How to Write a Contingency Plan

A contingency plan is an outline of procedures to follow in case of a major event, such as a server crash or building fire. A contingency plan is a written way of saying, that should a problem arise, you have thought of ways to prevent the loss of vital information or reduce the impact to your business. Many quality driven organizations and companies have contingency plans not only for individual systems, but for whole departments.


  1. Start by setting up a contingency planning committee and chose an individual who will lead this committee. The contingency plan leader provides skills, tools and a knowledge base so that each department can write its own plan.
  2. List every business process in each department. For example, the payroll department might be listed under the Human Resource department’s plan.
  3. Sit down with department leads or senior level employees and make a list of all key assumptions in your contingency plan.
  4. Prioritize each assumption in order and examine the what-ifs and negative impact these assumptions could have on your company. Examine what trends, events or problems that could potentially arise.
  5. List what you plan to do in the event that something negative does occur. How will you compensate or adjust to these problems and keep your business profitable?
  6. Structure your contingency plan in a positive manner. Writing your plan is a big task so involve the right amount of people and all the appropriate people because it will require the input of many.
  7. Go over the plan again. A second review helps find things that were missed the first time.
  • You will be able to create contingencies at the proper places once you’ve gone over business functions this way. Sometimes the contingency will be at the department level, many will be at the task level and others might be at the process level.

8. Test your contingency plan. You can make testing manageable and cost-effective by testing in 4 stages. If an area proves to be flawed or conflicts with contingency plans from other departments, you can edit and the retest the plan.

  • Test Stage 1-Senior Staff Review. The senior staff chooses an internally public date and time to go over all contingency plans and recognize the people who thoroughly completed their assignment.
  • Test Stage 2-Interdepartmental Review. This is where every department reviews another department’s plans. This is the stage that allocates resources and identifies conflicts.
  • Test Stage 3-Failures of Critical Systems. This testing stage can be localized within departments. Testing involves the simulation of system and/or vendor failures. You can role play scenarios without having to actually shut down important equipment or processes.
  • Test Stage 4-The Real Deal. Here is where you get to fully test out the contingency plan. It involves short-term shutdowns in key areas done in real time.

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