Hurricane Sandy is a powerful reminder: Natural (and man-made) disasters can threaten at any time. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25% of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.
Smart employers make contingency plans so they can stay up and running even when normal work operations are disrupted.
Here are eight key pieces to a crisis-plan, which you can coordinate with the appropriate departments. Before disaster strikes:
1. Establish a procedure for notifying employees, suppliers, customers and clients in case of an emergency. Designate one person to handle media questions.
2. Scout out alternative locations and equipment before you need them. Look into reciprocal arrangements with other businesses to share computers and work space.
3. Identify important business functions that must resume immediately. Determine what's needed to restart them as quickly as possible.
4. Consider implementing a telework system, so key employees can continue working even if they have no access to your facilities. Work with information technology staff to figure out the necessary computer and phone systems.
5. Keep duplicates of both computerized and written records. Maintain copies of up-to-date inventory, customer lists and other important contacts in a secure off-site location. Create an "evacuation box" containing important documents that you may need to grab in case of emergency.
6. Plan escape routes, post them and give copies to employees. Designate a meeting place outside the building.
7. Ask suppliers, subcontractors and outsourcing partners if they have disaster plans and whether they test them. List alternate suppliers that have continuity plans.
8. Update your disaster plan as you upgrade technology. Make managers aware of your plan. Test safety features (fire alarm, first-aid kits, etc.) at least once a year.
ONLINE RESOURCES: These resources will get you started on the process of advance planning.
Small Business Disaster Preparedness Guide: Offers information to help prepare your business for a disaster and apply for a disaster loan from the SBA.
- PrepareMyBusiness.Org: Agility Recovery Solutions offers business continuity planning tips for small businesses.
Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry: Gives step-by-step advice on how to create and maintain a comprehensive emergency management plan.
Protect Your Business from Disaster: Provides information on how to prevent a disaster.