Contingency planning by the numbers.

Author:Reynolds, Penny
Position:Managing By The Numbers

The recent hurricanes that hit Florida have many call centers once again pondering their disaster recovery options. It seems to take a few disasters to make us dust off our contingency plans to see if they're up-to-date and capable of seeing us through a real emergency.


A big part of contingency planning involves calculating costs. Costs to prevent or recover from certain events must be weighed against the cost of the actual impact should that event happen. This impact analysis involves calculating and attributing a value to each customer contact so the team can calculate the cost of being out of operation.

Even in those centers that do not generate revenue directly, it is important to agree on a value for each answered contact to serve as a base. Then each measure of prevention should be evaluated to see if the call center could realistically afford each one. Sometimes the cost of prevention is much higher than what the cost of recovery or lost business would be. But more than likely, the cost of an ounce of prevention is less than the pound of cure that might be needed in the end.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends an impact analysis using a format similar to the one provided here.

To use the chart, list the types of emergencies identified down the left column. Estimate the probability of any risk that has been identified. While this is a subjective exercise, it will help in determining which risks to prioritize in the prevention process. Use a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 as the highest probability. For example, a fire has a low probability and a network failure has mid-range potential, according to the sample analysis chart.

Next, assess the potential human impact of each emergency, including the possibility of death or injury. Assign a rating of 1 to 5 with 5 as the highest potential impact. The sample chart shows a fire as having a high impact on people, but the network failure has a low impact rating.

Assess the potential impact to property in terms of losses and damage. Once again, use the 1 to 5 scale with 5 being the highest. Consider the cost to replace, the cost to set up temporary replacement and the cost to repair. The fire in this example would have a high impact on property and a network failure would have little impact.

Score the potential business impact, including loss of market share. Consider business interruption, employees unable to report for work, customers unable to reach the...

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