The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) has announced the availability of free continuity planning software for small businesses. The software allows businesses to produce individualized continuity of operations plans. COG initiated the effort, in cooperation with the Greater Washington Board of Trade, as part of its Regional Emergency Coordination PlanSM.. Marsh Crisis Consulting developed the content and software.
"Much of our involvement in emergency preparedness planning has focused primarily on governmental bodies, including local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies," said David Robertson, COG executive director. "However, working with our partners at the Greater Washington Board of Trade, we recognized the need for this type of assistance to help protect the region’s economy.”
“Businesses and other private institutions need to be prepared for the disruption in operations that can be caused by disasters, whether man-made or natural,” said Robert Peck, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “This evaluation and planning tool responds to that real preparedness need. We at the Greater Washington Board of Trade are pleased that it is now available through COG and are going to urge our members to use it.”
The program enables businesses to identify hazards and to develop employee and supplier listings, checklists of key operational actions, and information on continuity of operations in the event business processes are interrupted by a crisis event. Users produce their own document through a study guide approach. At the end of the process, users are able to download and print a document designed to accommodate their business type and needs.
The software uses standard Microsoft Word 2000 and more recent versions for text printing and Internet browser connections to the Council of Governments’ web site at http://www.mwcog.org/. Users can select from very direct and simple hazard and business impacts analysis or use alternate, more detailed methods of calculating needs by clicking on links within the text.
Reading materials provide case studies, definitions, examples, and procedures to help the user conceptualize a plan. Within 2-4 hours they can complete the plan if they have employee and vendor listings and ideas on what to do in the event they lose a key operating component or key employee.
"Every small business should have a plan and listings of key information for continuity of operations-- not just a gathering of supplies for preparedness," said Carl Kalish, director of Purchasing and Facilities for COG. “The government’s role as first responder limits its ability to respond to the needs of the business community in the first few hours of a disaster. Having a plan in place ensures that businesses are better prepared and protected should any type of hazard threaten ongoing operations.”
The free software can be accessed on COG’s web site by selecting Homeland Security on the main menu. Users can download and save their plans to their personal computer for saving and editing as needs change. The plans can also be saved on the COG server for a limited period if users are unable to complete their plan in one session.