Winter weather has the potential to play havoc with business. With extremely cold temperatures and strong winds, the elements can cut off heat, power and communication to premises — as well as making it more difficult to receive aid, thanks to blocked or icy roads.
From large organisations to SMEs, all businesses risk the consequences of winter’s bite, which is why it’s critical to have a business continuity plan in place to combat the winter weather. From your equipment to your staff, we’ve listed all the ways extreme winter weather can affect your business, and what you can do to always be prepared for the worst.
How can winter weather affect your business?
When winter weather strikes, it’s important that everyone in your organisation can be contacted quickly with an update. Unfortunately, weather disruptions can happen at any time, meaning that out-of-hours issues can be difficult to relay if you’re not prepared.
Emergency alerts enable you to reach key individuals in your organisation at any moment, as well as any employees you need to. Businesses that rely simply on emails and call trees will not be able to establish clear lines of communication when working with larger teams.
Whether you operate within a large organisation or an SME, businesses will always need to deal with a range of different suppliers across the company. The more suppliers a business relies on, the more difficult it can be to track their activity and limit supplier risk.
If you have poor visibility of the risk areas of your suppliers and their potential impact in a winter weather emergency, the number of threats can grow significantly; from decreased revenue and inflated costs, to risks to credibility in the eyes of investors and key stakeholders.
As travel is one of the major elements of winter weather disruption, businesses that rely heavily on shipping are always at risk. Companies with a national network of customers will suffer if their distribution centres are hit with a storm.
Having a continuity plan in place to provide alternate shipping methods in winter can help protect against losses, as shipping disruptions lead to severe supply chain and revenue implications if road vehicles are unable to deliver goods on time.
If your base of operations is in the eye of the storm, extreme weather can cause severe damages to work facilities and other physical assets. From costly machinery to the premises itself, any damage caused will not be cheap to replace.
Not only that, but it can even cause harm to your employees if the weather conditions happen to cause damage while your employees are working. Efforts to identify potential issues like structural weaknesses or loose roof tiles must be made in advance to minimise the threat of workplace accidents or injuries.
It’s not just your technical and logistical issues that can be caused by winter weather; it can also lead to problems for your staff.
Severe winter weather can lead to serious travel disruptions, as snow, ice and flooding can cause public transport cancellations and road closures. If your business is not equipped for staff to work from home, they will need to find alternative means of making it to the workplace — if it’s still even possible.
Not only does winter weather have the potential to make travel difficult for your employees, but also for the people your employees rely on. School closures and issues reaching regular childminders is another result of unforeseen winter weather, leaving parents without the childcare they need to travel to work.
What can you do to prepare?
Have a winter weather emergency plan
Extreme weather conditions can be severe and come without warning. To ensure that you and your team are prepared, a business continuity plan to respond to weather-related emergencies is a must. This will allow you to assign and document key roles and responsibilities, allow you to be able to clearly define who is responsible for taking action.
A successful winter weather emergency plan should provide your staff with the tools they need for a rapid and effective response. Your plan should:
- Establish reliable communication systems
- Set protocols detailing when the business should close
- Coordinate whether employees should continue to work and how they should do it
- Plan for snow removal from your premises
- Ensure that your business is equipped with essential equipment such as backup generators and fuel
As well as creating your own winter emergency plan, it’s also wise to liaise with your suppliers to check that they have their own systems in place to tackle extreme weather. If they don’t, question why not — if you’re prepared for sudden winter weather but your suppliers aren’t, it’s your reputation and operations that are going to suffer the consequences.
Communication is key to ensuring that your workforce is kept up to date with the latest information and to prevent miscommunication that could result in an employee unintentionally putting themself in harm’s way. Establishing a dedicated channel of communication, such as an emergency messaging tool, will help to eliminate confusion within the team and will reduce the time it takes to update key stakeholders.
It’s important to remember, however, that communication requires feedback to be optimal. Providing a messaging system with two-way messaging functionality provides precise updates that could help identify individuals who are not currently safe.
If the winter weather means you have to close your premises, it’s vital that you ensure your staff make it home safely. Homesafe is a software solution that allows you to act quickly in emergency situations to provide transport solutions. This secure platform sends emergency alerts and automatically connects you to trained professionals who will organise safe transportation with vetted drivers. You can even monitor each journey for added peace of mind that your employees reach their destination safely.
In order to protect your business from the effects of winter weather, you need to know if you’re in a position that can handle the consequences. A way in which organisations can do this is to run tests to see how they would cope in real-world situations.
Good business continuity management involves regularly implementing such tests to allow you to revise and refine your winter weather emergency plans before any weaknesses are exploited by a real disruption. When testing, you should be looking at methods such as:
Testing remote working facilities — In severe weather conditions, your employees may not be able to make it to work at all. While it may be possible to work remotely, it’s crucial that your staff are prepared with the appropriate hardware and can access business software and drives from home.
Data backup test — A backup and recovery test assesses the effectiveness of an organization’s software and methods of replicating data. This will give you an insight into how prepared your business is for retrieving crucial data in emergency situations.
Call cascade — Setting up a call cascade will allow you to transfer calls from a work extension to an external phone like a mobile. This means that critical employees can always be contacted in emergency situations. Ensuring this system is fully functioning ahead of time will prevent communication breakdowns in the future.
Tabletop exercise — Also known as a desktop exercise, this involves gathering key personnel involved in your business continuity to discuss simulated emergency situations. This helps gauge your business’ preparedness as well as how knowledgeable your staff are on what actions to take.
Full emergency scenario — Live exercises allow your employees to perform a rehearsal of an emergency situation and the steps your business would take. Such exercises are particularly useful for testing communications, logistics and physical capabilities.
Coping with utility disruption exercise — Identify which utilities are absolutely necessary to keep your business running and how winter weather may impact their availability. Contact your utility provider to discuss potential backup solutions to provide essential power in emergencies.
Stay one step ahead with CMAC
As extreme weather conditions can strike at any time, it’s vital that your business is prepared for the worst in order to keep operating smoothly. Thankfully, with our industry-leading business continuity services, CMAC can help lighten the load. Our experts provide everything from crisis recovery plans to accommodation solutions to make sure your people get to where they need to be.