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23-11-2012

Businesses should expect the unexpected

One of the most high-profile commercial claims we’ve ever been involved in was caused by the catastrophic Buncefield explosion. The force of the blast at the oil storage facility measured 2.4 on the Richter scale, and it has been described as the biggest incident of its kind in peacetime Europe.

Our client had an industrial unit nearby, and this was so severely damaged that the company couldn’t continue trading. We were able to guide them through their options for reinstating the business as quickly as possible, and then helped them claim under the business interruption element of their insurance policy.

As in every business interruption claim we get involved in, there was no warning at Buncefield. The emergency came completely out of the blue. Whatever the incident – fire, flood, explosion, theft – it can have a deeply damaging effect on your business.

The importance of a contingency plan

What we’ve always found it that the companies which come through such disasters more successfully are those which have planned for the unexpected. It’s highly unlikely that disaster will strike, but it might – and having a solid and well-rehearsed contingency plan is one of the best things you can do to help you through the initial crisis. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated: it just needs to address the most critical aspects of your operations.

Many local authorities provide help on contingency planning, and often have advice on their websites. One example is Wiltshire County Council which has published a really clear guide on how to put a business contingency plan together: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/business-continuity-guide-for-small-businesses.pdf

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the guide, which underlines the importance of having a contingency plan: “Business success is as much about protection as growth. In an uncertain world, that means creating a business with the flexibility to prosper in changing conditions and strong enough to survive should a disaster strike. The ability to withstand serious incidents like flooding and fire, and quickly re-open for ‘business as usual’, is critical.”

The message is: expect the unexpected and plan for all eventualities. This could make the difference between your business surviving or failing.

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