managing risk

How to test and implement your Business Continuity Plan

As a small business owner, you should have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place. A BCP outlines how your business will continue to operate during and after a disruptive event – such as an injured employee, a natural disaster, or an extended power outage. However, it’s not enough to just have a plan. As part of your business recovery planning, your BCP should be tested regularly to make sure it’s up to date and effective.


What is BCP testing?

BCP testing is a way to check how prepared your employees are for an emergency or unexpected event. Your BCP is a living document and, even if you have the best plan in the world, how will you know it works if it hasn’t been tested?


Why is testing important?

Testing helps identify any gaps, weaknesses or potential issues before they become serious problems. By testing regularly – and making changes or updates as needed – you’re increasing your plan’s effectiveness. Regular testing can also help your people understand their roles and responsibilities during an emergency situation.


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Risks of testing

Testing your BCP involves some level of risk - especially when simulating an emergency scenario. The most significant risk is employees becoming complacent during actual emergencies if they’re used to simulated ones.

It’s also important to remember these tests can generate anxiety in some people who may feel unprepared for, or overwhelmed by, the exercise. That's why it's important to communicate with your people about what you're testing and why.


Identify which scenarios are common in your industry

Before you begin testing any business recovery strategies – how you’ll re-establish operations to a minimum acceptable level after a disruption – you need to identify scenarios common in your industry. This way, you can focus on those during the test phase.

Scenarios might include natural disasters such as floods or fires, or tech disruptions like power outages. Once you’ve identified which threats you need to prepare for, you can create more targeted simulations and determine the appropriate responses.


Types of BCP tests

There are different types of BCP tests you can run to assess the effectiveness of your plan. Which ones you choose will depend on the information you need from the exercise, how much money you have to spend and available resources. Below are a few common tests.


Review the plan

The simplest test. You arrange a session, or sessions, for your employees to review the plan, ensuring everyone is familiar with it and understands their key responsibilities. This is perfect for smaller businesses.

Simulation testing

Simulation tests involve simulating a real-life emergency situation, such as a fire or cyber-attack, to see how your employees respond.


Tabletop exercises

Tabletop exercises are a more structured version of simulation testing. They involve a team of employees discussing hypothetical scenarios to identify gaps in the plan.


Drills involve responding to an unexpected event. For example, office fire drills with people wearing different coloured hard hats and everyone taking the stairs rather than the lift down to the evacuation point.


Full-scale exercises

Full-scale exercises involve setting up a real-life scenario with actors playing various roles to better simulate an emergency situation.


Tips for successfully implementing your BCP

  • Ensure everyone is familiar with the plan and knows their role in case of an emergency.
  • Create a response team who’ll be in charge during times of crisis.
  • Communicate clearly about what you're testing and why.
  • Document and use the feedback from tests to improve the plan.
  • Keep records of all tests conducted along with results.
  • Communicate all changes immediately within the business.
  • Regularly review and test your plan to ensure it's up to date and effective.


While business recovery planning is essential for the survival of your business, testing is just as important. Conducting regular BCP exercises ensures your business is prepared for any emergency, as well as giving you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're ready for anything.

Just like having the right business insurance in place gives you the same peace of mind, so contact a GIO Business Specialist today.


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