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Weathering the storm: How to build winter resilience into business operations

Posted Jan 07, 2022

How to build winter resilience into business operations

As temperatures plummet and with the pandemic still looming, there’s a lot for businesses to consider during winter. Seasonal changes, from November through to March, often bring a host of potential weather threats that can cause a stir for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Not to mention the effects of climate change and the increasingly concerning economic impacts from weather related incidents.

Severe weather warnings are becoming more prevalent across Europe, as storms such as the Beast from the East (2018), Storm Filomena (2020), and more recently Strom Arwen (2021), are causing mass disruption to communities and businesses within them.

Whether it’s gale-force winds, snowstorms, or frequent and severe flooding; preparing for extreme weather makes good business sense.

Ensure your business has a weather-proof continuity plan

While developing a robust weather-proof plan in place is no easy task, many businesses have adapted their business continuity plans to enhance their winter resilience. Having such a plan in place can be crucial for your business when things go awry, as it will help you to:

  • Ensure your business is well placed to continue its operations and meet customer expectations

  • Minimise disruption for your suppliers and distributors

  • Reduce the impact on your employees and stakeholders

  • Avoid significant costs from damage, losses and legal issues

  • Protect your reputation

To ensure that you too can stay prepared, we’ve compiled all the essential elements that will help you understand the simple business continuity actions you can implement now to help your business weather a storm.

1. Start with the basics

The first step to prepare for challenging weather is to assess how your business could be affected. This will inform your winter resilience plan and what response your business should take.

It is a good idea to complete a business impact analysis; identifying risks and threats to your business operations, people and premises. Analysing what has previously happened to other businesses in your region, as well as what has impacted your own, will help you to understand what you need to implement to avoid problems in the future.

You should identify, discuss, and agree strategic vital., These might address obstacles such as:

  • Ensuring business survival

  • Protecting existing customers

  • Safeguarding employees

  • Securing supply chain

2. Develop your business continuity strategies

Identifying the resources and information required to achieve an effective recovery is key. Below are some factors which will help you to determine what this requires:

Identify critical dependencies to your business operations

Ensuring you are able to continue critical operations during an extreme weather event is pivotal.

Considering every possible weather scenario, and who/what is vital for your business to continue to function, will enable you to create a weatherproof plan that provides confidence to you and your employees — no matter the forecast.

You should consider every element of your business in your plan; from your employees and materials to your machinery, utilities, and equipment. Identify which are critical and which are less of a concern, as this will enable you to then focus your priorities for business continuity planning and risk analysis.

Workforce resilience

It’s likely that staff absences will increase significantly in the event of severe weather. Your business locations, employee commuting modes and distances from home to work will need to be considered, alongside how employees respond to a weather-related incident.

Here are some key considerations to ensure that your workforce can continue with their responsibilities, no matter the weather:

  • Determine who is ‘critical’ and how daily business operations would be affected if they were unable to reach the workplace.

  • Establish which of your employees can work from home and who is essential to remain on site.

  • Understand which employees commute to work — whether by foot, road, or public transport — and whether their journeys are likely to be impacted by winter weather. Is your organisation able to organise a shuttle service to safely transport staff to and from the workplace during severe weather incidents?

  • Decide whether you will provide emergency accommodation close by for critical staff who live further from the workplace, making their journey to work easier.

  • Consider introducing or extending cross-skilling, or perhaps you may increase staff capacity by utilising contractors/retired employees in extreme circumstances.

Remember, as an employer you have a duty of care to know where your staff are during working hours. You will need to ensure that you are able to account for an individual at any given moment. Keeping up to date on your staff’s whereabouts through a managed travel programme can help to ensure their safety.

Supply chain resilience

Ensuring that your key suppliers have robust business continuity plans in place is imperative. You will need to understand how each supplier would react in the event of severe weather and consider how they have coped on previous occasions.

To help mitigate any supply chain threats during extreme weather events, you will need to identify your key suppliers and for each one assess:

  • The impact to your business if they are unable to meet your requirements

  • How vulnerable they are to any disruption caused by a severe weather event (you will need to consider their staffing issues, upstream supply chain, other client commitments etc)

  • Your businesses vulnerability to logistics, post and courier delays

  • Whether your organisation can access other sources of supply during extreme weather events (and at what cost)

  • If your procurement processes are agile enough to allow you to source alternative supply during an emergency

Customer considerations

If your organisation is unable to continue operating due to a severe weather event, a robust continuity plan will keep your customers as safe as possible.

Formulating an Emergency Transport Plan (ETP) which covers pick-up locations, pre-approved suppliers, drop-off points and invocation processes will help to ensure that disruption is minimised. You’ll also need to consider whether your customers will require emergency accommodation and if they’re eligible to receive light refreshments, meals and drinks (as is often the case for the aviation industry). Outsourcing this can help to reduce the steps needed to set-up a solid plan, audit and onboard suppliers and invoke.

We recommend that you check:

  • Availability of your business continuity transport provider — are they able to service your requirements at any time of the day or night?

  • Service provision capabilities — will the provider be able to transport every customer quickly and safely in the areas which your business is located?

  • Range of vehicle choice — do they offer large and small vehicle options ensuring that they are able to support mass disruption requirements?

