Business continuity

What is business continuity?

Business continuity is about having in place arrangements that help you to continue to deliver your key functions/products/services when faced with a business disruption. For example, if your premises were affected by a fire/flood, how would you carry on your core business?

Business continuity planning - advice

To develop an effective business continuity plan, there should be an ongoing planning process to refine and improve arrangements. There are four key stages in a business continuity management lifecycle:

  1. Understanding your organisation
  2. Developing your response and recovery procedures (plan)
  3. Training staff and exercising the procedures in the plan
  4. Maintaining and reviewing

Understanding your organisation

The first stage in the process is about understanding your organisation and what your priorities are. This is usually done using a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), which is a tool that helps you to understand your most urgent activities and the resources needed to carry them out. The key questions that could be considered as part of your Business Impact Analysis:

  • What does your organisation deliver?
  • What are your most urgent activities and how would you prioritise these?
  • What would be the impact over time if urgent activities were not delivered?
  • What resources do you need to deliver these activities?
  • What are the risks to service delivery e.g. do you have a back-up premises to work from if your main building is inaccessible?

It is also useful to look at what could threaten the delivery of your most urgent activities, for example, are you reliant on one supplier? Once you’ve identified what the threats are, you should look at what actions you can take to mitigate the risks? For example, identifying other suppliers and discussing with them if they would be able to supply the product you use at short notice.

Developing your response and recovery procedures

The response and recovery procedures are usually documented in a business continuity plan (BCP). It is usually a good idea to look at the outcomes of a disruption and not its causes, for example a business continuity incident generally means you have lost one or more of the following things:

  • Loss of key staff or skills (sickness, severe weather, etc)
  • Loss of critical systems (ICT, telecommunications, etc)
  • Denial of access or damage to facilities (fire, flood, power cut, etc)
  • Loss of key resources (suppliers, specialist machinery, etc)

Training staff and exercising plan

The procedures in the plan cannot be considered valid until they have been tested which is usually done using a business continuity exercise.

An exercise can look at a number of different scenarios, such as heavy snow or a cyber-attack. Using the plan you can decide on what your strategies would be for responding to and recovering from the disruption. For example, what would be your strategy for coping with a loss of staff?

The most crucial element of this stage is identifying the lessons learned from the exercise. They should be incorporated into the plan and will highlight any extra training needed for staff who have key responsibilities set out in the plan.

Maintaining and Reviewing

It’s a good idea to identify someone who’s responsible for keeping the plan up to date. They would be responsible for reviewing the plan annually and ensuring the procedures in the plan are still accurate.

Can the Council assist me with my business continuity plan?

Cambridgeshire County Council does not write business continuity plans for organisations. However, they can provide advice and assistance with the business continuity management lifecycle and can direct organisations to useful websites.


If you have any questions about business continuity, please get in touch with the Emergency Management Team at

Manchester City Council, Understanding your organisation:

Manchester City Council, Developing your business continuity plan:

RISCAuthority, Business Continuity Template for Small Businesses:

Manchester City Council, Training and exercising:, Business Continuity Management Toolkit:

Business Continuity Institute:

British Standards Institution, ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management:

Nottinghamshire County Council, Coping with a school emergency – resource documents: