Community Projects Assistance Services Qld (CPASQ)’s Marj Henderson talks about a CSIA demonstration project focused around peer to peer networking in business continuity planning.

She also shares how this strengthened Brisbane Valley Meals on Wheels (BVMOW) disaster readiness just in time for two events that disrupted the nation in this week’s blog.

Peer to Peer Networking in Business Continuity Planning

The peer to peer network model was identified by CSIA, Industry and the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors during the inaugural phases of CSIA’s disaster management work.

Peer to peer networks leverage local capacity within community-based organisations to optimise local expertise and learn from and be supported by each other.

In the Somerset region project, headed up by CPASQ in partnership with CSIA, community groups and organisations were brought together to undertake collaborative business continuity planning that would ensure the continuation of meal service during a disaster or health event.

Marj noticed how this process strengthened the connections with Council’s Local Disaster Management Group.

“It was evident that initially network members didn’t really think they could help each other in a significant way,” Marj explains. “When they did get together and worked out that they could help each other in certain areas, I think people were really delighted with the outcomes.”

“An atmosphere of trust was established where members felt safe to challenge each other’s ideas and at the same time respect each other’s positions on issues,” continues Marj.

“They gained a better understanding of what the role of the Local Disaster Management Group was and the resources they had in their control.”

The benefits of making Business Continuity Planning a priority

Through reviewing and improving their business continuity plan via the peer to peer network process, BVMOW has significantly increased their organisational readiness and capacity to continue business in times of disaster and emergency events including epidemic/pandemic events.

“The most significant change that has come out of this process is the deep understanding of business continuity more broadly,” Marj states. “The Brisbane Valley Meals on Wheels committee realised the flexibility of the plans and that they didn’t have to have everything planned out to minute detail.”

“They now have a much better idea of what to do if disruptive events occur, they are much more confident, and the readiness level is much higher than it was,” explains Marj.

That readiness level was put to the test with two recent events since BVMOW took part in the demonstration project.

Putting Business Continuity Planning to the test

It was during the final phase of the project in November 2019 that Australia experienced one of the worst nation-wide bushfire events in history.

For the Somerset region, bushfires at Ravensbourne National Park began heading very quickly towards Esk and the town was put on alert for evacuation.

Having recently been through the demonstration project,  BVMOW were able to quickly assess any gaps in their business continuity plan.

“During the bushfire BVMOW members realised some gaps in their plan and they knew what to do,” Marj explains.

“They had a meeting of meal delivery volunteers to debrief the next day, get all the feedback, and came back to me to help with what should be added to their plan.

“And also, because of the peer to peer network process, they knew personally who to contact to provide feedback from the community to the local DMG.

“And that’s when I really noticed they felt more knowledgeable and confident,” says Marj. “It was like a light bulb switching on of the real value of having a solid business continuity plan.”

One Step Ahead in Pandemic Planning

When news of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) hit our screens and media in Australia, the BVMOW acted quickly and called on Marj to help out with adding a new epidemic/pandemic section to their business continuity plan.

Marj explains that while epidemics were already mentioned in their business continuity plan, they wanted a whole new separate section dedicated to any sort of epidemic or pandemic that linked to health advice depending on the type of virus or bacteria.

“This small volunteer-run organisation should be congratulated for recognising early on that they needed to prepare for this thing that might happen. They quickly updated their plan which shows they truly understand what Business Continuity Planning is about,” says Marj.

As 2020 has already proven, community-based organisations need to act quickly on unprecedented events and what they mean to business.

CSIA has a suite of business continuity and pandemic planning resources to keep your organisation and workforce going.

CSIA in partnership with Industry and the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors is supporting business continuity planning through peer to peer demonstration projects.