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Seven Key Elements of Business Continuity Planning
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Seven Key Elements of Business Continuity Planning

Don’t hope—plan. 

Consider these two business insurance property closed claims from veterinary practices in the PLIT-sponsored Program:

Dr. A’s Plumbing Ruptures After Cold Weekend
When Dr. A arrived for work Monday morning after a weekend of low temperatures, the building was full of water and still leaking from pipes in the second floor walls. A claim investigation revealed that the plumbing had frozen in the second floor grooming area, and the pipes burst.

The practice closed operations for building repairs. Dr. A rented an office and equipment to continue business operations at a temporary location. A second practice of Dr. A’s accommodated some of the lost business. The insurance carrier paid more than $286,000 in damages for the building, the business property, and business interruption and extra expenses.

Fire Marshal Suspects Rats Burned Down Dr. B’s Practice
A fire ignited inside electrical signage attached to the front of Dr. B’s practice and spread to the roof. The fire department arrived and extinguished it. A third of the practice’s 5,000 square foot roof was damaged, and two-thirds of the building sustained severe soot and water damage including the front entrance, reception area, and three exam rooms. Damaged property included diagnostic equipment, endoscopes, radiographic machinery, and computers.
Due to the extensive damage, the fire marshal and investigator could not determine the fire’s cause. The sign’s fluorescent lights were on a timer during the evening hours. A large nest of rats was found near the sign, and it was suspected that rats had chewed on the sign’s electrical wiring and ignited the fire.
While the practice was being restored, Dr. B established a temporary location to continue operations. The insurance carrier paid more than $875,000 in damages for the building, the business property, and business interruption and extra expenses.

As you can see from these claims, a fire or burst water pipe can force you to shut down in an instant. Restoration can take weeks and months. If you were Dr. A or Dr. B, how prepared would you be? Anticipating potential interruptions, planning your response, and establishing strategies for business continuity will greatly minimize the negative impact to your practice. Even a brief service interruption can mean lost business and chaos.

Seven Key Elements of Business Continuity Planning

1. Establish a Planning Committee
Depending on the size of your practice, the emergency planning team may include veterinarians, practice managers, and supervisors. The committee at smaller practices may include all employees.

2. Conduct a Business Impact Analysis
A business impact analysis (BIA) supports the entire business continuity process. It is a process used to identify, quantify, and qualify the impact of a loss, interruption, or disruption. A BIA identifies mission-critical activities and the time frame within which they must be recovered. Explore all the risks that your practice is exposed to and the possible major disruptions that could occur.
And don’t forget about your suppliers. Could you still operate if your top vendors closed due to a disaster? Consider the actions needed for your practice to remain operational. Plan alternatives for your critical supplier dependencies.

3. Mitigate Risk
After the BIA, the practice should mitigate risks that threaten the health and safety of people, operations, patients, company assets, or the environment by reducing the risk to an acceptable level.
Strategies may include:

  • Building construction
  • Security and fire protection systems
  • Minimizing or eliminating single points of dependency
  • Vendor readiness and qualification of secondary suppliers
  • IT backup strategies and direct response sites
  • Pre-purchasing of critical equipment or components for repair
  • Splitting critical functions and resources between multiple sites
  • Substitution of less hazardous components
  • Preventative maintenance and testing programs
  • Cross-training of personnel

4. Establish Business Continuity Strategies
Establish strategies for:

  • Alternate practices to work at temporarily
  • Mutual aid agreements with animal shelters or other veterinary practices to take patients
  • Cross-training
  • Outsourcing
  • Use of secondary suppliers
  • Prioritization of customers who need care for their pets
  • Referring customers to a pre-identified alternate practice
  • Work-at-home strategies
  • Mobile offices
  • Manual and alternate procedures if computer systems are down

5. Develop Your Plan
Record everything in the BIA process and develop a plan for disasters and emergencies. At a minimum, the plan should include:

  • Policy, purpose, and scope
  • Goals and objectives
  • Assumptions
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Business impact analysis (BIA) results
  • Risk mitigation plans
  • Offsite data and storage requirements
  • Business recovery and continuity strategies
  • Alternate operating strategies
  • Supplier vendor readiness
  • Plan activation and universal response
  • Communication and notification plan
  • Training, drills, and exercises
  • Plan maintenance

Add materials to the plan appendix including:

  • Important contacts (internal and external)
  • Initial notification form
  • Action logs and issues tracking forms
  • Damage assessment form
  • Status forms (personnel, facility, operations)
  • Site emergency procedures
  • Site plans and asset lists
  • Supplier and vendor response plan
  • Client response plan
  • Critical business functions
  • Detailed alternate operating and recovery strategies
  • Equipment recovery priority

6. Implement and Train
Conduct training for employees with key roles and assignments in the business continuity, disaster recovery, and incident response processes.

7. Test the Plan
Testing is the generic term used to describe the critical process of exercising strategies and plans, rehearsing with coworkers, and testing systems (technology infrastructure and administrative) to demonstrate business continuity.

In conclusion, use these basic elements of emergency planning to prioritize key business processes, identify significant threats to normal operations, and plan mitigation strategies. A business continuity plan is an essential element for every veterinary practice.


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The AVMA PLIT offers a full line of insurance products for today's veterinarian. PLIT-sponsored products and services are available to AVMA and Student AVMA members. The PLIT has been serving veterinarians since 1962 and its mission is to provide a valuable AVMA member service that protects the assets and reputations of the participants and enhances the image of the profession. Visit us at or call us at 800-228-7548.

Produced by: HUB International Midwest Limited, insurance broker and administrator for the AVMA PLIT.











Washington State 

Veterinary Medical Association 
8024 Bracken Pl SE
Snoqualmie, WA 98065

Phone: (425) 396-3191
Fax: (425) 396-3192

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