More and more frequently, news footage depicts business owners boarding up their windows before a hurricane or in anticipation of civil unrest. After a calamity, they can be seen sweeping up glass or pumping floodwater from basements. Are you prepared for a disaster that might suddenly strike your area? How can you prevent or prepare for one? Get some peace of mind by creating a disaster plan to prevent, prepare for, and recover from emergencies.
Make Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans
First, prevent avoidable incidents and prepare for those you can’t control by creating emergency preparedness and response plans for multiple risks your business may face. You’ll carry out these plans either before an emergency occurs or in the initial response to it. With emergency preparedness and response plans, the primary goal is to ensure immediate employee and customer safety. You can use this template to start the process.
Assess Your Risks and Capabilities
Begin your emergency preparedness and response plan by assessing the risks that may threaten employee and customer safety. These might include dramatic events such as natural disasters endemic to your region, building fires, or break-ins. Even simple accidents caused by workplace hazards can lead to injury or death. Evaluate your business space for hazards like faulty wiring, slippery steps, or improperly stored sharp objects, and have your wiring, plumbing, gas, and other utility systems checked for code compliance and potential problems.
When you’ve identified likely risks, assess your existing capabilities and augment them as needed. Which accident prevention items (such as handrails, biohazard containers, or traction mats) do you already have, and which should you install or purchase? What precautions have service and building contractors recommended for utility-related safety?
Make Safety Action Plans and Train Your Employees to Follow Them
You’ll need to ensure that immediate safety procedures are in place in the event of an emergency, such as an evacuation plan, a meeting place, and a list of emergency contact numbers. Document this action plan, ensure employees can locate plan documents or binders, and train employees to follow protocols.
Assemble Emergency Kits
Assemble an emergency kit and be sure that employees know where to locate it. Include fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, batteries, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio, first aid supplies, extra drinking water, tools, and battery-powered light sources. Ensure all employees can locate all emergency kit items and know how to use them.
Test Your Plans
Test each action plan step by step to find out which aspects work and which need improvement. Then, be sure to update your action plan to incorporate any significant systemic changes to your business or the community, such as changes in a business location, equipment, insurance policies, utility systems, or local laws and resources.
Make a Business Continuity Plan
Once you have everything you need for accident prevention and initial safety-related responses, it’s time for the second stage of your disaster plan. You’ll need to make a business continuity plan (BCP) to prepare for disruptions to business operations and productivity, which is your second priority after safety.
To create an effective BCP, return to your list of risks and add any that wouldn’t necessarily pose safety concerns but would present problems for doing business. Keep in mind that predicaments can arise from indirect or mundane circumstances as well.
Make Action Plans for Each Type of Risk
Next, as with the emergency preparedness and response plan, create an action plan for responding appropriately to each possible event. This time, think about protecting your assets, continuing internal operations, and communicating with customers.
Check with your insurance providers to be sure you understand what your policy covers, for how much, and how soon you’ll receive payouts in the event of an emergency. Create a communication plan for contacting both employees and customers with vital information and updates. To the extent possible, create a plan for what you’ll do if the supply chain and other delays impact customer service and profits.
Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
One aspect of the BCP is the disaster recovery plan (DRP), or IT disaster recovery plan. This plan focuses specifically on any applicable IT infrastructure essential to internal data, operations, and the delivery of goods or services to clients. How intricate your DRP is will depend on the extent to which your business incorporates computer technology. Here are some steps to consider:
- Assess IT-related hazards and capabilities. Assess the types of disasters that may affect crucial IT systems (such as power outages, system failures, or cyber-attacks).
- Make a plan to protect your documents and systems. Choose a method for copying, encrypting, and storing all your important information so that it will be recoverable after an emergency. Where applicable, train employees on how to access backup data and systems.
- Testing and reevaluation. Test each plan using drills or similar activities to determine whether there are any major problems, weaknesses, or missing information in the plan so you can make needed corrections.
We hope you found this blog helpful as you consider disaster planning for your own business. You may also want to check out this post about business continuity planning.
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The information in this blog is for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current resources and recommendations available. Please consult with your financial, tax, legal, and other relevant advisors when making decisions about your small business.