Headlines: May 18th, 2006

Many local government organisations are failing to prepare for disruption, despite evidence outlining the business benefits of disaster planning, according to a survey by the Chartered Management Institute, supported by the Cabinet Office and Continuity Forum. The 2006 Business Continuity Management Survey highlights the significant impact of disasters at home and abroad, including a potential influenza pandemic, and uncovers worrying signs of inactivity and complacency.The survey found that although 83 per cent of managers in local government believe business continuity is viewed as important by their senior management teams, only 65 per cent say their organisation has a business continuity plan in place. Organisations are also failing to rehearse plans as often as they should. Only 29 per cent of those with plans test them at least once a year, compared to 37 per cent, across all sectors.

Contingency plans generally focus on inanimate objects, such as IT systems, despite organisations admitting a fear of losing people and skills. Some 96 per cent of respondents to the survey believe they would suffer disruption caused by higher levels of absenteeism and illness in an influenza pandemic, yet some 70 per cent do not have robust plans to cope with this absence.

The survey also found that only 1 in 10 councils with plans share these with suppliers and stakeholders, while just 1 in 5 communicate the information to customers, who are cited as the key drivers for creating contingency plans. Only 7 per cent require all suppliers to have a contingency plan with one third of organisations requiring only business-critical suppliers to have plans.

The research suggests that managers would benefit from guidance on creating a plan, case studies illustrating others’ experiences and guidance on the potential disruptions they face. The Cabinet Office websites, www.pfe.gov.uk   http://www.pfe.gov.uk  and www.ukresilience.info http://www.ukresilience.info ,provide helpful resources for organisations wanting advice. They also have links to the Government guidance document, ‘Contingency Planning for a Possible Influenza Pandemic’.