SMEs are urged to set up continuity plans

Pressure is growing on smaller and medium sized businesses to ensure they have business continuity plans in place, following Police warnings that firms are unprepared for a terrorist attack.

Pressure is growing on smaller and medium sized businesses to ensure they have business continuity plans in place, following Police warnings that firms are unprepared for a terrorist attack.

Half the firms in the City of London have not taken practical steps to ensure they can continue operations following a terrorist incident, the commissioner of the City of London police warned last week.

Although most large firms have plans in place, smaller and medium sized firms often feel they lack the time and the money, to invest in their own business continuity plans, City of London counter-terrorism officers said.

But increasing efforts by large organisations to ensure the continuity of the supply chains, new legislation, and the development of a new British standard, will mean that SMEs will no longer be able to ignore business continuity.

The Bank of England and the Treasury are working with 60 major City organisations, on the Resilience Benchmarking Project, which aims to assess how the UK's financial system would react to a major disruption.

Lloyd's insurance market is conducting a review of all 44 Lloyd's managing agents and working with them to ensure they have the right emergency plans in place.

In the public sector, the Civil Contingencies Act will make it compulsory for local authorities and emergency services to put business continuity plans in place by the end of the year.

The Act will have knock on-effects for SMEs which will be expected to demonstrate their plans.

Next year, the British Standards Institute (BSI) publishes the UK's first business continuity standard. Larger firms are expected to use it as a minimum requirement for their suppliers. "Companies further up the supply chain are going to be asking questions," said Nicki Dennis, head of risk market development at BSI.

Major supermarkets are embarking on programmes to ensure their suppliers have business continuity plans in place, and private sector firms including British Airways are beginning to specify business continuity in suppliers contracts, she said.

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office has also produced guidelines and is working with trade associations, to provide them with practical advice.

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