Contingency Planning: What it is, Examples & How to do it

Contingency Planning: What it is, Examples & How to do it

In this day and age, businesses face many risks and challenges that can disrupt their operations, damage their reputation, or even threaten their survival. These risks can be internal, such as equipment failure, employee turnover, or cyberattacks, or external, such as natural disasters, pandemics, or market fluctuations. In order to cope with these risks and minimize their negative impact, businesses need to have a contingency plan.

In this article, we will explain what a contingency plan is, who prepares it, what are its benefits, what are the stages of a contingency plan, what should a contingency plan have, how to prepare a contingency plan step by step, and what are some common mistakes to avoid when creating a contingency plan.

What is a contingency plan?

A contingency plan is a proactive and preventive strategy that a business develops to deal with potential threats or emergencies that can affect its normal operations. It identifies the possible risks that a business faces, assesses their likelihood and impact, and defines the actions and resources that the business will use to respond to them.

This particular plan is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It should be tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of each business, taking into account its size, industry, location, goals, culture, and stakeholders. Thus, it should also be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and new information.

Moreover, a contingency plan is not a static document. It should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure its relevance and effectiveness. Therefore, it should also be tested and evaluated periodically to identify any gaps or weaknesses and make necessary improvements.

Who prepares a contingency plan?

A contingency plan is usually prepared by a team of people who have the authority and expertise to make decisions and implement actions in case of an emergency. The team may include senior managers, department heads, risk managers, project managers, IT specialists, security personnel, legal advisors, communication officers, and even external consultants.

The group should have a clear leader who is responsible for coordinating and know how to delegate functions and responsibilities, communicating with stakeholders, monitoring the progress, and ensuring the quality of the contingency plan. Besides, this director should also be able to activate the contingency plan when needed and oversee its execution.


With the anticipation and preparation of multiple scenarios, businesses can gain many advantages, such as the next ones:

1. Reducing anxiety and uncertainty

Thanks to contingency planning, the business can reduce the fear of the unknown and the stress of dealing with unexpected situations. It also helps the business to set clear objectives, priorities, and actions for each scenario, which can provide a sense of direction and control.

2. Enhancing resilience and preparedness

This project enables the business to develop and test various strategies and solutions for different situations. By doing so, the business can improve its ability to adapt and respond to changing circumstances and to overcome challenges and difficulties. Contingency planning also helps the business to build and maintain a strong network of support and resources, such as backup systems, alternative suppliers or even emergency funds that can be mobilized quickly and effectively when needed.

3. Minimizing disruption and downtime

This risk mitigation plan secures the continuity and quality of the operations and services of the organization in the event of a crisis or disruption. As aforementioned, it helps the business prevent the adverse effects of unexpected situations, such as data loss, equipment breakdown, power failure or even a natural disaster on its performance, revenue, and customer loyalty. Thanks to it, businesses will recover and resume their normal activities as soon as possible after a disruption.

4. Protecting assets and resources

Naturally, businesses will be able to safeguard their valuable assets and resources from damage or loss due to unexpected events. These assets and resources may include:

  • Physical assets: buildings, machinery, inventory...
  • Financial assets: cash flow, revenue...
  • Human assets: employees, customers....
  • Intangible assets: brand name, reputation, intellectual property...

5. Preserving reputation and image

Preparing an emergency response completely backs businesses to maintain their reputation and image in the eyes of its customers, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders. Being proactive and prepared to handle unexpected situations can support the business demonstrating its professionalism, reliability, responsibility, and credibility. Contingency planning also facilitates effective communication with its stakeholders during a crisis or disruption, providing timely, accurate, and transparent information and updates.

What are the stages of a contingency plan?

A contingency plan can be divided into four main stages in regards to potential risks:

1. Identification

This stage involves identifying the potential liability that can affect the business operations or objectives. These kind of risks can be internal or external, qualitative or quantitative, predictable or unpredictable.

2. Assessment

This phase encompasses evaluating the probability and impact of each endangerment in companies.

3. Response

This step covers defining the actions and resources that the business will use to prevent, mitigate, or recover from each risk. Thus, each action should have a clear owner, timeline, and budget. On the other hand, each resource should have a clear source, availability, and location.

4. Monitoring

This stage concerns tracking and reviewing the progress and effectiveness of the contingency plan. Also, it implicates updating and adjusting the plan as needed based on new information or feedback. Furthermore, it involves testing and assessing the plan periodically to assure its readiness and reliability.

contingency plan

What should a contingency plan have?

1. Executive summary

This is a brief overview of the purpose, scope, and main points of the contingency plan. It should include the objectives, risks, actions, resources, roles, and responsibilities of the plan. On top of that,  the key benefits and challenges of the plan should be highlighted.

2. Risk register

This is basically a list of all the risks that enterprises face, along with their likelihood, impact, category, and priority. Additionally, it incorporates the risk owner, status, and date of identification.

