London - business as usual


Effective business continuity planning meant that it was business as usual for most firms in London in the aftermath of Thursday's terrorist attacks.

According to the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), most companies had put their disaster recovery plans on standby by Friday, with only a small number remaining in crisis mode.

The events also showed that major incident rehearsals have paid dividends, with London's emergency services coping extremely well with the bombings and their aftermath.

While only a few companies evacuated their offices – including UBS and Cable & Wireless – firms across the capital were left trying to get tens of thousands of staff home in a city where the transport network was completely shut down.

Some, such as banks BNP Paribas and Barclays, hired fleets of buses to help workers get out of the city at the end of the working day, while BNP was also one of those to activate emergency plans to block-book hotel rooms for those staff unable to make it home.

For employees of many other companies, however, there was no choice but to walk home, a journey that took thousands of people many hours.

Digby Jones, Director-General of employers group the CBI, said that like the emergency services - who yet again proved their professionalism - the business community had been preparing for a long time for such events and had implemented contingency plans to ensure continuity to the greatest extent possible

"We know from our own research that nearly two-thirds of companies overhauled their security arrangements in 2004, with 80 per cent discussing security in detail at Board level. This work proved its worth," he said.

Meanwhile, the BCI said that it was striking how few organisations felt it necessary to activate their emergency plans.

"The only problems people have experienced have been with pagers and mobiles," the BCI said, after the government put into force its Access Overload Control plan which shut down parts of the phone network to give priority for emergency services.

"Confidence in London and esprit de corps of staff will inspire customers, showing that companies prepared for all eventualities can be relied upon even under exceptional and difficult circumstances," the BCI added in a statement released on Friday.

One firm that did need to invoke its emergency plans was The London Clearing House, LCH Clearnet, which handles administrative functions for a number of London's markets. It was evacuated, and restarted business from a disaster recovery site.

Two of the explosions also occurred within 400 yards of the London support centre of payment processing firm, BankServ.

"Today's terrorist outrage has once again, in the most tragic circumstances, underlined the importance of business continuity planning," said Dave Kvederis, BankServ's CEO.

"We cannot ever undo the damage that has been wrought on so many lives. But we can at least ensure that, as business people, we are prepared to handle disaster and will not let terrorists achieve the economic damage they seek to inflict," he added.

And as Digby Jones said: "neither the business community nor the British population as a whole will be cowed or defeated by these terrorists - they picked the wrong country if they thought otherwise."