Facility Managers should try to maintain a significant role in Business Continuity – they manage the 2nd largest and most important business “assets” (after IT) on which day-to-day business operations rely.

Many Facilities Management (FM) departments are often not included from the planning process, either because BIA surveys skew a focus toward IT dependencies and financial impacts, or because Recovery strategies lean toward alternate site configurations (under the assumption that a damaged facility will be a total loss).  Both of these perspectives disregard the fact that ‘total loss’ of a facility usually never occurs.

Then there are Facilities Managers who see little benefit in planning for potential disruptions – either under the assumption that response and recovery are part of their existing job duties (and don’t require planning), or that they can’t plan for what they can’t anticipate.  Both are short-sighted.

I have worked over a dozen years as a Facility Manager (this role began my involvement in Business Continuity) and have learned that Facility functions can do a lot to prepare for recovery from disruptions. FM can play a vital role in Response and Recovery activities – but only with advance planning and coordination with overall BCM objectives.

First, the typical “Loss of Building” scenario, which many organizations use as a foundation for BCM Planning is an exaggeration: damage to facilities (other than small buildings and stand-alone facilities – like branch banks or retail stores) almost never results in a total loss.  Damage may occur, but the facility is seldom rendered useless. (See our earlier blog for more on this subject).

There are things the Facilities Team can do to plan for a ‘total loss’, but they are limited.  I’ll touch on those planning requirements later. Meanwhile, Facility Managers can plan the logistics in the event of building damage (a water or sprinkler leak, broken windows, an isolated power outage, small fires and other partial disruptions).

Prioritized Internal Relocation

Facilities Managers play a vital role in helping to devise a Recovery Strategy for ‘partial loss’ (damage to a floor, quadrant or other portion of a building).  A sound BIA will enable the organization to determine their most critical business processes.  Facility Managers have the solution to determining where key business process participants can move if their portion of a building is damaged.

Using the BIA’s prioritization results, the least critical process participants can move out (work from home, or just go home) and be replaced by more critical players.  Armed with floor plans designating the occupied space for each business process, Facilities Managers can work with the BCM team (or Incident Managers) to shuffle employees within the facility to reduce the impact of damage on those most critical processes.

Repairing Building Damage

Although overlooked as part of their day-to-day job, identifying whom to contact – plumbers, electricians, restoration companies and similar skilled trades and suppliers – is essential to replying swiftly and effectively to facility damage.

A good Facilities Manager is adept at responding to day-to-day ‘crises’; they can be invaluable in during any disruption because they also know (or are responsible for) critical support functions:

  • Physical Security (including access controls and security guards)
  • Mail and overnight deliveries (and internal distribution)
  • Adds, moves and changes of furniture and equipment
  • Vending, catering and food services (IM and Recovery Teams cannot work while they are hungry)
  • Coordination with local Emergency Services (should be on a first name basis with the Fire Marshall)
  • Logistics (shipping, receiving, inventory and suppliers)
  • Interaction with landlords and building owners

Capturing that knowledge in a Business Continuity Plan secures access to those contacts under all circumstances (including damage to the Facilities Management Department, or absence of their staff!).

Temporary Facilities

Some impacts may render a facility temporarily uninhabitable (or off limits).  If only a day or two, work-from-home strategies may suffice – but they begin to lose their effectiveness in 3-5 days.  Knowing where local, alternate space may be available (workspace sharing or hoteling vendors, neighboring buildings or other tenants with extra space, for example) may provide better long-term temporary solutions.  Having a good working relationship with a landlord or building owner might pay big dividends in a disruption.  Having quick access to those contacts – within the Business Continuity Plan – will ensure adequate time to make phone and network connections to make such spaces usable.

In the unlikely event that a building is destroyed (a ‘total loss’) those same contacts enable the organization to begin sourcing replacement facilities instantly.

Risk Mitigation

Electrical outages can be annoying (and costly) disruptions.  The addition of a backup power generator can help mitigate the effect of those outages.  And FM can help determine not only the siting (where) but also the capacity (what) of generators – to serve both the primary objective (keeping the data center running) and secondary objectives: providing emergency power at the desk of critical business processes (like Customer Service or Order Fulfillment).

Need to shelter-in-place?  FM should maintain the highest quality, up-to-date information on the most structurally safe areas of the building.

Planning evacuation gathering points?  FM can coordinate with other tenants or neighbors to make sure everyone isn’t planning to meet up in the same locations.

Flooding a problem?  There are numerous ways to diverting water, as there are budgets to pay for them.  If you understand the financial impact of a possible flood, FM can help find a permanent or temporary solution to relieve some or all of the potential damage.

These are merely only a few of the many areas where FM can aid in diminishing the possible risks an organization faces – if they’re included in the planning process.

Decision Support for Incident Managers

Facilities Managers – often overlooked as a purely ‘administrative function’ – can be a highly valuable participant in Incident Management. Not only do they have access to knowledge that others don’t, but they have established contacts with suppliers, vendors and trades that may be required following a disruption. They also have an understanding of the capacity (for people, electrical loads, and HVAC) that would be important in determining long- and short-term recovery strategies.

Every Business Continuity Management program should include Facilities Management.  A smart Business Continuity Manager works hand-in-hand with their FM team to help construct both their high-level strategy and their Incident Management plans.  Just like the technical support provided by IT, FM possesses a set of skills and an abundance of knowledge that BC Managers can leverage both before and during a disruption.

Written by: Luis FernandezPresident at CleanAlert, LLC

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