Pandemic preparedness lacking in run up to lockdown

Research published today points to fundamental failures in business continuity planning amongst UK companies, as it suggests that before the coronavirus outbreak, two-thirds of organisations polled had no plans in place for responding to a pandemic, despite the same number having what they considered to be an "up-to-date business continuity plan".

This is amongst the findings of Databarracks’ annual Data Health Check survey, which asked 400 IT decision-makers in the UK questions on a number of critical issues relating to security, disaster recovery and business continuity. It also found that half of businesses have already lost revenue as a result of the virus, and 43% have reduced staff hours

Peter Groucutt, managing director at Databarracks, said: “For years, pandemics have been consistently at the top of both national and community risk registers as the hazard with the highest potential impact and likelihood of occurring. However, our survey shows the COVID-19 outbreak caught the majority of UK businesses off guard, which represents a fundamental failure in business continuity and resilience planning.

Despite these difficulties, Groucutt believes that organisations can learn some valuable lessons from the crisis.

“Good business continuity shouldn’t be overly complex. In many ways it’s simply applying common sense at scale. There are reasons why organisations might neglect addressing particular risks like pandemics. Cognitive biases mean we focus more on the types of incidents that have happened to us recently rather than are most likely to occur. This is why we always recommend using national and community risk registers in your planning. They won’t always be a perfect fit for you, but they serve as excellent sanity checks to make sure you aren’t missing something.

“The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies included pandemic as a ‘medium to high’ likelihood of ‘occurring in the next five years’. It even noted ‘In light of evidence from recent emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika, the likelihood of this risk has increased since 2015’. If more organisations had used these resources, there wouldn’t be such a gap in planning."

Databarracks' study found that the companies with the best responses operate across multiple sites, have remote working in place, are not dependent on single suppliers and have a diverse customer base.

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