Building Fire and Flood – Natural Disaster Business Survival Series

Fires and floods within an office or building can range from small incidents of short duration to complete destruction of the facility.

Potential Impact

Even a relatively small fire/flooding incident can have a very disruptive impact on a business. For example, a small fire in an office on an upper floor can result in complete flooding of computers and telephone systems in the offices below as the building’s sprinkler systems kick in and firefighters seek to extinguish the blaze.

Similarly, even a relatively limited amount of water leaking from a broken pipe or valve can put some or all of a business’s technology infrastructure out of commission.

A large fire, of course, can force a business to have to relocate all of its operations temporarily or permanently.

Risk Factors

There are approximately 100,000 commercial building fires in the U.S. per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Those at highest risk include manufacturing facilities, as well as offices located above or in proximity to restaurants because cooking is a primary cause of non-residential structure fires just as it is in homes.

Warning Times

Water damage from failed plumbing, sprinkler systems, etc. can short-circuit electronic equipment with zero warning. However, building alarm systems typically give employees a few minutes to shut down critical systems and evacuate the premises.

Technology Continuity

As noted above, the severity and length of business disruptions caused by fires and flooding can vary considerably. To be prepared for extended or permanent facility damage, businesses should:

People Continuity

Because building fires and flooding only affect individual structures (or, at worst, just a few adjoining ones as well), businesses impacted have a lot of options for keeping people productive. Business Continuity plans should include:

  • Arrangements in advance with a nearby shared/furnished office space provider, hotel, college, or other facility for an immediate/temporary operations command center.
  • Next-day work-space provisioning in another company facility, emergency fail-over “cold-site,” or at home personal desktops/laptops with appropriate call forwarding.
  • Internal communications for keeping employees updated on resource availability, recovery status, etc.
  • Any necessary third-party contracting for shipping/receiving, mail processing, duplicating, etc.

Process Continuity

Again, because building fires and flooding are highly localized, they typically only disrupt processes that touch a single company location. Business continuity plans therefore need to provide for alternative locations and means to perform actions such as:

  • Answering phones
  • Processing orders
  • Issuing invoices
  • Signing checks
  • Filing reports required by regulatory mandates

Insurance Considerations

A properly insure business should have a policy that covers the expenses above, in addition to physical damage directly caused by the fire or flood. Businesses may also seek policy provisions that address work done from home or other locations while the facility is under repair (and/or a new location is secured) as well as business losses that may occur despite best-effort BC planning and execution.

What may seem like a small, trivial issue can quickly turn into complete devastation or total loss. Don’t be left watching your business fall apart. Have a plan to get back to work as quickly as possible. Start with Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery systems from Unique Computing Solutions.

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