3. Action plan

It is a detailed description of all the actions and resources such as the budget or expected outcome, that businesses will use to prevent, mitigate, or recover from each risk.

4. Communication strategy

This proposal consists of how the communication will be executed with internal and external stakeholders before, during, and after an emergency. It can include the communication objectives, channels, messages, frequency, audience and protocol.

5. Backup method

This is a plan of how firms will continue their operations and services in case of a major disruption or failure, such as backup locations, equipment, data, procedures

6. Evaluation program

It assesses how corporations will measure and improve the performance and quality of the contingency plan, including evaluation objectives, criteria, methods, tools, and indicators.

How is a contingency plan prepared? Step-by-step

The following are key steps that can help to prepare a contingency plan:

1. Identifying the effective potential risks and scenarios

Companies should prioritize the most likely and impactful risks and scenarios based on their probability and severity.

2. Analyzing the impact of each risk and scenario

Organizations should assess how each risk and scenario could affect their ability to deliver their products or services, meet their obligations, maintain their reputation, and achieve their goals. They should also ensure to identify the critical functions and assets that are essential for your organization's survival and recovery.

3. Developing alternative strategies

Businesses should design strategies and actions that can help them prevent and respond to each possibility. Thus, they should take into account the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of each strategy and action.

4. Document your contingency plan

Enterprises should thoroughly document their contingency plan in a clear and concise manner, covering all the relevant details, such as the strategies, actions or protocols.

One of the tools that can completely help companies to prepare a contingency plan is Uphint. A software that transforms any process users execute on their computer into step-by-step guides.

Uphint documents processes easily and quickly by capturing screenshots and recording keystrokes as the user performs them. What’s more, individuals can easily customize their visual guides once it is created, adding circles in the image, writing extra steps or blurring confidential information. Besides, they will be able to share their how-to guides with others via link, PDF, HTML or even embed it to their corporate tools. Companies will be able to use their guides for training, troubleshooting, compliance, backup, recovery, etc.

Don't forget to check out our step-by-step template and our user manual template.

5. Testing and updating regularly

Enterprises should test their risk mitigation plan regularly to check its validity. Simulations or drills should be conducted to practice corporate strategies and actions under different scenarios. Also, monitoring the internal and external environment for any changes that could affect the companies’ actions is essential. Ultimately, the plan should be updated with the contingency plan accordingly to reflect the current situation and needs.

contingency plan

Mistakes to avoid

When preparing a contingency plan, there are some common mistakes that firms should avoid. Some of them, are the following:

1. Involving the wrong human resources

This backup plan should be developed by a team that includes representatives from different departments, roles and levels of the organization. This way, institutions can make sure that the plan covers all the possible scenarios, risks and impacts that may affect them.

2. Not identifying all the potential risks

No one can plan  something that they are not aware of. Therefore, businesses need to conduct a thorough risk assessment that covers all their aspects, such as financial, operational, legal, reputational, and strategic risks. Subsequently, they should take into consideration the likelihood and severity of each risk, as well as the interdependencies and cascading effects among them.

3. Disarranging the most critical risks

Naturally, it is impossible to plan for everything at once. Therefore, firms need to prioritize the most critical perils that can significantly impact their objectives and performances. They should definitely allocate their resources and efforts accordingly, focusing on the most urgent and important actions that could reduce or mitigate those risks.

4. Sole Focusing on IT Systems

While protecting IT infrastructure is crucial, solely relying on technological aspects of contingency planning can be a mistake. Overlooking other critical areas such as supply chain disruptions, workforce availability, or financial contingencies can lead to vulnerability.

5. Not having a clear implementation strategy

Contingency planning is not only about having a plan, but also about having a strategy to execute it. Without a clear implementation strategy, these risk mitigation plans may fail to achieve their intended outcomes or even cause more harm than good. A proper implementation strategy should involve clear roles and responsibilities, action steps, timelines, budgets, communication channels, performance indicators, and feedback mechanisms. To avoid this mistake, enterprises should develop a detailed implementation strategy for each plan B and assign accountability and authority to the relevant people.

6. Insufficient Testing and Training

Failing to test and train employees on the contingency plan can render it ineffective when needed most. Without regular drills and simulations, employees may lack the necessary skills and familiarity with procedures, leading to confusion and delays during an actual crisis. Frequent mock drills should be conducted, as well as feedback should be encouraged, training sessions provided to guarantee that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan.

Learn more about it in: Employee Onboardin and Training Manual.


To sum up, a contingency plan is a vital tool for any business that wants to survive and thrive in an uncertain and dynamic world. It helps companies to anticipate, prepare and respond to any potential threats or disruptions that may affect their operations, goals or reputation. Some of the essential elements that are included in this special plan are: objectives, scope, roles, responsibilities, resources, procedures, communication channels, backup systems and recovery strategies. It will aid firms to protect themselves from any unforeseen events and to recover quickly and smoothly. Ultimately, it can also provide them a competitive advantage and enhance their reputation as a resilient and proactive organization.

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