When creating a Business Continuity plan, the first part of the process is identifying the risks that can impact you. If you are unaware of the potential risks to your organization, there is no way to plan for them.

Every organization is different. This blog post is focused on social service organizations and provides a framework to help jumpstart your self-analysis by providing ten issues to remember.

1. Natural Disasters: A Force Beyond Control

Every geographical region is different. I live in Maryland, and other areas throughout the state have separate issues. The Eastern shore is more likely to receive a direct hit from a coastal hurricane than Central and Western Maryland, where there are mountain ranges. Each region requires its consideration. Take some time to consider the unique factors of your space, city, and geography.

2. Cybersecurity Incidents: The Digital Threat Landscape

Cybersecurity threats are unavoidable at this point. Every business keeps data. The question is not whether you keep private data; it’s “How much private data do you keep?”  Consider personal data for employees, donors, clients, and customers. Even if you are using a third-party system to store that data, that doesn’t mean the third-party system will take responsibility for a breach if you are the source of the intrusion.

3. Technology Failures: Unforeseen Glitches.

Servers fail. Laptops die. Printers go out of commission. It’s essential to consider the critical parts of your operations and the outcomes of what will happen if they are not working. If your care providers cannot access client data, will they be able to do their job? Can customer service representatives care for your clients if they cannot access customer files? What steps would you need to take to continue operations quickly?

4. Supply Chain Disruptions: Protecting the Lifeline

The beginning of Covid served as a reminder to everyone that our world is interconnected. The chip shortage made it difficult to buy new vehicles and electronics. Many of my social service clients still feel the effect of vehicle shortages as they try to scale their community programs. So while most social service organizations are not as dependent on sourcing a specific material from a particular place in the world to build a product, it’s still important to consider whether there are critical materials within your operations.

5. Health Emergencies: Navigating through Crises

Covid is the obvious example. Residential facilities and daycare throughout the country experienced disruptions to their business as the pandemic spread worldwide. They were restricted by the number of people they could have in their program. Staffing and spacing became very difficult. Even if we never have to live through another pandemic, there are other versions of Health Emergencies to consider. What do you do if a different infectious disease occurs in your facility? What if someone has a heart attack?

woman sitting in front of computer holding her head

6. Human Error: The Unintentional Threat

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it would be that people make mistakes. Staff members lose track of clients in your care. They mistype data in a system. They forget to follow up on change requests. The critical thing to consider is where are the most significant opportunities for human error in your operation, consider the outcomes, then what you will do in that situation.

7. Utility Failures: When Basics Break Down

This is a critical issue in operations that provide care for other people. There is an automatic health hazard if the power goes out in a residential facility or the water fails. Knowing what you will do with the people in your care is very important.

8. Financial Instability:  Navigating Economic Uncertainties

Berkshire Hathaway keeps more than $100 billion in cash on hand. They do this for several reasons. One is that it allows them to take advantage of opportunities anytime. The second reason is Warren Buffett never wanted to need to ask a friend for cash. Economic swings impact us all. For child care centers, parents may reduce the number of days their child is in your program. Families might scale back on the number of hours they need for Home Health agencies. The important thing is for your operation to be financially insulated when these things happen.

9. Regulatory and Compliance Issues: Staying Ahead of Changes

Social Service organizations have numerous compliance issues. They range from zoning to licensing to accreditations and others. All of these compliance issues can have an impact on the overall health of your business. If a local community requires all residential facilities to be sprinkled, and you are in an old building, this could be a significant cash outlay for the operation. As much as possible, stay out in front of these. It’s one thing if you plan. It’s a different issue if you are surprised by it.

10. Physical Security Breaches:  Protecting your premises

Let’s list a few ways your facilities can be damaged:  vandalism, burglary, and arson. In all of these situations, it’s possible that your facilities could be damaged to the point where they cannot be occupied. In 2008, HVAC units were stolen out of air conditioning units. The thieves would steal the copper from the units, then sell the material. A similar issue happened recently when thieves would steal the catalytic converters from vehicles for palladium. Human mischief can cause damage to your facilities and make them inoperable.

hand holding a pen and making a list

This is just a starting point…

This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list. Some of the topics will be of higher significance to your operation than others. A sober home operator will likely tell me they don’t keep much data, so they are not concerned about a data breach. However, stolen copper from an HVAC system would probably catch their attention.

I hope that this list can be used to spark a conversation. Once your leadership team has a scope of the risks that concern you, it’s possible to start grading them for potential impacts on the business.

Grade out the risks in two different ways:

1.      Frequency

2.      Severity

Events that happen frequently and significantly impact the business require a lot of attention. Events that occur rarely and have a minimal impact on the company do not require much attention.

Revisit the list from time to time:

The world changes. I was born in a world without Google and YouTube. If I ignored those services now, I would be very foolish. The same is true for you and your business. Wars, pandemics, social issues, and compliance issues will all change over time. Ensure you periodically revisit the list of the problems that can interrupt your business.

In Conclusion

Once you have identified the issues that can interrupt your business, you can make plans to minimize their impact. Take time to prepare. It could be the difference between the survival and death of your organization.

Further Reading