Keep Your Shorts Dry: Bill & Rita’s Business Continuity Plan Story

Bill owns a dry cleaning and uniform rental business in Beaumont, Texas.

Rita was born at sea, at the tail of an old frontal boundary, where convection and low-level circulation around an upper-level low developed from a little windstorm into a big windstorm.

Rita is Hurricane Rita–a category 5 that hit in 2005.

In our last exciting episode of Edewards.net, we suggested the need for business owners to have Business Continuity Plan, so that they can operate their business in the wake of a disaster.  A business that can get back on its feet quickly can meet the desperate needs that suddenly arise, turning disaster into opportunity.

This is the story of Bill & Rita, and how a Business Continuity Plan played out in real life.

Originally, Hurricane Rita was not forecasted to come near Beaumont. In fact, it was supposed to hit down the coast about 150 miles. But, the weather pattern made a fast change and Hurricane Rita came charging straight through. The entire community evacuated, and Bill’s employee’s scattered across several states.

Though Bill had a rudimentary emergency plan in place, it did not account for power loss or for the shortage of food and supplies after the hurricane. It took Bill a week to reopen his business.

However, when he did reopen, he discovered there wasn’t much of a need for dry cleaning among his customers. There was, on the other hand, a huge need for a laundry service in the community. Local contractors needed clean clothes, so Bill’s company stepped up to fill this demand with a wash, dry, and fold service.

Though many of his employees had made their way back to Beaumont and were ready to come back to work, schools had not reopened yet, so they needed a place where their children could be supervised. To solve this issue, Bill allowed his employees to bring their kids to work. Some of the kids pitched in and worked (perhaps not the best idea from a workers comp standpoint, but probably OK if the activity was very safe, such as folding laundry).  Younger children played in a conference room that was converted into a kid-friendly area complete with video games and toys.

Hurricate Rita

Rita hits the Texas coast

“Though we had a basic emergency plan in place and were fortunate enough to reopen relatively quickly, we knew we could do a lot better,” said Bill.

After Hurricane Rita, Bill immediately took additional steps to be better prepared for the future. As a result, Bill drafted a plan to board up and secure buildings prior to evacuation and created a more in-depth communication program that requires employees to contact their supervisors within 48-hours to let them know their location and a phone number where they can be reached. In addition, he stocked-piled supplies including bedding and linens, hygiene products, and enough food to feed 15 key employees for up to three and a half days. Those key employees, who are critical to getting the business back up-and-running, have been identified and notified, and Bill has worked with local authorities to get them clearance to return to the area early.

Additionally, Bill has installed showers and a natural-gas generator. He also contacted his power provider to arrange for his utilities to be turned back on within 48-hours of an incident.

“I can’t imagine any business moving forward without a plan. If businesses are up and running, individuals can receive a paycheck and the community can stabilize,” concluded Bill. “If businesses are able to recover, the local economy is able to come back. It’s so critical.”

This material is directly adapted from the federal government’s excellent disaster preparedness website, http://www.ready.gov, which provides sample BCM plans and a boatload of other useful information.  Special thanks to Sonia at Golden Eagle Insurance who pointed it out to us.  Thanks, Sonia!

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