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Planning pays off for St Vincent’s in Brisbane

The storm that threatened a vital community service

On 27 November 2014, Brisbane was struck by a severe, late afternoon storm that caused widespread damage. The state office of St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland was in the firing line. It was hit with hailstones the size of tennis balls, which blocked the building's box gutters and flooded the top floor.  40 staff had to be evacuated as ceiling tiles crashed down around them and water pooled across the floor.

Due to the extent of the damage, the top floor had to be closed off. This left 20 staff without workspaces and many without the equipment they needed to do their jobs.

Some of those evacuated were responsible for the Society's Brisbane Helpline, which fields more than 200 calls a day. It was imperative to get this service up and running again to take disaster relief calls from others affected by the storm.

Forward thinking averts disaster

In late 2013, the Society invited CCI's risksupport team to run a Risk Assessment & Profiling Workshop to help identify and better manage risks. Through this process, 37 key risks were identified. At the top of the list was the lack of an effective Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Not having a BCP in place could have had a major impact on the Society's ability to provide its services in the event of a natural disaster like the November 2014 storm.

However, exactly three months prior to the storm, the Society finalised its BCP and staff training with CCI's risksupport team. This meant, when the storm hit, everyone had an understanding of what to do and procedures to follow, especially when it came to the all-important IT system.

The BCP in action

"With CCI's risksupport team we were able to develop a comprehensive BCP covering all the Society's critical business functions. During the development process we'd identified disruption to our IT system as our most critical risk.  Fortunately, the IT server was located on the first floor of the building and was not impacted by the water. So the Business Continuity team could start calmly working through the logistics of other issues, like providing a workspace, computer and phone set up for staff who had been displaced."

"The BCP identified the resources we'd need to resume operations from a secondary location. With a disaster recovery kit including phones and spare stock computers, 10 Helpline staff and volunteers were able to relocate to a meeting room on the first floor, plug into a data port, and begin taking calls from 9am the morning after the storm, without any disruption to the service."

"The BCP served as a useful checklist as operations resumed, enabling the Business Continuity team to quickly assess the extent to which operations had been disrupted and identify steps to be taken. Even simple prompts to check staff had arrived home safely after the storm gave management a sense of control. Knowing things were being done in a cohesive, structured manner, and that nothing important was being overlooked, was very reassuring." - Joe Duskovic - Corporate Secretary & Legal Services Manager, St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland

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