication –group emails, calls, message on the homepage of the website for example and of course, the main phoneline was diverted to a designated contact.
This isn’t a one-off affair either. As the situation changes the information has to be fed to the relevant parties, keeping them informed as things progress.
Carry on Regardless
Certain staff members will be able to continue their duties as normal, as long as they have remote access to their work.
Ensuring that all staff who needed remote access had it meant that the design, accounts, administration, technical and marketing departments could work almost as normal, keeping customer and workflow disruption to an absolute minimum. It was really only manufacturing who had to close down temporarily.
Source Alternative Manufacturing
The next step is to source alternative manufacturing and testing facilities to ensure business continues as per normal and delays are kept to a minimum.
We have a list of places where we can move manufacturing to, ensuring there is very little time delay even in the freak cases where we have to shut down our own manufacturing facility.
In our case, on the fourth day of the evacuation a community meeting was organised with the authorities. We were given the impression that the evacuation would be lifted within the following week, so we decided it was not necessary to move/source any alternative suppliers/subcontractors.
These were the lessons learned. Rotaflow found that their plan was effective, but will use the recent events to further inform the development and improvement of the plan.
Is Your Business Continuity Plan Relevant?
Thanks to the attention to detail at Rotaflow, the business plan was up to date and relevant to the current needs of the business.
The company has never had to put the plan into action throughout its near-40 year existence, but the very nature of these things means that it’s in place for freak events, the kinds of things you don’t expect but have to be prepared for.
Thankfully Rotaflow HQ and the wider town was absolutely safe – the evacuation was a precaution and steps have been taken to ensure it won’t happen again, but it’s a stark reminder that as important businesses in the functioning of the UK economy, we need to have effective disaster planning in place, even if we don’t think we’ll ever use it.
Spend time developing your business continuity plan – you’d rather be prepared than sorry.