Planning for a Disaster
As a business owner you learn to expect the unexpected. Although it is in your best interest to have something to fall back onto when something completely out of the ordinary takes place. Natural disasters have become seemingly more popular in the news and around the world. It has been called to our attention that no matter where one does business, IT can happen to you! In the past decade we have seen; floods, earthquakes, fires, mudslides, tornadoes, and hurricanes which have caused millions of dollars in damages to everything they touch. While we can’t control the weather, we may be able to lessen the impact of these instances if they are to happen to your business. Learn the basics in staying calm and preparing an emergency plan.
Emergency Plan Outline
Use these steps to get started:
- Get organized. Establish an employee(s) to draft the plan.
- Assume the worst. Assume that the physical facility that houses the business and all of its contents has been permanently destroyed. From that scenario, list each item that would be important to the business if salvaged and what must be recreated from scratch in order to continue. Typically, the most critical items are business records. Furniture, materials, and manuals usually can be replaced and are insured for their value.
- Try to prevent the loss. Of those items on the list that should be salvaged, or must be recreated, determine if there are any alternatives that could have been pursued before the disaster to avoid a total loss. Alternatives may include:
- keeping duplicate records at a different site
- keeping backup equipment necessary to continue basic operations at a location other than the work site (perhaps a storage facility or, if possible, in your home)
- storing critical information such as accounts receivable, client information, or outstanding billings in a safe and secure place such as a bank vault
- Sweat the small stuff. In addition to planning alternatives, you should include the following in your plans:
- Determine the adequacy of fire and disaster insurance.
- Complete emergency evacuation planning, including periodic drills, emergency plans, special considerations for any employees with disabilities, and coordination with local emergency and fire authorities.
- Establish a plan for an alternate work site during the emergency, including records, staff, and support such as telephone, equipment, and related support.
- Specify under what circumstances a facility will be closed (such as bad weather), who makes the decision, how the decision is communicated, and whether the employees are compensated.
- If your company operates 24 hours a day or provides a critical service, determine the plan for alternative electricity, water storage, and other routine public services.
- Plan a public relations spokesperson’s responsibilities carefully and thoroughly (usually, that means you).
- Have individuals with key responsibilities keep copies of the emergency plan at their homes in the event of an emergency.
- Update the plan at least annually.
- Determine if there are any local (usually industry-specific) groups that offer consulting, training, and reciprocal support in the area of disaster planning.
- Train any employees periodically on fire prevention. There should be a minimum of two fire drills a year and frequent on-site self inspection and review.
- Train at least one employee in emergency medical steps (such as CPR).