No matter where you are located, your business may be vulnerable to some sort of natural disaster. Whether you’re located in a coastal area that has frequent hurricanes, or California with its earthquakes and rampant fires, everywhere is at risk for disaster. While you cannot usually prevent these disasters, you can make sure that you take steps to be prepared. The 7 steps below are a good place to start:
1. Employee Safety
The most important thing in any situation is to make sure to protect your employees. Make sure to keep your employees aware of all plans and procedures in the event of emergencies so everyone is prepared and in the know. It is also important to identify ahead of time any employees that have any disabilities or health risks that would need to be taken into account or prepared for in an emergency situation. Setting up a call tree or similar method of communication that makes two-way communication possible is also something to consider as well as having all employees contact information and emergency contact info available on site and via a satellite or backup location.
It has to be said, according to David Rowland, Head of Marketing at Effective Software, that the responsibility for health and safety starts with the directors of a business. However, is they get this right, and instigate a cultural shift in their company, the benefits can include greater brand loyalty and a higher bottom line.
2. Assess Your Risk
Knowing what disasters are common for your area is the first step in preparing for them. Also make sure to prepare for everyday disasters that may happen anywhere, such as a blackout, electrical fire or cyber attack. Even a really nasty case of the flu can take out half of your office, crippling a small business. Where applicable, make sure you have insurance for those incidences deemed to be a risk to your business. While it may seem like a good idea to scrimp on insurance, only do so if you have other means available to recover financially in the event a disaster occurs. In many circumstances, small business is more vulnerable and do not have the resources available to bounce back without being heavily insured. Also, make sure you fully understand your policy and what it does or does not cover. Assuming you are covered only to find out after a disaster you are not can deal a blow to any business.
3. Communications Plan
This is as simple as it sounds. Make sure you have a plan for keeping communications with everyone inside and outside of your business. Not only is it important to have all lines of communication open amongst employees, but knowing the contact information for emergency personnel is also important. The location and contact info for your nearest fire department, hospital, shelter and so on is essential to keeping everyone safe. A way to communicate with those outside of your business is essential.
4. Continuity Plan
Knowing how your business will continue to run during a disaster is extremely important. Establishing a satellite location for operations, emergency payroll procedures and a line of succession for management are all part of making sure your business can continue to operate during a disaster. Any essential documents or equipment that is necessary for your business to run should be considered whenevacuating or creating a plan.
5. Emergency/Disaster Plan
Setting up procedures for a shelter-in-place or evacuation plan is a crucial part of any emergency planning. Make sure emergency exits are clearly marked as well as easily accessible and make sure a map with all emergency locations is where it can be seen. We take for granted sometimes that we know where these exits are. However, what about the delivery driver who just delivered a package? Or the new employee who has only been employed a week? Or the college student bringing lunch by for dad? Make getting out easy for everyone. Also know the roads and evacuation routes for leaving the actual property. If a shelter-in-place route is what your company chooses to go with, detailed procedures for making the facility safe must be included.
6. Take Inventory and Protect Assets
Make sure to take inventory of all assets and equipment. This will help for insurance purposes but also in the case of rebuilding after a disaster. Backing up your files and possibly storing them remotely is also a must. These files need to made secure so in the event you must evacuate they cannot be stolen or compromised.
7. Have Emergency Supplies Ready
It is always a good idea to have the basic emergency supplies available and on hand at all times. Examples of what this would include would be water, food, blankets, batteries, flashlights and a first aid kit. Other specific items could be added based on specific needs or level of comfort.
The best time to prepare for a disaster is well before one ever occurs. Hopefully these steps never need to be taken, but you will be glad you were prepared if disaster ever strikes.