How Robust is Your Laboratory's Business Continuity Plan?

Posted by Cathy Wylie on

In late September a series of tornadoes hit the Ottawa area. In addition to the destruction caused by the storms, there were power outages and communication issues. If your laboratory was in an affected area, would your Business Continuity Plan  (BCP) have stood up? 

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) or Disaster Recovery Plan is a document that is used when there is a disruption to the normal functioning of your laboratory. The plan gets implemented if there is an extended power outage, weather incident, flu epidemic or other event that closes your laboratory unexpectedly. Based on the events in Ottawa, here are some things to check in your BCP to tune it up and make it more robust in case you need to use it. 

The first thing to check is whether the key people in your BCP are the correct ones. Did you update the people responsible for key tasks when there was a change of roles or if someone left the organization? 

How are you planning on notifying your key people and the rest of the staff? In the case of a power outage, cell towers may go out of commission. This was the case in Ottawa. Do you have alternate phone numbers or another way of communicating to your staff? And, do you have the most up to date contact information for your staff? 

Do you have critical equipment and computers on a UPS or other back-up emergency power? How long will the UPS keep equipment running? If power goes off outside of normal working hours, what will happen with the shut-down? 

Are you relying on a generator for back-up power? If so, where will you get the fuel? After the Ottawa tornadoes it was difficult to get gas. Most stations ran out of fuel. 

Where will your customers get details on your status? Are you able to update your webpage if your laboratory is closed? Would you be able to contact key customers if you cannot access your computer network in the laboratory?

What about your suppliers? Would you be able to contact them to stop deliveries if required?

If you need to evacuate the laboratory, would you know who is in the laboratory? Would any tests in progress pose a hazard? 

Have you ever done a test-run of your BCP? If not, consider doing periodic testing. This could include sending a test message out to your staff using the contact list in your BCP and getting them to acknowledge receipt or doing a walk through of a disaster scenario with your key people and see if your plan has everything you need. 

Your BCP is a critical document that needs some attention from time to time. You don't want to find you have major problems with the plan when you are coping with a disaster.



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