Oops! - Business Continuity?.....

So I'm sitting here in the dark. Not by choice, but because there is a large power cut in the area. Everything appears to be out. I'm trying to work out how extensive the outage is, but for my purposes I'm totally without power.

Which also means I'm without heat. My heating system - although gas powered - relies on electricity to run the timer and to provide the initial spark. So as long as the guys sort out the problem within a reasonably short period of time I should be alright. Otherwise it could get cold.

Luckily the Macbook is all powered up and I can make a few notes ("when life gives you lemons...") although I can't post this immediately because my router is not working.

I figured now was a good time to break out the candles so I can actually see where I'm going. I fumbled my way to the kitchen using the light from my cell phone and found the candles in the drawer. Hah! Now.. matches.

No matches!

I'm not a smoker so I have neither matches nor a lighter. Never fear I'll use the gas ring on the cooker to light one. ... except that the cooker - like the heater - runs on gas but relies on electricity to provide the initial spark. Damn!

I've found a torch in the meantime. It's a small 'penlight' torch which works off a single LED bulb. Very bright but, unfortunately it doesn't throw the beam too far because the batteries are running low.

The other 'big' torch that I have near the front door ready for emergencies is still awaiting the four very large and incredibly expensive batteries it needs to operate.

So, basically, I'm stuck in the dark and the cold using the screen from my Macbook to see by.

Which got me thinking (as these things do) about business continuity planning. I, quite obviously, have an excellent disaster recovery plan (candles, torches etc.) but this has never been tested. (To be fair the house is prone to power outages but this usually occurs during the day when light and heat is less of an issue). As a result I am in the same situation that a lot of businesses are in when it comes to their BCP.

I'm stuck.

A business continuity plan is a set of tested instructions (a process, no less) for managing during a disaster of some sort. The key in all of this is that BCP's have to be tested.

In my case it's no good having a power outage only to then find out that I have candles but no matches, torches but no batteries, and heating but nothing to start it with. In the big scheme of things this isn't a major issue for me. I can sit for a while, wrap up warm and wait for the utility company to sort things out. If nothing is fixed within a couple of hours I can drive to somewhere with heat and power and stay there (assuming this isn't nationwide - and as the trains are still running I have to presume this isn't the case)

But if I was a company, with customers, orders, employees and deadlines something like this could be terminal. BCP's are meant to be plans to allow your business to continue (the clue is in the name). If it comes to the crux of the matter and you can't run your business in a disaster than you are in big trouble. (O.K. in a disaster of Hurricane Katrina levels the last thing on your mind will probably be restarting your servers and raising invoices, ... but still).

Most businesses only find out that their BCP's are not working when they come to use them for real. They find - like me - that they don't have all the resources they need to continue, that the plans they have set up to take over various functions rely on items or people that are not available and that they are now officially in trouble

When was the last time you tested your BCP? Do you even have one? Are you concerned? You should be. Otherwise you might find yourself sitting in the dark trying to find a match.

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