Sustainability/Business Continuity

Business Continuity Planning Basics to Remember

The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 25% of businesses forced to contend with a major disaster never reopen. However, one way to improve a company’s odds of surviving a disaster is to be proactive and anticipate and prepare for possible emergency scenarios using a business continuity plan. Don’t let your facility become the next statistic!
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The most important aspect of a business continuity plan is a business impact analysis (BIA), which can help owners to identify the impacts of predicted disruptions on different business processes and operations. In turn, the information gained from a BIA allows for planning ways to mitigate impacts and quickly recover operational capabilities.

Many businesses that conduct risk assessments already have a wealth of information available to assist them with knowing what risks and threats are most likely and in light of those, the following impacts should be identified for each:

  • Loss of sales and income,
  • Delayed sales and income,
  • Increased expenses resulting from overtime labor, outsourcing, expediting costs, etc. related to a disaster,
  • Fines from regulatory noncompliance,
  • Penalties and/or loss of bonuses related to contracts,
  • Loss of customers and/or customer dissatisfaction, and
  • Delayed new business plans.

As is the case with most regulatory reporting, the issues of confidential business information (CBI) and public access come into play with the new e-Manifest System. Throughout the development of the final rule, the EPA received extensive comments regarding whether or not CBI protections should be afforded either individual or aggregate manifests. Among these comments was one from the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) and essentially stated that, based on a survey they conducted, most states with manifest tracking systems did not provide CBI protection to either type of manifest and “generally treat manifests as publicly available records.”

Similarly, information requests by the EPA to several state agencies also revealed that the majority make manifest or hazardous waste report data available in some form to the public, primarily via the Internet.

In making its final decision regarding individual manifests, the EPA also argued that CBI claims would be “very difficult to sustain” because, manifests must be shared with a variety of commercial entities in the process of transporting hazardous wastes and also must be made available to emergency responders.

As a result, to protect information contained in a manifest, companies would have to enter into and enforce non-disclosure agreements or other legal means with all parties named on the manifest or that might be expected to come in contact with the manifest.

Thus, the EPA states that, based on information they received, the information contained in individual manifest records, including individual electronic manifests submitted through the e-Manifest System is indeed public information and ineligible for consideration as CBI under federal law. This decision, however, does not affect any CBI claims or determinations made in the past.

CBI consideration for aggregate manifest data was also discussed and the EPA again relied on information from the states that disclosed “current and long-standing policies generally favoring disclosure of all manifest data…” as well as information availability in state data systems. In its final decision, the EPA categorically exclude aggregate manifest data obtained through the federal e-Manifest System from CBI coverage.

However, in both cases, the EPA concedes that manifest preparers and waste handlers need a sufficient amount of time to ensure information accuracy and as a result, has extended this “in process” time period. In the e-Manifest System, manifest information will be made available on-line 90 days from the date the hazardous waste is delivered to the designated facility, allowing additional time to make corrections and verify accuracy.