44% of European companies managed at least one crisis in the last year, and 70% is expecting at least one critical occurrence in the next 12 months[1]: invest in crisis prevention is a wise advice, particularly when considering business continuity and natural disasters. Climate change and global warming have made extreme weather events more frequent, and unpredictable calamities such as earthquakes are unfortunately recurring in many regions around the world.

Think of hurricanes Harvey, Ima and Maria, which during a single month in 2017 devastated the Caribbean and southeast United States, or the bomb cyclone that brought heavy snow and icy winds in New York City in March 2018, or the earthquake swarm which even in the last weeks continues to afflict central Italy: these are examples of natural events that might badly impact on companies and their people, assets and operations.

A business continuity (BC) management system is therefore highly recommended to mitigate risks such as damages and downtimes, financial and market share losses, and even reputational consequences. Emergency response and crisis management plans should not replace BC processes, as the former are normally referred to specific adverse incidents, and the latter offers guidelines and tools to face large-scale, long-term failures resulting from extreme weather, natural disasters or terroristic attacks.

How should an effective BC management system be conceived? It needs to be designed as a company-wide, integrated management process starting from an accurate assessment of threats and vulnerabilities potentially affecting assets and operations. It defines the worst possible scenarios and related prevention measures, and key strategies to increase resiliency if facing catastrophic events. This includes procedures to restore mission-critical services as quickly as possible, and safeguard continuity of operations while working to bring the organization back to business-as-usual conditions.

The integration of hardware, software, processes and skilled people is fundamental to ensure an adequate monitoring of severe external events, thus preventing or minimizing the impact of potentially disruptive occurrences.

[1] PSB / Burson-Marsteller survey on 200 European business decision makers, www.burson-marsteller.eu