Business Continuity and Civil Unrest

Over the past year, a multitude of civil unrest events have occurred that, among other detrimental effects, have negatively impacted routine business operations. From the recent  biker gang conflict in Waco, TX, to riots in Baltimore, MD, to the much publicized conflict in Ferguson, MO, large-scale public disturbances have tested the limits of business resilience and public safety operations. Further, these events are not constrained to U.S. borders, as civil unrest has recently arisen in countries ranging from Spain to Belgium to Brazil.

Though relatively rare in comparison to other threats, civil unrest is something business resilience managers should have on their radar. Here are a few key points to consider as you prepare your organization to recover from disruptive public events such as protests or riots.

Ensure employees are knowledgeable about the organization’s Emergency Response Plan. This is true of any business disruption and is an ongoing challenge. However, since civil unrest situations are a bit unique, you might want to make this a special focus. Consider adding one of these scenarios as a component to your preparedness exercises. This will help employees appreciate the distinctiveness of this situation and assist them in better understanding your company’s specific response.

Ensure work-from-home plans are in place. Identify who in your organization has the permission and capability to work remotely. Make sure proper resources are available for individuals to do their jobs successfully.

Utilize emergency notification services effectively. Implement “Are you OK?” scenarios that allow workers to indicate their status and availability. Create dynamic groups that allow for easy notification and interaction with remote workers. Leverage automated conference calling to convene crisis response teams or provide situation updates. Regular, clear communication will be essential for employee accountability and ongoing productivity.

Assign at least one individual (and a backup) to monitor news and social media. Situational intelligence is important during a widespread, unpredictable event. Business continuity managers should have as much real-time information as possible at their disposal to ensure the safety of workers and minimize risk.

Proactively coordinate with local law enforcement. Depending on your proximity to the event, law enforcement officials may have special requests or instructions for workers. Be prepared to engage law enforcement and emergency management contacts to offer your cooperation. (By the way, don’t wait until a crisis hits to establish relationships.)

Be prepared to enhance security capabilities. This may entail adding third-party security personnel, physical or psychological barriers, or equipment such as security cameras and supplementary lighting. Again, having sources and relationships in place prior to an event will help ensure your needs are viewed as a priority.

Civil unrest can be an unpredictable and unnerving situation. Prepare now for the possibility, even if the likelihood seems remote. As usual, a bit of preparation can make all the difference.