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How Robust is Your Laboratory’s Business Continuity Plan?

In the last few years, laboratories have been contending with the global pandemic and, in many areas, damaging storms and […]

In the last few years, laboratories have been contending with the global pandemic and, in many areas, damaging storms and other weather events. The early days of the pandemic caused chaos as laboratories rushed to figure out how to manage the shutdown of the laboratory, or how to maintain essential services. The weather issues caused some destruction, but in addition, there were power outages and communication issues. Did your laboratory’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP) have provide you with the support you needed?

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) or Disaster Recovery Plan is a document that is used when there is a disruption to the normal functioning of your laboratory. The plan gets implemented if there is an extended power outage, weather incident, epidemic or other event that closes your laboratory unexpectedly. Based on recent, here are some things to check in your BCP to tune it up and make it more robust in case you need to use it.

The first thing to check is whether the key people in your BCP are the correct ones. Did you update the people responsible for key tasks when there was a change of roles or if someone left the organization? Do you have a procedure somewhere that ensures the BCP is updated when there is a change?

How are you planning on notifying your key people and the rest of the staff if the BCP needs to be implemented? In the case of a power outage, cell towers may go out of commission. Ottawa was recently hit by a Derecho and in many areas the power was out, cell towers were not functioning, and land lines were not working. It is unusual to have this much disruption, but in Ottawa, this is not the first time there was this much disruption. Tornadoes have hit the area a few times and caused similar issues. If your area is similarly affected, how will you communicate with staff? Do you have alternate numbers to use?  And, do you have the most up to date contact information for your staff? Have you got an alternate way to communicate with staff?

Do you have critical equipment and computers on a UPS or other back-up emergency power? How long will the UPS keep equipment running? If power goes off outside of normal working hours, what will happen with the shut-down?

Are you relying on a generator for back-up power? If so, where will you get the fuel? After the Derecho it was difficult to get gas. Most stations ran out of fuel.

Where will your customers get details on your status? Are you able to update your webpage if your laboratory is closed? Would you be able to contact key customers if you cannot access your computer network in the laboratory?

What about your suppliers? Would you be able to contact them to stop deliveries if required?

If you need to evacuate the laboratory, would you know who is in the laboratory? Would any tests in progress pose a hazard?

Have you ever done a test-run of your BCP? If not, consider doing periodic testing. This could include sending a test message out to your staff using the contact list in your BCP and getting them to acknowledge receipt or doing a walk through of a disaster scenario with your key people and see if your plan has everything you need.

Your BCP is a critical document that needs some attention from time to time. You don't want to find you have major problems with the plan when you are coping with a disaster. Take the time to review your plan and make sure it is going to support you if you ever need to use it.

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