In the last few months we’ve seen protests both peaceful and not peaceful. Regardless of your personal opinions of the various causes and reasons, businesses have to think about how they should prepare and respond during a civil disturbance. There are various possible impacts on businesses during protests and they range from minor inconveniences like increased road traffic to major business damage to your physical facilities. In the worst case, it could include direct risk to employee safety. There are many variables to consider in your planning for a civil disturbance, but here are a couple of issues that are critical to consider.
First of all, as a responsible employer you need to consider the safety of your employees. Is your workplace safe? Can employees get to and from work safely without crossing protest boundaries? Are customers, suppliers, or other visitors to your business safe? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you have some planning to do. Some people would automatically suggest “just close the office” but this isn’t always a good business decision either. Can you have your employees telework or work from an alternate office? Do you need to hire extra security? Can you use alternate work schedules to have employees come in at off hours when it may be safer? What alternatives do you have to deliver service to your customers if your office is not accessible or they don’t feel comfortable coming to your office?
Another important issue to consider is your communication with employees. You may need to provide instructions in off business hours so how will you do that as a manager or business owner? If you don’t have a good communication process in place before you need it, you will quickly realize that you really wished you had. The good news is if you establish a good communication process it is multi-purpose and beneficial during any kind of incident.
One more issue I’ll mention is your response and recovery plans. Do you know what you will do if something happens? Your response and recovery processes (for civil disturbances and all other disruptive incidents) should be well documented in your business continuity plan.
Civil unrest, protests, and riots are one of many threats businesses need to plan for. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city that has to deal with massive political protests or in a small college town that could suffer from a local college “victory party” riot because your local team won a bit title, your business needs to have a plan in place of what you will do should it happen.