Business owners put a lot of time, effort and money into their businesses to make them succeed. But one thing a number of businesses fail to do is have contingency plans in the event of a disaster. Each year, the Red Cross hosts an Emergency Preparedness Academy, which teaches entities how to plan for disaster events, maintain businesses in a crisis, respond to intruders, and learn from previous disasters. Not every business entity has the luxury of attending an event like this, but every business can and should have an emergency plan.
So, how can your business, be prepared for a catastrophic event? There are definitely some methods to help you, not only to have a proactive plan, but also, to actually get your company up and running after a disaster event. We’ve presented a framework to get you thinking about your own emergency planning.
Identify Potential Crises
The first thing you need to do is to determine the most likely emergency situations in your business or location. Define how they will threaten or disrupt your business. Then, plan to overcome them in ways that will minimize the damage.
Most catastrophes, like fire, flood, theft, power outage, IT failure, terrorism, disease outbreak, and customer/client limitations are easy to identify. Some, such as limited- or non-access to your business site are less obvious. Also, some catastrophic events aren’t physical, rather, they impact your image (if there is a recall or negative media attention).
Create an Emergency Team
Prepared leaders are created, not born. The best way to have prepared leaders is to train them before a crisis. Choose leaders who work well together. Have primary leaders and backup leaders, with a clear hierarchy or order of succession so each person knows their role. These need to be people who can make plans and then change plans according to developing events. These skills can be developed with practice, drills, and checklists for each potential hazard, as well as updating information as it unfolds. The key is flexibility, communication, and practice/planning.
Create an Emergency Plan
The key is continuity during and in spite of a crisis. Create specific plans with clear responsibilities for each leader. You want people who have the tools and are able to make good decisions without hesitation so your business can remain viable. Decide if your business needs to invest in emergency resources, such as a backup generator, data storage or an emergency fund/insurance. FEMA offers some amazing checklists for emergency business planning which you can get here.
Each leader/coordinator should have a clear plan for communication and the company should have a designated spokesperson. Some of the groups who may need to be notified or involved are staff, customers (students), parents/neighboring businesses, suppliers, government entities, owners/shareholders, utility companies, media, disaster relief entities. Communication can be sensitive because sometimes customers or clients will be insulted if they aren’t notified.
Business Data Plan
Whether you have paper files, use a company server or ‘The Cloud’ for customer records, student information, financial data, and other critical records, have a backup plan for your data. Access and cyber security during and after a disaster are important, especially for businesses who collect sensitive information.
In the event that you have to temporarily close your doors for a number of days or weeks, what security measures will need to be taken to prevent theft or vandals? Having a plan in place can minimize losses and damage from this situation.
Disaster Restoration is an integral part of an emergency preparedness plan in some situations and we're here to help if you need us. Being in business in the midst of a crisis can be tough, but with planning, resiliency, and effort, your business can weather a storm and recovery beautifully.