How to Implement a Contingency Plan

A contingency plan is developed to prepare a business to face abnormal situations and mitigate the impact of sudden disasters. The plan outlines the procedure to be followed in the event of failure of one or more critical systems.

The implementation of a contingency plan depends upon the size of the organization and the resources available during the crisis. The plan should be designed, reviewed and accepted by the management. The plan should be shared with the key members of the organization. Companies should periodically execute the steps outlined in the plan as an exercise, to be prepared when the need arises.

The business should have a contingency team that takes over the operations and implements the plan for every type of risk identified. Equipment failure due to natural disasters and sabotage may be covered by insurance. The personnel implementing the contingency plan should be aware of the contact details of people or service providers to be reached during the emergency situation, to get assistance in fixing the issue and bringing the business operations back to normal.

Communication and notification is an important part of implementing a contingency plan. If a primary business location is affected by fire or flood, the plan might be to move the employees and equipment to another location. To implement this plan of shifting operations to a new location, there should be a good communication plan in place. If the problem arises during working hours, the evacuation procedure should be followed and emergency help lines should be used to secure help. The persons responsible for implementation of the contingency plan should be able to contact all employees by a previously agreed upon mode (telephone / e-mail / SMS) and inform them to report for work at the new location until the old one can be made functional again. External suppliers, distributors and customers should also be notified of change in location, and whom to get in touch with to resume operations and contact details.

Contingency planning is important while executing a project. If a key team member is rendered out of action, there should be another team member capable of stepping in to perform important tasks. If the project follows good knowledge sharing practices and has good documentation, it will facilitate induction of new support staff (developers / testers) for assistance. It is important to communicate to the client that the absence of the regular person will not affect the project delivery schedule. If the project runs into issues which are likely to affect budget or deadlines, the person(s) implementing the contingency plan should know what needs to be communicated to client. The person should also know how and when the information should be sent to convince the client that measures have been taken to mitigate the risks and bring the situation under control. The implementer should perform follow-ups and send status updates to keep the management and client informed during a problem situation.

Early warning systems should be in place to notify / escalate issues to the relevant person(s) in-charge. Analysis, assessment, co-ordination, prioritization and preparedness are the key elements for implementing a plan. Contingency plans should be periodically updated and the lessons learnt from every incident should be incorporated into the plan.