Business Continuity Planning and Vandalism

In articles about business continuity planning, vandalism often makes something of a token appearance as part of a list of potential disasters that include floods, storms, fires, pandemics and terrorism. Like these others, vandalism can cause business interruption as the recent story of an attack on a cable bridge in London showed. The result was the forced closure of hundreds of shops and businesses in the area. As one victim put it, “It’s worrying to think they have shut down half of south-east London with a pair of bolt cutters”. However, pure vandalism also has an aspect that makes it unique among factors affecting BC.

Pure vandalism as distinguished from terrorism or calculated sabotage has a gratuitous element to it. In this case, vandals damage or destroy property for the fun of it. Whether they vent their anger or their frustration in doing so, there is no easily recognisable agenda. Organised vandalism is another matter: if an agenda is made public, or there is coordination of the acts of vandalism, then it turns into civil insurrection or terrorism, depending on the motives that underlie it. Organisation often leads to identifiable patterns and a greater chance of curbing the vandals’ activity. But unfortunately for business continuity planning, pure vandalism is unpredictable.

That’s what makes it different to premeditated sabotage or even storms and area-wide floods that to some extent can often be foreseen. It’s also what makes it tricky for authorities to act effectively against pure vandalism, either to prevent it or to punish it. However, in business continuity planning, it still has to be covered, even if the only immediate solution is to reinforce protection of parts of an organisation vulnerable to vandalism or to ensure alternate sources of supply in case upstream partners are hit by it.