One of the biggest obstacles I’ve found over the years in developing good BCM programs and program components is the dreaded question related to scenarios. You know the one, it starts with “yeah, but what if…” Those questions can go on for millennia and never will any program in the world – no matter how mature – will be able to address every situation. I’ve even been asked what a corporation would do if a meteor hit the earth. I stared at the person posing the question – they were serious. Well, I thought about it and said we’d all be dead in no time so what was their contingency for that? It shut them up pretty quickly – and we laughed as well.
Those “What if…” questions can derail a program quickly. What a practitioner needs to ensure is that the highly probably items are addressed first; those things that will have impact on a companies People, Places and Things. Any disaster will have an impact on those three items – some will have varying degrees of impact but still, each one will be affected by a disaster of any sort. When something does occur, all a practitioner – or any employee, manager or senior executive for that matter – needs to do is choose what options are available to them in those three categories and then adopt the correct response or contingency to activate.
A fire doesn’t always mean there are people stuck in a building, or that the facility burns to the ground. It can just mean that a small garbage fire has the facility evacuated and the staff is outside for 30 minutes while the fire department investigates. It can also mean that a fire destroys a building completely with numerous causalities and injuries. You could go on and on with trying to find things that could potentially happen because of a fire and never cover all the aspects.
What the organization should do is focus on the worst case situation a fire could do and then work backwards. It all the critical aspects are covered then it will be more possible for people to answer their own questions that reflect some bizarre scenario that they try to dream up.
They’re trying to trip you up and show that the plans that have been developed aren’t good enough. So they can walk away from the BCM program and not have to do anything with it because they will say that since the BCM practitioner couldn’t answer their scenario questions – which are usually very very low in probability – that the person doesn’t know their role.
People don’t want to know about disasters and what to do – it can be painful to think about worst-case situation so if they can escape from addressing it, they will.
Don’t let yourself get sidetracked with the scenarios – stay focused on worst case situations with a reasonable amount of probability and impact and then once those are in place, the thousands – if not millions – of scenarios can be addressed by those asking the questions because they can mix and match all the options available to them to answer the question themselves. When they can do that, you’re building strong awareness; awareness that will help strengthen you BCM program.