Public Sector Business Continuity Planning may Fall Short of Public Expectation

Graham Chick, Chief Executive at Basingstoke based comms company GemaTech, says, ‘in an increasingly risk aware business environment, crisis management is an important component of strategic planning for organisations on the front line of public service delivery’.

“However,” continues Chick, “despite the Civil Contingencies Act of 2004, there is a growing awareness across the public sector that business continuity planning may fall short of public expectation.

It is becoming more and more apparent that many local authorities, emergency services and health authorities are not making the necessary risk assessments or developing and maintaining adequate business continuity plans – therefore ignoring the demands of the Act. As the ‘Be Prepared’ report from local government user group SOCITM indicated, councils are missing opportunities to establish up to date disaster recovery plans for IT services and few know the appropriate contact details of key personnel, or could use alternative communications equipment properly.

Such basic communication requirements underpin any emergency response. When the phone network fails, a power cut takes out the organisation’s telephone switchboard/PBX or an emergency keeps staff away from the office, the public will not be able to receive the critical services that are now predominantly delivered either online or via the telephone. Organisations will find it hard to communicate with one another as they continue to manage any emergency and public confidence will decrease.

If organisations are to maintain ‘business as usual’ at all times they need to put in place solutions that provide automated rerouting of calls to any number of alternative numbers and / or locations including alternative office locations, recovery sites, and homes.

Unless the Civil Contingencies Secretariat faces up to the real challenges associated with meeting the demands of the Civil Contingencies Act, the country is in for a very nasty shock as and when disaster strikes – as was clearly evidenced during the summer floods.”