Urgent and fundamental changes needed for UK flood planning PITT Review

Business Continuity Management 

Pitt Review places BCM at the heart of National prevention and management Strategy

Sir Michael Pitt, who has led the independent review commissioned by the government following widespread flooding last year, has made more than 90 recommendations in his final report published today (25/06/08).

Throughout the final report, Business Continuity Management is cited as a primary means of establishing a far higher capability. The submission made by the Continuity Forum has been reflected in key recommendations made by Sir Michael with all of the measures and proposals by the Continuity Forum being recommended to government by the review team.

Stressing the urgent need for much better communication, alignment and consistency of planning across government agencies and business the review repeats the calls of the Continuity Forum for greater transparency, clarity and commitment. The review comes out strongly in favour of Business Continuity Management as a primary tool in developing both proactive and effective procedures across the UK and spanning both the public and private sector.

Key amongst these are reaffirming the role of Local Authorities in promoting Business Continuity and ensuring that measures available are extended into areas often neglected, such as planning consent and local resilience strategies. The report also recommends that a National Resilience Group is formed to focus, manage and provide leadership across UK planning.

One of the key proposals of the Continuity Forum was to formally recognise the British Standard for Business Continuity (BS25999) and extend its adoption through updating the current Civil Contingencies Act legislation to be the baseline standard for the public sector and public utilities.

Despite opposition from some quarters, this recommendation has been fully adopted and presents a major opportunity to considerably improve both the focus and commitment on BCM in organisations of all types across the UK.

Chairman of the Continuity Forum, Russell Price, commenting on the reviews finding says "The strength of support for BCM and particularly for BS25999 from Sir Michael and the review team is very encouraging. We have long known that despite the work of many in the industry a lot more needs to be done to really embed a BCM culture into organisations.” Continuing, Price says “ … the report states a third of our utilities are not even testing their plans and the risks they are taking cascade to affect us all. Planning is currently inconsistent and much of the necessary communication and alignment of planning is missing… we really have to do better.

By supporting and fully implementing the recommendations of the Pitt Review, government has the opportunity to transform the resilience to diverse threats, not just flood risk. The long term payoff for our communities and organisations could be huge, it just needs the government to act now.”

Over the course of the past 10 months, the review has examined the circumstances surrounding the serious flooding that occurred in the summer of 2007. The Interim report published in December 2007 and making 15 urgent recommendations was accepted in full by Hilary Benn for the Government. This was followed in April by a commentary, explaining how progress was being made against the recommendations. The ‘report card’ was mixed at best.

In May, over 1000 critical sites were identified as being seriously at risk. The consultation process during the review has been extensive both in the public and private sector. The Continuity Forum contributed to the review providing background information, research and expertise directly to the Review team.

The Continuity Forum, in association with the Cabinet Office, will be holding a Special Risks Summit on September 26th addressing the issues raised by the Pitt Review.

Additional Continuity Forum Comment

Currently, the depth and level of planning for events is far too variable and fragmented. This is especially worrying when one considers that these Companies, responsible for our infrastructure, are specifically cited in the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) as Category 2 responders and therefore should be far more aware and diligent.

Yet the issue is how this diligence should be demonstrated. BS25999 was not in place at the time of the CCA’s formulation and therefore could not be cited as the ‘baseline’ for business continuity which does feature as a specific duty on organisations. This understandable omission results in inconsistencies and only partial commitment to the process.

This ‘loophole’ needs to be closed. We all know it is impossible to fully eliminate the risks associated with flooding, but with careful planning and structured investment, substantial progress could be made to reduce the vulnerability of our homes and organisations to serious damage and disruption.

In our submission to the Pitt review we called for all Public Utilities and other key infrastructure providers to be required to demonstrate their resilience against all forms of disruption by legislation. By enhancing the legal framework to require that these organisations meet or exceed the British Standard for Business Continuity (BS25999), inertia and complacency to planning would be overcome, providing our organisations and communities with greater resilience against disruption of all types, not just flooding.

It is interesting to note that some within these industries are said to prefer the lower PAS55 standard for ‘Life Cycle Asset Management’ as the preferred model to ensure their services are maintained. In our opinion this is completely unacceptable, and points more to concerns over the costs to the companies rather than the effects on communities and business.

We are hopeful that this growing pressure on government to boost the regulatory and legislative requirements will help to generate change. We have consistently lobbied both the Pitt review team and government to formalise the adoption of BS25999 by ‘key partners’ to central and local government, in all areas of their activities, and to extend the pressure on the private sector to implement BCM programmes internally.

The Financial argument will though doubtless rear its head, but here the balance sheet for the summer floods is simple - £1bn in Flood defences to mitigate many future problems against £3bn in insurance costs alone for just last summers flooding.

If this argument was to be logically extended through the prudent and widespread adoption of BCM practices across the UK, the balance sheet for ALL events would be at least similarly impressive if not more so.


If you would like to now more about the Continuity Forums submission to the Pitt review please contact us directly. 

If you would like to know more about how your organisation can get involved and benefit from working with the Continuity Forum, please email us HERE! or call on + 44 (0) 208 993 1599.