  • If proactive monitoring and live tracking is available to keep you and other stakeholders updated throughout the event.

  • Proven experience in assisting customers that have been impacted by major weather events.

CMAC Group, an award-winning managed business continuity transport provider, has proven experience in delivering all of the above. We work with each client to develop Emergency Transport Plans (ETPs) to ensure that there is an appropriate level of preparedness in place for us to assist passengers, customers or residents quickly during any event.

With an extensive client list ranging from airlines and train operators to local councils, our team of experts have plenty of experience in delivering disruption solutions to clients who have been impacted by major weather events; ranging from severe flooding to airline passenger recovery due to storms.

Workplace resilience

Severe weather events can inevitably spark problems for your premises; therefore, it’s important to take appropriate preventative measures in order to keep your workplace resilient. We’ve set out some practical advice to help keep your workplace safe this winter.

1. Planning for snow and ice

Snow and ice can make car parks, paths and entrances treacherous for your employees and visitors. Creating safe entry is, therefore, essential. Ensure you have a shovel to hand; as well as grit, sandbags, warning signs and suitable shoes to clear any dangerous surfaces in case the winter weather strikes.

2. Cleaning protocols

Severe weather events such as flooding, or freezing temperatures can lead to the need for additional cleaning and repairs due to burst or blocked pipes. Making sure you implement preventative methods and train your staff to deal with such issues will ensure you and your team are fully prepared should a problem arise.

3. Flood defence planning

If your workplace is at risk of flooding, having a flood defence plan is a must. It is good practice to allocate somebody on site to be responsible for activating the defences, and somebody to review the premises after a flood to make sure it is safe. This should include reviewing your critical equipment, IT and electricals.

4. Regular maintenance

Ensure regular inspections of your heating, plumbing, ventilation systems and external fabric of the building, as well as upkeep such as clearing gutters and drains. This will prevent your building from deteriorating over time and reduce the likelihood of running into costly safety issues during winter months.

5. Planning for a power outage

Having an on-site energy resource like a combined heat and power (CHP) system or work area recovery site will prevent any major impact on business operations, should you encounter a power outage.

6. Work area recovery site planning

If your premises is severely affected by the weather, having a work area recovery site on standby will enable you to safely transport employees to another premises quickly and safely so you can seamlessly continue your business operations until returning to your usual workplace.

Ensuring a reliable ICT infrastructure

If any of your employees are working from home, or if there’s a chance that you might need to adopt remote working as a result of challenging weather conditions, you should consider which measures are required to ensure a well-established and secure ICT infrastructure. We recommend reviewing this in advance, rather than waiting until the weather strikes.

Review your insurance coverage

Identifying severe weather event scenarios and key dependencies will help your organisation develop a risk map. This can be compared against your current insurance coverage to identify any gaps. A business insurance specialist should understand the risks of your business and provide advice on what you need from a policy to remain threat-free.

The features of your business insurance can be tailored according to your requirements and continuity plans. Key considerations such as your business costs ensure adequate protection for any business interruption caused by extreme weather conditions.

3. Ensure your business has an emergency response plan

If a storm strikes or things go off track, ensuring you have an emergency response plan is essential, as you will need to inform your employees of the necessary steps to take. A well developed and rehearsed plan will ensure all your employees are aware of what to do and when to do it, should the bad weather take hold — minimising the effects of the situation on your employees and business.

Incorporating this into your winter weather policy will help you to manage an incident accordingly. This will ensure you are equipped to get everybody to safety without delay, whilst mitigating any further risks to your people and business.

Consider the possible scenarios which may arise — such as floods, power cuts, road closures, public transport cancellations — and draw up an effective response plan for each. Remember to include emergency contact numbers in your policy. You may also need to communicate with your suppliers and clients if this directly impacts them too.

4. Prepare a business recovery plan

A damage recovery plan is a reference for the actions necessary during, or immediately after, an emergency or incident that threatens to disrupt regular business activities. This plan will help to ensure a prepared approach with an organised and coordinated response to a crisis. It aims to offer people within your organisation a framework to solve problems caused by an emergency/incident (including extreme weather events).

The plan will document a range of disaster scenarios that can negatively impact your business, and the proactive steps you should take to avoid and reduce the risks or threats, so you can continue to operate effectively. This is a crucial part of continuity planning, designed to protect personnel and assets following an incident.

Your business recovery plan should be unique to your business. It should identify the mitigation measures and recovery objectives and plan for implementation and communication processes, ensuring your business can get back on track quickly. A well-planned response will help you to shorten your recovery time, restore business levels, rebuild after damage, and prevent any further issues, whilst minimising losses.

We hope you’re now well on your way to implementing a robust winter resilience plan for your business.

Remember to check accurate, real-time weather data regularly to predict when your winter resilience plan may need to be actioned. By embedding future extreme weather considerations into your business continuity plans, you will be in a strong position to withstand incidents such as flooding, storm surges and blizzards, whilst and boosting your business’ resilience.

It’s important to ensure that your plans are reviewed, documented, communicated, and tested frequently, including learnings from previous events. It’s also essential toand adapting the strategy as and when new products, services, locations and suppliers are introduced is essential.

To find out how CMAC Group can support your extreme weather recovery plan, see our full list of business continuity solutions.

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