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Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Management

Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Management

Emergency planning and business continuity management are two separate but very closely related industry sectors. In this article, we will look at the two fields in parallel …

What’s involved?

Emergency planning

Emergency planning and management professionals anticipate, plan for and respond to a range of events, such as major industrial incidents, natural disasters, and (very topical at the moment) health epidemics and pandemics such as coronavirus, in order to provide as much public protection as possible. Working as part of a team, these professionals will know how to respond to, for example, terrorism, floods, oil spills and volcanic eruptions in order to offer the most immediate and best outcome. The public sector uses professionals in this field to deal with civil disruption such as wide-area adverse weather conditions and terrorism. The private sector uses them to help large corporations and organisations put contingency plans in place for any kind of disaster that might significantly reduce their ability to run the business at maximum efficiency.

The knock-on effects of worldwide health or environmental crises and civil unrest range from dips in money markets and travel disruption, to the availability of spare parts for vehicles and other components essential to the normal functioning of industry. Such occurrences – of which the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is the latest and most serious example – are stark reminders of the need for greater community and business resilience. There is one positive, however, as such events have recently been responsible for an upturn in emergency planning and management employment, turning the sector into a growth industry.

Business continuity management

Very similar is business continuity management (BCM), which involves understanding what enables an organisation to run smoothly day to day; how that balance could be disrupted by an unexpected event such as flood, loss of power, pandemic or terrorist activity; what the priorities would be if it were; and what reasonable steps can be taken both to reduce the likelihood of this happening and the impact should it occur. The aim is to ensure that essential services or operations can be maintained at an acceptable level to minimise loss of productivity, assets, customer service or reputation through to full recovery.

Business continuity evolved from what was primarily an IT-focused discipline during the 1970s and has become an increasingly recognised standard risk management practice (see our related feature here), encompassing organisations’ wider assets: premises, processes, suppliers, people and profile. Having been embraced by the financial services industry in particular, BCM has now been adopted across almost every industry sector, both public and private, at the same time as becoming a profession in its own right. 

BCM continues to gain increasing recognition globally. It is a regulatory requirement in some sectors, such as the financial services, and recognised as a function of good corporate governance in many others, particularly the public sector and corporations. BCM practitioners are supported by their own professional body, the Business Continuity Institute. The UK leads the way in BCM: the market is well established, and experience and qualifications gained here are valued around the world.

The differences

RockDove Solutions (developer of In Case of Crisis, an award-winning issues and crisis app used by hundreds of leading organisations to better prepare for and respond faster to emerging threats) explains that, although the two fields have plenty of overlapping interests, their main goals are actually quite different. Emergency management seeks to safeguard people from harm, while business continuity is focused on the continuation of key business operations. Of course, the effective management of an emergency will affect business continuity efforts, but the two are not identical.

Emergency management is most often apparent in the form of the procedures and actions taken immediately after a crisis has occurred. Business continuity officers, on the other hand, take steps to maintain or restore the organisation to its pre-crisis state.

In the ideal corporate set-up, emergency management and business continuity personnel would be completely separate entities with their own teams, but in practice, their roles often get lumped together based on the misconception that they are one and the same.

Emergency management and business continuity involve very distinct tasks:

  • Emergency management often involves directing people and resources away from danger, holding emergency drills and training sessions, evacuating facilities, and working with first responders to ensure all stakeholders make it through a crisis safe and sound.
  • Business continuity tasks include protecting the business’s reputation online, establishing and maintaining systems and support teams, restoring IT systems, and ensuring employees are able to return to their usual work roles following an emergency.

Of course, despite the differences between emergency management and business continuity, in the end these two distinct departments are both working towards the same objective: helping to ensure the success of the business. Their specific, day-to-day focus may differ, but by cooperating, the two teams will be much better positioned to succeed.

Skill up while serving

The roles and opportunities available in emergency planning and business continuity management are so varied (as can be seen from the descriptions above) that the examples given here can only be regarded as general. However, some core skills used in the military – such as a swift and flexible response to an emerging risk, threat or situation, planning, horizon scanning, risk assessment, resource and people management, coordinating an operational response, decision making and working in a multi-agency environment – will be very important. For business continuity in particular, project management, business process analysis, and the ability to design and deliver scenario-based exercises may be added.

Military personnel may have a good understanding and/or experience of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) protection, negotiation and, in some cases, engineering. They may also have been exposed to fatalities and know how to deal with emotional responses to these. Occasionally, Service personnel become part of a team that is undertaking humanitarian and disaster relief work, or the kind of tasks they have responded to recently, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Such mobilisations can involve working round the clock in sometimes precarious conditions using highly specific skills.

