The business impact of the recent earthquake and aftershocks

Some interesting snippets coming out of the aftermath of the recent earthquake and aftershocks.

Forsyth Barr were caught out in Christchurch in 2011 when they couldn’t get back into their building to access paper documents that were not in electronic form.  As a Forsyth Barr director said” you have to assume you will never get back in.” Forsyth Barr arranged for computers and a place for their staff to work but couldn’t replace the original documents stuck in their condemned building in Christchurch. They did however put a plan in place that worked for them this time when their Lower Hutt office was closed after the 14 November earthquake.

Some legal firms in Christchurch only had paper copies of wills and lost them in 2011. How embarrassing!

Most government agencies now work electronically and many only hold paper documents if they are likely to be needed for legal reasons.  However I am aware of some agencies that have items like building plans that are only held in paper form within the agency and the firm that produced them (possibly electronically for buildings designed and built in the 21st century) has gone out of business.  Who knows where the electronic version or other paper copies of those plans have gone.  Building plans can be quite important after an earthquake.

It really is a shame that it takes a disaster for organisations to take a close look at their records management practices and to think about how they would be placed if they were unable to access their building or their computer system or their paper records.

Certainly even the smallest law firms and accountancy practices need to keep electronic copies of all their critical documentation.  It doesn’t need to be an earthquake; fire is more likely event and that can happen in any town or city.

An article in the Dominion Post on 26 November 2016 highlighted the need for even the smallest fish and chop shop to have a business continuity plan; and I was pleased on Saturday to be able to get fresh fruit and vegetables from a local store that had been closed for two weeks, most of that time waiting for engineers to get to them just to assess their building, let alone fix it. Saturday was the first day they were open again after a frustrating time.

So along with your containers of water (3 litres per person per day for seven days) and emergency kits, please please think about how your business would be able to continue operating in the immediate aftermath of a fire, flood, earthquake or other disaster and make sure your paper records are stored and computer systems are backed up somewhere else so you can access them afterwards and continue your business operations.  Especially care for your insurance policies!

Leave a Comment