When an emergency hits your business, even the best insurance isn’t enough to keep your doors open after you recover. While you’re waiting to get back up to speed, you might lose enough customers to permanently damage your business. Having plans to continue your operations or get them operating sooner than later includes taking steps to make sure your personnel are able to work even before your office, plant, store or warehouse is rebuilt or refurbished.

Continuity Plan

A continuity plan consists of preparation for an interruption to your operations that might result from a fire, weather disaster, loss of power, workplace violence or other unforeseen problem that requires you to close your main place of business. Continuity plans aim to help you continue to run your business, or restart operations, as quickly as possible. These plans often include making provisions for backup supplies, equipment, power, data, workspace and staff. They include a communications program for keeping employees, suppliers, customers and the public informed about your situation.

Pre-event Planning

The key to handling an emergency is to create a plan in advance that addresses all your operational needs by providing backup methods for continuing to work. While you might not be able to operate at full capacity, you might be able to maintain your administrative functions. While planning a continuity program, human resources looks at the tasks your employees perform and evaluate if and how these can continue at a new location. If a factory burns, a company might be able to lease new space and equipment to temporarily continue operations. This might require the company to hire and train local workers to work at the new facility. If production can’t continue, office staff might be able to work from a temporary office, or from home, to continue accounting tasks, marketing work, website updates, project management and other intellectual work. Contingency planning includes the offsite backup of all employee data and files that employees will need to work from a new or temporary location.

Event Management

HR must next create procedures for managing the company’s work force in the immediate stages of an interruption. HR first must ensure the safety of the company’s employees. This includes the orderly and safe evacuation of all staff during on-site emergencies and accounting for the whereabouts of employees, such as during a weather emergency or power outage. Then HR can begin directing employees' activities. Some employees will be idle until physical locations are reopened or new ones are prepared, other workers might be laid off or furloughed while others will receive directions for virtual or off-site work. HR will stay in touch with executive management during the beginning of a crisis and let employees know how the problem is unfolding and what it means to them. If employees receive paychecks at their place of work, HR will communicate how the company will pay employees and manage benefits during the interruption.

Communications and Data Access

Communication is critical during an emergency or significant interruption of business activities, and one of HR’s main roles during a continuity initiative is to alert employees and direct their work orders during the crisis. HR will create and distribute instructions to employees about a backup communications system, which can include the use of blast emails or a password-protected intranet site only employees can access. During the crisis, HR will continue to keep in touch with employees and make sure they can keep in touch with their departments, suppliers and customers. It will give instructions for how and where they are to perform their work and answer questions from staff members.


An HR contingency plan might contain two relocation scenarios. The first is relocation to a temporary backup location or work-from-home situations for employees. The second is relocation back to the original workplace. Both of these relocations must be as seamless as possible, because one unproductive employee at the beginning of the chain of command can stymie all links behind her. Relocation plans can include the transportation and lodging of employees sent to new locations, giving workers access to company data from different locations and preparing a physical workspace, such as an office, store, warehouse or manufacturing facility. After moving back to the original place of business, HR works to return working conditions to normal as soon as possible.