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The Night the Lights Went Out in Boston: Lessons in BCP

By Mary Beth Hamilton | Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Earlier this week – Tuesday, March 13 to be exact – sections of Boston lost power because of an electrical transformer fire that occurred behind the Back Bay Hilton Hotel. Approximately 21,000 people were without power Tuesday night and as of late Wednesday afternoon about 4,000 people were still without power including hundreds of Boston companies.

Companies whose power came back Wednesday morning experienced minor inconveniences, such as having employees who worked late Tuesday night have to travel down 46 flights of stairs since the elevators weren’t working. Other companies who were without power all day Wednesday weren’t so lucky. As of 3:00 p.m. today (Thursday) power is still out at Boston’s Prudential Center.

This unfortunate incident is precisely why disaster recovery and business continuity planning are so important. So important in fact that we are going to re-run an oldie but goodie from our interview last year with Lisa Smith, a Certified Business Continuity Planner at Eze Castle Integration.

Here it goes…ASSUMPTION: Your office building is inaccessible.

How will employees be notified of the building closure?

Calling all employees through a manual phone tree can be very time-intensive. Some may not receive the message in time to avoid reporting to an inaccessible office, which could cause confusion and further time loss. Also, if managers and employees are busy calling one another to spread the message, this prevents them from performing more productive work-related activities.

One way to avoid this challenge is to implement an Automated Messaging System that can be configured to deploy a notification to all employees simultaneously. Using this system ensures that all employees receive a consistent message immediately via email, phone call, and/or text message. These systems tend to vary in terms of cost but a base level system can be installed for as low as $8.50 per employee per year.

Where will employees work from?

DR Guidebook

In advance of the inclement weather let employees know whether they will report to an alternate site or begin conducting their work from a home office. If using an alternate site, be sure it has the capacity to accommodate all critical employees that may need to work from there in the case of an office closure (i.e. extra desks or tables, adequate number of Citrix licenses, phone lines, etc.).

If the plan is to have employees work from home, steps should be taken to ensure that they will have access to all resources necessary for performing their daily tasks. In either case, the alternate work location procedures should be clearly communicated to all employees, and regular testing should be conducted in advance to ensure that any unexpected challenges are dealt with before a major storm shuts down your office space.

How will employees communicate with each other and with external contacts?

Before inclement weather strikes, each employee should compile a list of the phone numbers and other contact information for all individuals on whom their jobs are dependent. For example, it is common among hedge fund firms for people in the trading and operations departments to be highly dependent on one another. Employees in both functional areas should have the home and cell phone numbers of each of their counterparts to avoid a loss of communication when your office is inaccessible.

Additionally, employees should save the contact information of all external parties, such as vendors, investors, and broker-dealers with whom they need to regularly communicate in order to do business. This information should be stored in a location that is accessible from both the office and the employees’ alternate work locations.

Other considerations

There will undoubtedly be some unforeseen challenges associated with the closure of your office building. For example, what should an employee do if he needs a signature from another employee or a manager and both individuals are working from home? How should an employee go about wiring money or carrying out similar transactions from her home office?

The best way to address these issues in advance of inclement weather is to conduct business continuity plan testing days in which employees work from their designated alternate locations and report back on any challenges they faced. This will allow you to make your business continuity plan even more comprehensive, while forcing employees to think about how they will continue doing their jobs effectively if they do not have access to their regular offices.

Want some more? Check out:

Eze Castle Integration’s Business Continuity Planning services (Eze BCP) focus on the critical operations and processes that a hedge fund or investment firm must have available if a disruption occurs. Our experienced team of certified business continuity professionals work with clients to address the full-spectrum of BCP. To learn more, visit our Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Knowledge Center, or contact an Eze Castle representative.

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