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The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing brokerages to evaluate their business continuity plans (BCPs) for sustaining operations and ensuring ongoing service, as well as their business resumption plans (BRPs) for restoring disrupted services.

When evaluating continuity planning, brokers should trace critical processes from start to finish and consider how they could be disrupted. For example, if agent training takes place in the office, closing the office would cause a disruption. A good BCP describes how to reduce the chance of an office closing, and a BRP describes how to resume training at the restored facility, another facility or online.

Rather than writing an entire plan for each type of disaster, it’s easier to plan for the various possible effects of disasters. These include:

– Inaccessible offices
– Personnel loss
– Loss of information (due to damage or theft)
– IT/internet/network disruption
– Telephone disruption
– Agent or public-facing service disruption

Each disaster plan can then refer to the appropriate sections to reduce the risks and remediate the effects. This makes plans modular and easier to maintain.

Parts of the Plan

Roles and Responsibilities: Which employees have what roles and responsibilities? How do you handle employee unavailability?

Team Contact: Up-to-date contact information needs to be accessible in an emergency. How does your communication tree work?

Coordination Sites: If your office is unavailable, how or where will you coordinate your emergency response?

Communication Plan: Who crafts communications for the public and the media? How will you reach stakeholders?

Critical Information: What information might you need on hand? Examples include insurance, funding, key vendors, inventory and configuration details of the phone system, computers and software, data backups and passwords.

Activity Plans: What step-by-step procedures will team members follow when specific events occur?

Plan Testing and Maintenance: Implement a schedule for training staff, conducting tests and drills, and updating plans based on test results.

Pandemic Specifics
Here are some specific actions that can help with the current situation:

– Evaluate your technical ability to support alternate work facilities (e.g., home offices) and to provide access to critical software and records. Make sure your virtual private network (VPN) can support the increased usage.
– Ensure cross-training so you can shift work responsibilities to available personnel.
– Practice infection controls at all offices (cleaning, contact protocols, etc.).
– Implement protocols for monitoring employee and visitor health.
– Ensure agent, client and transaction services can be performed without meeting in-person.
– Communicate to staff and clients what you are doing to improve safety, e.g., steps to make showings safer, online transaction processes, steps to reduce risk at unavoidable meetings, etc.
– Encourage staff to maintain their own pandemic preparedness at work and at home.

The only way to be sure your plan is sound is to run a test, identify issues and adjust accordingly. Try to be as realistic as possible, such as making key employees unavailable.

These are unprecedented times for our industry, but there is a lot you can do to minimize disruption to your brokerage. If you’d like to know more about these or other continuity planning techniques, I’d be happy to help.

Matt Cohen is principal, Advisory Services at CoreLogic. For more information, please visit www.corelogic.com.