Mistakes Businesses Make When Preparing for Pandemics like Coronavirus

by Sarah Harvey / March 6th, 2020

The Global Impact of COVID-19

It’s been nearly two months since China confirmed an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Wuhan. With over 93,000 confirmed cases reported globally, including more than 200 in the United States, countries across the globe have started to feel the impact of the virus. Industries like manufacturing, farming, travel, healthcare, finance, banking, retail, and technology have all taken a hit from the global outbreak, forcing them to deal with delayed products, slow distribution, low earnings, and falling stock prices.

Major technology companies like Apple have begun feeling the impact of the virus as their manufacturers are slow to return to their factories in Zhengzhou, delaying the production of parts needed to manufacture the iPhone 11s. Mobile applications, like the fintech trading software, Robinhood, also have felt the brunt of the outbreak: with the stock market violently fluctuating, investors were shocked to find the software unable to handle the large volumes of people trying to trade. Similarly, airlines, such as United, have suspended international and domestic flights – a move that will ultimately end up hurting their bottom line.

No matter their industry, size, or location, all businesses are susceptible to falling victim to man-made or natural disasters, including pandemics like SARS, H1N1, and now, COVID-19. But, while pandemics may seem like they are far less likely to occur, they should still be a critical part of your business continuity planning. Why? Let’s see what KirkpatrickPrice specialists had to say about the recent, ongoing pandemic, the coronavirus.

Testing Your Business Continuity Plan

Because pandemics don’t happen very often, it can be easy for organizations to procrastinate about testing their BCP in such situations. But this only leads to chaos when an outbreak does occur. When a pandemic occurs, almost every industry in the world is impacted – manufacturing, farming, travel, healthcare, finance, banking, retail, technology – causing stock markets to crash, layoffs to occur, death numbers to rise, and panic to ensue. We see this every day in coronavirus updates. This means that not only are businesses struggling to continue production, distribute product, and earn profits, but they also have to protect their personnel.

In fact, it is not uncommon that one of the top responses to pandemics is isolating community members, which means that it’s likely your personnel will either be required to work remotely under government orders or that you have policies that require such precautions in the event of a global outbreak. In the US, many major businesses, like Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft, and JPMorgan, have already delayed or suspended travel for employees, canceled meetings and conferences abroad, and some have even sent their employees home to work remotely until further notice. What could be this pitfall of this? While businesses think they’re doing the right thing and preventing community spread of the disease, such responses can have detrimental effects on a business if not properly tested in advance.

Richard Rieben, a Lead Practitioner at KirkpatrickPrice, explains, “The biggest issue a lot of firms face [regarding pandemics] is that they will tell themselves they’re prepared for everyone to work from home and for everything to keep running exactly as it does every day. But the reality is, unless those plans are fully tested and exercised in a practical manner, there is a strong likelihood that something that was never thought of will become an issue. Real testing of BCPs (including pandemic response) is the best way to capture valuable lessons learned which will go far beyond a basic tabletop talk-through of the plan.”

What Should Your BCP Include About Pandemics?

In order to establish a robust business continuity plan to combat the effects of a pandemic, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Who are the necessary personnel needed to ensure that critical business processes can continue?
  • Which employees must work remotely?
  • What assets do employees need to continue their day-to-day tasks from remote locations?
  • What does your network and remote access abilities look like? Can they handle large volumes?
  • How will you ensure the security of your remote workers?
  • What change management and access management protocols must be used/controlled?
  • How will you test this plan for accuracy? Will it be annually? How often will your personnel be able to work remotely?

There’s usually no telling how long a pandemic will last, and if you fail to implement a robust business continuity plan, your company may not survive the outbreak. At KirkpatrickPrice, we partner with out clients to create, implement, and test strong BCPs so that they can feel confident when a pandemic like the coronavirus occurs. Let us help you, too. Contact us today.

More Business Continuity Plan Resources

Cloud Security: Business Continuity and Incident Response Planning

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning Checklist

CDC – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)