A Winning Partnership: Facility Management And Business Continuity

Effective business continuity professionals are realizing that developing internal partnerships is the most productive way to achieve a comprehensive business continuity program.

One of the most important potential partnerships, and one BC professionals frequently overlook, is facilities management.

Potentially, there are many roles for facilities management to support the business continuity program. By involving facility management in the BC planning process, BC professionals can strengthen their programs. Here are some ways to incorporate facility managers into that process.

Mitigation: This is the most common contribution facility management makes to the BC program today. They’re involved in acquiring and installing air conditioning, electric power, UPS’s, emergency generators and fire suppression equipment. They work with security on limiting physical access. If BC managers develop an internal recovery solution, facility management has a key role in designing, building and outfitting the alternate facility. Why, then, is it so rare facilities management is involved in the evaluation of commercial alternative facilities?

Alternate Facility Evaluation: Most BC plans include, or should include, a commercial alternate facility: a hot site, cold site, work group recovery facility, hosting or co-location facility. Many of these alternate site facilities claim to be disaster recovery facilities, but in reality they are not.

Your facility management team can help evaluate the viability of these alternate facilities. Do they have redundant power and power generating capability? Do they have sufficient power, air conditioning and secure facilities? Is there enough parking? Do they own the building? Do they have a facility manager? Are their safety standards up to your facility standards? What kind of fire suppression do they have? What evacuation procedures do they have in place? What is their DR plan? Is it tested?

It is important to remember many of these facilities offering disaster recovery solutions often have none themselves. When your BCP team makes a site visit, take someone from facility management along. And remember, the need for a site visit and disaster recovery evaluation applies to those systems that you have outsourced.

Testing: Inviting your facilities management to a traditional hot site test may not be accepted, but it is still a good idea if no one from facilities has ever been there. An exercise at your facility, however, must include facilities management. This exercise can take two forms: The “tabletop” and the “actual drill.” As the name “tabletop” implies, it’s done in a meeting room with a limited number of key players. The “actual drill” is much more like a real event, with role playing, actual execution of procedures and involving outsiders like police and fire.

Facility management has a key role to play in both types of exercises and it is critical you involve them. During “tabletop” and “actual drill” exercises, managers must make many decisions such as: Do we evacuate? Do we declare with our alternate site providers? Do we send people home? Do we send some to the alternate site? Clearly, if the subject building is in ashes, the decisions are obvious. But many disasters are of an indeterminate length. The forecasted length of outage will have a significant impact on decisions, and it is facilities management that will be the best source of information to guide those decisions.

There was a common theme in the messages from the fire chief speaker at BRPA (Business Recovery Planners Association) in Chicago in 2005 and the law enforcement leadership at the Liberty Valley ACP Chapter (Association of Contingency Planners) meeting in 2006. That theme was: “The more we know about you and your business, the better prepared we are to help.” Yet most Business Continuity teams have no experience with first responders, nor do they even know who they are. Facilities management can solve this. They may already know the key players. Your facility managers can recruit these critical resources to participate in either type of exercise. Local government officials are eager participants. They just need to be asked – by your facilities management team.

Recovery: If the unfortunate happens, facilities management has a key role to play in recovery. They can only play that role, however, if they have accepted this responsibility in advance, incorporated this responsibility into the plan and participated in the tests. Facility management is the key source of data concerning the potential length of the outage. They can be a key to developing solutions as to where all of the people go.

And, most importantly, facilities management has a critical role in assuring that the first disaster isn’t followed by a second one when you return to your old or a new facility.

Education: Testing is, of course, educational, but you need to start educating facilities management before the test. Below is a suggested agenda for a business continuity education session for the entire facility management team.

9:00 to 9:15a.m.
Introduction and Welcome – Facility Management Executive

9:15 to 9:30 a.m.
Business Continuity vs Disaster Recovery – BC Management

9:30 to 10:00 a.m.
Industry Best Practices – Outside speaker

10:00 to 10:15 a.m.

10:15 to 10:45 a.m.
Role of First Responders – First Responder leader

10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
Roles of BCP Team – BCP Manager

11:15 to 12:00 p.m.
Roles of Facility Management – Facility Management BCP Team Members and BCP Manager
• Mitigation
• Evaluation
• Testing
• Recovery
• Restoration

12:00-12:15 p.m.
Next Steps – Facility Management

This education session assumes the facility management executive has bought into the BC program prior to the session. If this is not the case, the speakers would change to all BCP leadership and/or outside resources.

The odds of any business’ survival after it suffers a disaster are directly proportional to the quality of its business continuity program, including testing. Having facilities management participate in the planning, testing and execution of a plan will improve those odds and add incremental internal and external resources to the equation.

This article was published in the Disaster Resource GUIDE for Facilities (Fall 2006).