FACTFILE

TRANSLATE YOUR SKILLS

Emergency work is perfect for ex-Forces personnel, especially if they have experience of logistics and planning – in relation to both personnel and equipment. Directly transferable skills include:

  • collaborating with others in order to assess a situation, then working out strategies to deal with it
  • using a range of media to communicate
  • carrying out risk assessments and providing technical support
  • coordinating activities – such as evacuations or preparing public shelters
  • liaising with a range of departments and agencies in order to gather or exchange equipment and personnel
  • testing and evaluating plans and strategies in line with national/international regulations
  • making inspections of equipment, keeping up to date with changes in the situation, adapting plans at short notice to fit needs
  • understanding that, on some occasions ‘on site’, there may be a risk to personal safety.

Other skills/requirements include:

  • the ability to write plans and reports
  • keeping up to date with, and developing, operating procedures 
  • complete flexibility in terms of how, when and where the work needs to take place
  • persuasion – when it comes to, for example, applying for funding
  • tutoring/mentoring/training others (perhaps across different agencies and organisations)
  • personal mobility may be an advantage – particularly when working for a local authority that has restricted budgets.

WHERE TO SEARCH FOR JOB VACANCIES

Try checking out the following websites:

You can also look at individual council websites in your area for opportunities. 

Get qualified!

Generally speaking, the foundation for emergency planning and business continuity management roles has been a relevant first degree. Suitable subjects include:

  • business continuity and security management
  • disaster management
  • environmental hazards and disaster management
  • international security and disaster management.

On some occasions, however, an employer may simply require previous relevant experience in a related or similar field – such as having been in the Forces.

A BTEC professional award, certificate or diploma in Emergency Management at a variety of levels is a nationally recognised qualification, and therefore entry point, into this area. BTEC offers five level 4 awards that each stand alone as a qualification or, when combined, lead to an Emergency Management Professional Diploma.

Specialist emergency planning postgraduate courses are available through a number of universities, and culminate in a postgraduate MSc. Further specialist courses can be taken that will develop knowledge in a particular area, such as working in the voluntary sector.

A number of organisations offer their own specialist training. This will result in qualifications that demonstrate the specific skills and competencies required.

Those who enter this employment area at assistant level may have the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills through in-house courses.

There is a wide range of relevant undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications available in the UK and overseas. Work-based experience and learning can also lead to professional qualifications, such as fellow, member and associate member of the Emergency Planning Society. There are also many professionally accredited training courses available in both business continuity and emergency management, together with more generic courses in risk management.

Use your ELC

Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELC website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to our in-depth features elsewhere on this website.

Finding employment

The globalisation of supply chains, terrorist activity, floods, coronavirus and many other adverse events affecting people, businesses and economies around the world has led to an increasing number of employment opportunities in both the public and private and sectors for specialists in emergency management and business continuity. 

For emergency management, public-sector resilience and emergency planning roles exist in national, regional and local government, as local authority emergency planning officers, health authority emergency planning officers, within regional government resilience teams, and operationally with the emergency services. Other posts exist in the private sector with the commercial entities managing the UK’s critical national infrastructure, such as the energy, utilities, telecommunications industries and the transport network. Many of these roles also have a business continuity component.

Employment opportunities may exist in, for example, IT and communications companies, within the health sector, in industry, in the travel sector, within law enforcement agencies, and many more. There are opportunities to progress within and move between sectors. Part of an emergency manager’s role might be to stay abreast of the law, and train a range of departments/organisations in how to put in place their own basic emergency planning and management strategies.

The recognition that business continuity is of fundamental importance means that many private- and public-sector organisations have dedicated BC roles or even departments. Some smaller organisations combine these with facilities management, health and safety, risk management, disaster recovery or security. Other specific business continuity/emergency planning and management opportunities exist within specialist resilience, business continuity, crisis management and emergency management consultancies.

Employment in emergency planning and management is likely to be a mix of office-based work for a standard 37-hour week, and making visits to locations such as airports, industrial facilities, oil rigs and hospitals. If an emergency occurs, then managers are required to work flexibly for the length of time it takes to restore a stable situation.

Work experience

Employers value relevant work experience and so a part-time job or a placement in an emergency planning or business continuity role will be an advantage. If you can’t find a specific work experience opportunity, focus on developing the skills essential to the job. Practical experience, such as voluntary work for a humanitarian organisation, may also be useful.

Rates of pay

Pay scales are likely to vary considerably depending on organisation and level of responsibility, but may start at £22,000 and could go up to in excess of £100,000, depending on experience. The private sector is very likely to offer higher rates than the public.

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