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The Importance of Being Prepared – 5 Top Tips

Top 5 tips for business continuity in the commercial building sector

Planning for the worst can seem like a daunting task but understanding how your business and its facilities will cope in a disaster is incredibly important. Here Russ Baker, UK Sales Director of the hire division at ICS Cool Energy, outlines why a business continuity plan is so important and the basics of putting one in place.

In terms of crisis planning, from fires to flooding there are a number of factors that could wreak havoc on your business. While the British weather can present a few surprises, the ramifications of other incidents such as power loss and system breakdowns can be mitigated. Finding ways to help your business continue to operate in a crisis, all forms part of the business continuity plan meaning that whatever the size of the crisis, a plan can be formulated to keep the business moving.

For some, business continuity is an unknown entity leaving them vulnerable in the event of a crisis. This compares to other businesses who have planned and mitigated for every eventuality. Wherever a business might be in the planning stages, there are options available to help make sure they are prepared, as well as some simple steps to help the building services team.

1. Conduct a site and operations audit
Understanding where the risks lie makes it much easier to find a Plan B. This covers all of your site operations and not just what you deem the big stuff. Monitoring your heating and air-conditioning are the perfect example of this: essential components within any commercial environment but not always top of the agenda.

While there is no legal minimum or maximum temperature requirement in the workplace, the Approved Code of Practice advises that the minimum temperature should not be below 160C and a comfortable temperature be maintained at all times.

2. Keep a record
Once you have completed the site audit/assessment, make sure all the information is recorded, alongside any power or utility requirements, and that the information is made available to all those who require it. It’s important to consider that key personnel may not be available, or in fact be on site during a crisis so make sure others are informed of the plans and detailed copies are stored in an off-site location.

Storing a contingency plan on a computer may seem like common sense, but in the event of a power outage or access issues, this will not be accessible. Should a crisis occur, information at your fingertips is key to ensuring downtime is kept to a minimum and business recovery possible, therefore keep hard copies of the plan throughout the building.

3. Putting a Plan B into place
With a site assessment complete and all details recorded, it is then possible to agree on what contingency equipment is required with your back-up equipment supplier, as well as an activation plan.

Remember to check whether your supplier can activate your plan 24/7 – there’s no point having a contingency plan in place if they can only be contacted Monday to Friday between 9am and 5:30pm.

Another potential option to consider is to hire back-up equipment in anticipation of system failure. For example during the summer months – extra pressure and demand on chiller equipment can come from many sources not least the cooling of the work environment. Yet for critical applications such as server rooms or even the banking industry, failure isn’t an option and therefore installing a back-up chiller system, during summer months or expectedly busy periods, could be an ideal way to mitigate against any potential risk.

4. Carry out any remedial works
All HVAC and process equipment requires electrical and mechanical connections, but access and connections can be an issue when you need a replacement, quickly. Remedial works can include simple solutions such as new pipework being installed or the installation of a new power connection but when you’re up against it and need a solution fast, even the simplest of tasks may seem like a mountain to overcome.

This is usually something that can be easily organised through your service provider, in advance of any crisis, helping businesses to get back up and running as quickly and as swiftly as possible.

5. Consider access
Another key factor to consider is access to the site itself. A high-rise building in the centre of a city may prove difficult to access during working hours or perhaps the building is located on a red route. It’s also important to consider where existing kit is located for example, if the chiller is cited on the top of a high-storey building a replacement will need to be delivered by truck and loaded using a crane. This does link into the theme of remedial works quite heavily as there may be a temporary location where equipment could be positioned but required power access – this can be resolved during the remedial planning stages.

Crucially, make a note in your plan not only of the equipment required but also where it will be located – a designated slot in the car park, close to the building for example, may suffice. Just remember that wherever you chose, access points and any remedial works required should be identified in advance of any crisis.

Needless to say, building in a contingency plan is an important part of any business strategy and therefore finding the right partner is essential. Once found, this partner can help guide businesses through the site assessments, organise the remedial works and be at the other end of the phone 24/7 in the event of any breakdown or crisis. Where downtime is not an option, it really does pay to be prepared.

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